Hybrid courses are my new favorite trend. We will be offering our first hybrid courses through the Office of Continuing Education on March 2, 2013, and they are not courses about how to drive an electric car or how to be more environmentally friendly. The hybrid courses I am referring to are ones that are a little online and a little in person. A good hybrid course is a balance of traditional face-to-face teaching complemented by online instruction. For people who want a live teacher but also want the conveniences of online learning, it’s the best of both worlds.
During the development phase of our leap into online learning, I discovered that there are many different versions of hybrid and online courses with its own vernacular, some that I hate*, so let me get you up to speed on the basics I learned.
Online Industry Lingo (courtesy of the Univ. of Wisconsin – Milwaukee):
- Face-to-face instruction* (with seat time): a traditional course with a live instructor teaching in front of room full of students (in seats).
- Web-based learning: online instruction with shared resources and/or participation in interactive web discussions; courses could be self-paced or with designated times to login.
- Online Course: taken remotely via the internet that is (or should be) 100% online.
- Hybrid Course: a mix of face-to-face and web-based learning.
Is there an industry standard of the duration and/or the type of activities that will take place online? No. However, there is a common structure in both our Continuing Education online and hybrid courses. Our online courses are 100% online. They require no in person meetings at all and do not require students to login at any particular time on any one day. Similar to the online courses, the online components of our hybrid courses have start and end dates for the course and deadlines each week, with the flexibility to login to do the work anytime over several days before the deadlines.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about online courses, encouraging people to try one and not to be Last in the Online Learning Race. If you read that blog about online courses, you would already know that I was reluctant to either take or create online courses. I didn’t believe that they could replicate the dynamic instruction at the same level as one of our faculty members and I thought that the students would miss out on the valuable interaction they currently have with their professional peers in our Saturday courses. Our online students and instructors have proven me wrong on both counts. The structure of our online courses promotes a high level of learning with a great dialogue that I didn’t think possible.
The experience with our online courses showed me that some of the online tools could enhance all of our courses. Note: To any of our regular Continuing Ed students reading this who like our quick four Saturday courses, I have no plans to convert every course we offer into an online format much less force online instruction on all of our faculty members, but I quickly learned that all courses should utilize the benefits of sharing online resources in every class.
I now think all higher education should include online components. In our case, our hybrid courses are replacing some of the face-to-face instruction with online learning and participation but not at the expense of a live teacher. Not every class needs to have online tests or discussions, but online course pages are a valuable virtual warehouse for course materials. They are an efficient way for teachers to keep course materials organized while also allowing a vital opportunity for students who need additional instruction; they can return to the resources for a review at their own pace. Online learning allows students a structured online classroom to go back and re-read the notes, articles or any resources the instructor includes on the course page. Some students want to know the bare minimum in a topic but others would love additional resources on the subject that aren’t necessarily going to be on “the test.” This concept led me to a resource in which the Michigan Department of Education describes online learning as a strategic resource that all K-12 students should have access to.
The Michigan Dept of Ed’s K-12 online learning guidelines can be summarized as “A combination of structured, sustained, integrated, online experiences accessed via a telecommunications network.” The guidelines hold a stronger emphasis in grades 6-12 with a requirement to include technology in all K-12 learning to better prep students for college and employment in the 21st century. Michigan’s mandate to include online learning inspired me to use our online capabilities as a strategic resource. For instance, although our Conferencing with Parents and Professionals course might not be an ideal course for a 100% online course without being able to see an instructor model these techniques and practice with her, wouldn’t part of the course be just as well suited for online discussion after reflecting on the face-to-face Saturday instruction and seeing examples during the work week?
Frankly, I don’t think every course is a good fit for an online format just as I don’t think every student is ready for a course that is 100% online, which is what makes our partially online hybrid courses perfect to try. But I do think every K-12 or college teacher should dip their feet into the online pool. I’ll say it again: online learning isn’t going away. If teaching in a virtual classroom intimidates you, face it head on. We are here to help you ease into the online world through our hybrid courses. Jump in and learn what strategic resources you have been missing.