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In a quasi-experimental study design conducted in Ethiopia, researchers assigned medical providers in need of obstetrician training to a blended learning (12 days of offsite training followed by daily SMS and weekly phone calls) or conventional learning (18 days of offsite training followed by a facility visit to mentor participants) condition. By comparing pre-test results to 3-month post-test results, researchers concluded that the blended learning approach was as effective as the conventional one at increasing providers’ knowledge. The blended learning program was also 38% cheaper to administer than the conventional learning program.

Initially, I questioned this study -- would the combo of a daily text message and weekly phone calls really constitute blended learning? I included it because of the following explanation from the article: “Experts with deep experience in teaching and service provision developed targeted, relevant text messages to boost providers’ knowledge of obstetric functions. A server was programmed to send one of these SMS messages to providers’ mobile phones each day. Some of these texts were multiple-choice questions that asked for a reply. After receiving the provider's response, an automated feedback system sent another message noting the right answer and offering further explanation. … In addition to SMS texts, providers in the blended learning group received a phone call at least once a week, during which trainers discussed difficult cases encountered in the real clinic setting. During these phone calls, providers also had an opportunity to discuss any SMS messages they found confusing or unclear” (Yigzaw et al., 2019). This looks like an excellent implementation of both blended learning and spaced practice, a learning strategy that has a ton of empirical support.

Key Results

Blended learning was as effective as conventional learning in this study and (bonus!) was cheaper to implement.

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Yigzaw, M., Tebekaw, Y., Kim, Y. M., Kols, A., Ayalew, F., & Eyassu, G. (2019). Comparing the effectiveness of a blended learning approach with a conventional learning approach for basic emergency obstetric and newborn care training in Ethiopia. Midwifery, 78, 42-49.

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