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February 24, 2012 / Meegan

eLearning 12 Conference Update Two

Challenges and Opportunities in Hybrid Courses

This session was a panel discussion from Coastline Community College. They focused on disadvantages, advantages, and tips for hybrid courses. I was curious to hear the panel’s view on disadvantages in particular because I hear stories from faculty at GRCC who have tried a hybrid format with less then stellar success.

  1. Disadvantages
    1. Getting students to treat the course as a hybrid course where both the face to face and the online activities need to be completed.
    2. It can take a week or two to get students used to the format.
    3. Students need to be trained to be more engaged in their learning as this format requires so much more than simply attending lectures.
    4. Hybrid courses are more expensive when compared to fully online courses from an administrative point of view
    5. Logistical issues and how registration systems are set-up to communicate what a hybrid course is and when they are expected to be in class and online.
    6. Many colleges still do not have a set definition of what a hybrid course is – and the combination of face-to-face and online components an vary from course to course in a college.
    7. Many faculty moving towards the online or hybrid education want to know – how do I record and distribute my lectures? What strategies do you recommend to sharing with faculty to alternatives to lectures?
      1. There was no good answer to this – every instructor really has to decide what they are going to put online and how they are going to use the in class time. With so many variations – some instructors put their lectures online and use the face time for discussion and other activities and some instructors do the opposite – it is no wonder that students don’t know what hybrid courses are and what they are getting into. Each hybrid course is its own beast.
  1. Advantages of Hybrid Courses
    1. Engagement – online learning can make some students feel isolated and disengaged, so the face-to-face opportunities can help these students persist in the course.
    2. There is more communication with students because having that face-to-face time where students can get to know you can also make students feel more comfortable contacting you.
      1. It can be very difficult to make that connection with your instructor in a fully online course – we are striving at GRCC to encourage faculty to include their presence in online courses – because it is possible to make strong connections with students in fully online environments but it takes effort. How can you show your personality in an online course and let your students know that you are there for them and working in the class as much as they are?
    3. Student satisfaction – students find it easier to make connections with their instructor and other students in a hybrid course.
    4. We should be teaching students to be independent learners – and they hybrid format requires students to take a more active role in the course, it forces instructors to rethink their role in the classroom and this can help develop those independent learning skills in students.
    5. It’s much easier to track what students are doing with the online component. Instead of having to waste class time proctoring exams and quizzes, you can have students so those activities online.
    6. Hybrid courses have opened up more avenues for discussion – a discussion can last a week on a discussion board instead of just a few hours in class.
    7. Students have different learning styles, and you can address all learning styles in hybrid courses – students who do well listening and responding face-to-face with instructors get that opportunity, and those who need the time to think and write their responses get that opportunity online.
    8. Using social media in hybrid courses? There is one school of thought where it is best to use as few additional technologies as necessary to eliminate the time it takes to get students up to speed on the various technologies.
  1. Tips
    1. Keep it as simple as possible.
    2. Proper integration of the different elements.
      1. Using the online component as a preview for what will happen in class. Requires students to come to class prepared and ready to engage.
      2. Make sure your students come to class prepared. Be prepared to cover the content that your students need the most help with – give a pre-quiz so that you know what your students are struggling with and what you need to focus on during the class.

I did not gain any insight to hybrid courses I did not already know. In many ways, I think a culture shift has to occur at GRCC whereby students learn the true meaning of a hybrid course. I think that there can be rich opportunities for engagement with students, and you can take advantage of the strengths of both the face-to-face and online modalities to build a “super” course. I have long been of the mindset that in many ways hybrid courses are the best of both worlds, but I know many students may not feel the same way.

Building Community in a Fully Online Class

The presenter for this topic was perfect because she had a very bubbly personality that I feel came through her fully online courses in many of the technologies she used to build community and interactivity in her courses. So often, when I’m working with faculty who are developing online courses or working in our Online and Hybrid Certification Course, it is hard to see their own presence in the course.

The presenter spoke about her different introductory videos over three semesters. I immediately saw that just by creating a new introduction specific for each course, you as an instructor are showing your students how you will be engaging in the online class. Its nice to come across an instructor who doesn’t just keep dumping over materials year after year, but actually records a new intro each semester! I think this can also be an testimonial that creating these short videos does not have to be time consuming.

Voice thread was the most intriguing technology used to build community. Unfortunately, I don’t think voice thread is available for free anymore and I have not had luck finding a similar tool yet. Voice thread allows you to create a narrated powerpoint or presentation which you can embed in your online course, and then students can leave comments (text, audio, or video) on specific slides in the presentation. What this allows an instructor to do is have interactivity in their lectures. For example, you could narrate a typical in-class presentation, and at specific points when you would typically ask for feedback from students in class, you can ask for virtual comments from your online students.

A great takeaway I had from this presentation was the use of book groups. During specific weeks in the course, the students select a book that is relevant to the course and sign-up for a small discussion group of three students. For an entire week, three times during a semester, the students are responsible solely for reading the book and meeting virtually in a chat room to discuss the book. The instructor does structure the discussions with questions, which is important as this could quickly turn into a free for all. What is most important here is that students actually get together with a small set of their classmates to work. I’d take it a step further and have the students use a tool like Blackboard Collaborate to have a virtual meeting where they could speak instead of having to type all of their conversation. These virtual meetings can be recorded just like a chat room can be, so that the instructor can still go through it later to grade students on their participation and involvement in the discussion.

Now I think there is great potential for other similar activities. You could have students come together to discuss chapters that you’ve seen are particularly difficult for students to grasp. There may be potential for students to present to a small group in a live webinar style session with only two or three other classmates which would help make it possible for students in a variety of different time zones with different availability to actually meet live virtually. It would also keep students engaged if they were focusing on just three presentations instead of spending hours staring at a computer screen to view the presentations for everyone in the class. If you taught content that lended itself to an interview type activity you could have students meet virtually and interview each other. You could extend this to an activity where students meet virtually with “experts” in your field for interviews.

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