Hybrid Courses in College: What You Need to Know | Education

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Long before the coronavirus pandemic closed campuses and restricted in-person interactions in March 2020, blended learning was part of the curriculum at Odessa College in Texas and Portland State University in Oregon.

But for many other colleges, online and blended education were new concepts that prompted them to rush into the transition. Now, almost two years later, as schools adapted and implemented new technologies in the classroom, experts predict that these distance learning options are here to stay.

“We are emerging from the pandemic with an even stronger commitment to the value of in-person teaching as an essential part of our residential university programs, but we also have a larger toolbox of teaching methods. success stories available to us, ”Julia Thom-Levy, vice-provost for academic innovation at Cornell University, wrote in an email.

“Teachers want to use the best of both in the future and will likely combine in-person instruction with digital tools that can engage students in and out of the classroom. “

What is a hybrid class in college?

A hybrid course is a combination of face-to-face and online education that can take a variety of forms. Some models offer in-person classes with online components, while others have a mix of students attending in person or through Zoom.

“It can be used as an adjunct to in-person learning,” says Stephanie Riegg Cellini, professor of public policy and economics at George Washington University in Washington, DC and non-resident senior researcher in governance studies at Brookings. Institution.

“For example, having videos that students can watch after taking an in-person class to reinforce concepts,” she adds. “It can also work as a substitute for in-person learning, and I think research shows that it is perhaps less effective when used as a subsite than when used as a supplement.”

According to Brian Jones, the school’s director of professional learning, 35% of classes are hybrid at Odessa College, with face-to-face instruction offered twice a week and the rest of the time spent online. The remote aspect of lessons is configured to be both synchronous, where participants are connecting at the same time, and asynchronous, which includes engagement at all times via chat messages and other activities.

“The experience of students taking an online course, we know, is different,” says Jones. “When they’re face to face, we know the experience is different too. With the Hybrid, it feels more mixed up as the instructor goes through the resources, additional online materials and items. extra with you. Just make sure all learning loops are closed and reinforced throughout the course cycle. ”

Building on existing hybrid courses, the State of Portland implemented Attend Anywhere, a “flexible learning” pilot program that enrolled 5,340 students.

As part of the program, classrooms are equipped with Zoom and Global Classroom technology. Teaching is broadcast live so that students can attend classes remotely, in person or on a work-study basis, according to Michelle Giovannozzi, the university’s associate vice-president for academic innovation.

Class layout varies by instructor, but may include a short lecture followed by a class discussion with in-person and remote participants, or collaboration in Zoom workrooms.

Given the choice, a third of students preferred a hybrid approach for the fall semester 2021, three percentage points lower than in person only and 12 percentage points higher than online only, according to the annual Sallie Mae / Ipsos How America Pays for College survey.

With decisions to be made on what type of course to take, here’s what students need to know about blended learning:

  • Greater flexibility and access.
  • More comfort in the classroom.
  • Challenges with technology.
  • Less engagement on campus.

Greater flexibility and access

COVID-19 increased awareness of a digital divide in higher education that was particularly prevalent among students of color and rural students. Schools responded by distributing laptops and wireless access points, as well as setting up additional outdoor broadband areas on campus.

But now, as campuses reopen, students can choose what works best for them: in-person, online, or hybrid classes. This allows more non-traditional students, such as those who work full time or are parents, to access higher education.

“We have to understand that we have to meet students where they are and that one size does not fit all,” Jones said.

Hybrid courses can be accessed on a desktop, laptop, or even using a mobile phone app. With the ability to watch classes again and attend virtual office hours, classes can be completed at a time convenient for the student.

Hybrid courses also reduce the need to travel to campus.

“For the most part, students express a willingness to trade the familiarity and other benefits of in-person learning for the opportunity to balance commitments such as work, internships, childcare, and time off. journey offered by the Attend Anywhere courses, “wrote Giovannozzi in an email. “Time spent on campus can be spent reviewing course materials. Students also report that they miss fewer class sessions with the ability to participate remotely and appreciate being able to review class videos to review and reinforce complex concepts. “

More comfort in the classroom

While some students are the first to raise their hands or speak in class, others prefer to stay under the radar.

Virtual participation can “provide introverted students with a more comfortable and less risky way to ask questions and share their thoughts,” says Giovannozzi.

“Students learn in different ways and some thrive in remote environments,” she adds. “For example, some students with disabilities have adjusted very well to distance learning and find that they can be academically successful without the stress of going to a physical classroom.”

Challenges with technology

Digital platforms like Zoom, Global Classroom, and Slack can enhance learning, but come with a learning curve for students and faculty.

Almost 20% of students said they struggled to learn to use education technology, for example, according to a 2021 University Innovation Network survey.

Beyond digital literacy, occasional issues arise with the use of technology, such as frozen screens, disconnections, and errors that can lead to a temporary inability to communicate with others in the classroom.

Less engagement on campus

According to the How America Pays for College survey, only 39% of students who took only online classes or followed a hybrid schedule strongly or somewhat agreed that they felt connected to their campuses.

“Much of the learning on college campuses takes place outside the classroom in dormitories and extracurricular activities,” says Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, an organization focused on promoting equity in higher education.

“For students doing blended learning on residential college campuses,” she says, “it’s a radically different experience and can dilute the sense of community that comes with engaging with others on important issues by outside the classroom. “

Developing connections in the classroom also requires more intentionality in a distance learning environment, explains Thom-Levy.

“Instructors want to flow, listen and react in the moment as students work together on complex tasks,” she adds. “It can be done in an online environment; it takes a lot of planning and very clear guidelines to be successful. “

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