Hybrid, or blended courses, are courses that combine some face-to-face meetings with online-only content and activities. These courses utilize the best of both modalities in order to offer large numbers of students the best possible learning experience.
- Ensure students know what is expected and required in this format.
For many students, this may be their first time taking a hybrid or flipped course. Ensure that they know up front – in your registration materials, in pre-class communications, and on the first day of the class – exactly what is expected and required of them in this kind of class. These kinds of courses often require more planning, organization, and self-motivation on the part of students since they present the students with more freedom in how they spend their time. Consider talking with students about how they are spending their time and preparing for the class during the semester, too, to remind them of their responsibilities. [UD syllabus tool]
- Ensure out of class activities clearly connect to in-class.
Are you “flipping” your class and offering lectures online? Are you asking students to practice skills and techniques online prior to class? Whatever your content or online activities may be, integrating them into your in-class time is essential. Refer to your learning outcomes and map out how each one of your online components supports those outcomes. [See: Garrison, D. R., & Vaughn, N. D. (2008). Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.]
- Incentivize doing the online work.
Interviews with students taking hybrid courses surprised CTAL professionals when students explained poor performance in the class by saying, “If the faculty had given me points for the homework, I would have done it. I know I do better when I actually do the homework.” Some of the textbook online resources have quizzes and other checkpoints. If you are not using a publisher’s resource you might want to think about implementing short assignments or clicker questions to check for understanding. Students were unanimous in their reporting that if homework doesn’t contribute to their grades, they are unlikely to do it.
- Try a self-assessment quiz.
At the beginning of the semester, ask students to assess their own skills, particularly as they relate to technology and online instruction. As part of the quiz, students can ensure that their computer technology is up to date. The quiz also helps students think about their preferred learning modes, as well as their comfort level with online tools. You can identify students who might need extra support or resources and direct them to the correct campus center.
- Assess early, Assess often.
Give your students multiple opportunities to demonstrate what they are learning, and consider allowing them to re-take quizzes and assessments that they underperform on. Practice quizzes and question banks are also useful tools that students report help them study for exams. Multiple low-stakes feedback opportunities are a cornerstone of student success across all teaching modalities.
- Embrace rubrics.
When students know what is expected of them, and why they are being assessed, they perform better. A rubric is a great way to make those expectations clear, and also helps you to grade quickly and effectively. For online or hybrid courses, the ability to conduct asynchronous discussions can be a major benefit. But ensuring that those discussions engage both the course material and your community of learners in a professional and appropriate manner can present a challenge. Try implementing a rubric for those discussions which can help students become more effective communicators.
- Show students that you are aware of their time-on-task.
Our LMS systems have built-in analytical tools that will help you monitor activity in a course including when students are accessing certain learning materials and the time students take to complete assessments. Sakai has a Statistics tool (which faculty must add to their course) to help track usage. Canvas has a course analytics tool, a student analytics page and an access report for each student. Monitoring students’ engagement with your course using these tools allows for timely intervention for at-risk students or those that may need additional assistance.
- Require students to reflect or journal on the time and effort spent.
Ask students to place a stopwatch near them and turn off all other distractions when they are about to undertake an online activity. After they track how much time they spend on an assignment, ask them to rate how much effort they put into the task. You can create a simple spreadsheet for this, or even an online form. This feedback is a two way street; it provides critical insights for you and for your students. Once you’ve collected your student data, you can use that feedback to help you refine your assignments in the future.
- Online presents new opportunities for multimedia and hypertext.
Your online course components can take advantage of presentation methods not always present in the face-to-face classroom: audio, video, still images, graphical representations… Presenting concepts through multiple media is a great way to reinforce them, as well as support a variety of learners with different needs and preferences.
The National Center for Universal Design for Learning provides dozens of examples of studies that have verified the impact of multiple forms of media on creating significant learning for students. Just make sure that all of your students have equal access to the tools they will need to create that significant learning.
Ready to try these strategies in your teaching? Schedule a consultation.
As with any course, clarifying your learning outcomes and targeting your content and assessment to meet those outcomes is the most important part of your design. Moving to a hybrid or blended environment simply requires familiarity with different tools and platforms to help you achieve that goal. ATS has developed several faculty training programs to help you, and your students, meet your outcomes.