In hybrid courses some portion of a course is taught online instead of face-to-face. The reasons for choosing a hybrid course format are similar to those for teaching fully online classes; opportunities for self-paced learning, flexibility and convenience (in internship courses, for example) and a learning environment where students can participate equally and fully in class discourse.
When students experience the online portion of their class they will need to have all the same documentation, policies, activites and planning needed for a fully online course; therefore most of the recommendations in this site for are useful both in online and hybrid courses. Below are some additional recommendations for the hybrid instructor.
Lessons Learned from Hybrid Course Faculty
The following guidelines were gathered from a group of Towson faculty teaching hybrid courses. Sincere thanks to Ms. Claudia Carlson, Dr. Sharon Pitcher and Dr. Bill Sadera, all in the College of Education and Ms. Martha McCoy in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. The majority of the courses referenced below are graduate or upper-division level.
1. Start with a plan.
After careful thought, once you have determined that it is appropriate to use a hybrid format for your course, start with a plan. Your course objectives and expectations regarding appropriate assessments will enable you to determine which topics and activities work best online.
2. Decide strategically when to choose face-to-face or use an online format.
Claudia Carlson meets with her class face-to-face on the first day to acquaint the students to course materials, online technologies and each other. Throughout the semester she ensures that she meets in-person with students to provide feedback as students practice new skills. Keep in mind that students may be uneasy if an online class precedes an important exam or assignment.
Martha McCoy staggers her online and face-to-face classes so students first complete assignments where they interpret readings or videos and apply skills during their online sessions. Students then discuss those experiences while in class.
3. Create continuity between the classroom and the computer.
Don’t wait until you choose to have an online session to introduce online tools and procedures. To create continuity throughout his course, Bill Sadera uses the same administration strategies for both online and in-class course sessions. For example, from the start Dr. Sadera’s students submit all assignments online and use online discussion boards to get to know each other, discuss assignments and respond to questions. Early on students have opportunities to locate and use these online tools while they are still meeting regularly with their professor. Since these tools are built into the structure of the class, the move to online classes is easy.
Martha McCoy’s online lessons are structured like a one-stop shop designed to guide students through activities. On the same page in her online course site, students can see their lesson objectives and due dates, followed by supplemental readings, videos and links to other areas in the course site where they must respond to a discussion or submit an activity.
4. Communicate clearly.
More than in face-to-face classes, any online classes must include clear and accurate expectations, instructions, due dates and logistical information (such as, how assignments will be handed in). The impact of inaccuracies and misunderstandings are amplified in an online environment where there are delays between communications.
Sample discussion board instructions— “(50 pts) Students with behavior disorders can display two types of behavior problems: externalizing or internalizing behavior. In an initial post on the discussion board, 1) compare and contrast these two types of behavior patterns and 2) identify ways to manage two of these behaviors in the music classroom. Respond to at least 2 of your colleagues. Justify your responses. Discussion board grading is based on discussion board guidelines in the syllabus [which includes recommendations for effective online postings and requirements for post length, quality and due dates].” from Martha McCoy’s Introduction to Music in Special Education course.
State all policies involving communication, participation and logistics in the syllabus and enforce them consistently. Each of the professors interviewed chose one or more methods for broadcasting information to students once the course was in motion (e.g. reminders, changes, clarifications) and informed the students to check for messages in specific places. Typically, these faculty members required students to check e-mail, online course announcements and/or a designated question and answer discussion board (sometimes called a café) at specific times. Tip: Require students to post course questions that affect all participants (such as confusing content or assignment instructions) in a discussion board. If they e-mail you instead, respond and remind them to post their question in the proper place. Allowing students to post anonymously in these Q & A areas permits self-conscious students to ask questions freely.
Illustrate your expectations for student performance with examples or models to reduce confusion.
To eliminate navigation problems, consider conducting a class dress rehearsal and follow your own directions for accessing your online class materials before your students use them. Ensure that materials are where they should be, in the order needed, clearly labeled and that all links and multimedia work. Recheck materials before each online session and again, have a back-up plan. Tip: Before loading anything into your course site, determine your course schedule, modes of communication, methods for handing in assignments and choose consistent, logical locations within the course site to place and order online components. Develop all materials offline and load materials into your course site as a final step.
5. Time on task is time on task.
Without the usual model (lecture, activities, discussion, etc.), how do you determine how much is just the right amount of work for your online sessions? Look to your in-class models for help. Calculate the amount of time you require your students to work on task in your face-to-face classes and to do their homework. Use the results as a guide to determine appropriate amounts of online work.
6. Extend student time on task, not your grading time.
Instead of waiting to see student journal entries until they’re handed in as a group, the students in Sharon Pitcher’s Advance Internship in Reading course must initially submit their entries online in private discussion boards. Dr. Pitcher then provides feedback to students early to prompt and encourage them and to guide their future responses. Later in the semester students will print out their online journal entries and pass them in for grading and feedback. Students and faculty alike benefit from this early feedback and Dr. Pitcher doesn’t add additional grading (or printing) to her workload.
7. Give yourself room to grow.
Just as you would with any new teaching technique, space out your first few online assignments in order to get evaluative feedback from your students on the first activity before starting the next one.
In hybrid courses students can benefit from unique opportunities to practice new skills and then return to you to guide them through reflections on their learning. In the same way, the feedback you elicit from students on their experience as online learners that can further enhance your teaching in and out of the classroom.
The preceeding text is excerpted and adapted from a Faculty Forum article by Audrey Cutler (2005).