A Hybrid Saved My Life Tonight!
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Remote instruction emerged out of necessity and the panic-stricken hindsight from spring 2020 isn’t very helpful for future planning. Higher education has primarily relied upon traditional lectures and fully online courses to deliver instruction. However, some institutions have experimented with blended, or hybrid courses that combine the benefits of physical and virtual learning.
Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) design can partially trace its roots to 2005 when a graduate program at San Francisco University sought an alternative to moving fully online due to changing enrollment trends of adult learners. Students were afforded flexible learning options; online, face-to-face, remote--a multimodal, tailored experience.
Since 2005, institutions have experimented with hybrid options, but inconsistently, especially at the undergraduate level. Now, as it turns out, this mode provides the best blueprint for remote design because conceptually, it’s the same--synchronous and asynchronous learning. Instead of a classroom, the synchronous learning is facilitated with web-conferencing tools or other technology. Many instructors (and students) do not have experience with hybrid courses so naturally the full-throttle thrust to remote has been extremely jarring.
In 2010, I created a hybrid course that has since successfully run with revisions and tweaks along the way based on student feedback and instructional observations. I offer design and delivery insights that I believe are helpful and applicable to remote design.
Split the baby, but do it RIGHT!
A major flaw of hybrids is that instructors design the course as two separate entities that do not complement each other. For example, classroom time may be a lecture with increased homework assigned in the Learning Management System (LMS) to compensate for the reduced physical presence. Instead, the two components should be fluid and connected--synchronous sessions that dovetail with the asynchronous components.
There are many ways to achieve this, and of course discipline influences what is most appropriate. An example might be that students spend additional time in the LMS and Google Docs reading, researching, working on a project, practicing skills and then are accountable, to some extent, during the synchronous session. It could be through a scored discussion, demonstrations of a concept, or individual/group presentations--the keys are synergy and accountability--you cannot achieve one without the other.
Conversely, if you conduct a demonstration or lecture during the synchronous meeting, the asynchronous work should be directly related. If using a discussion board, questions should be crafted to ensure the synchronous session is a source. With long-term, summative assessments, the synchronous sessions should distinctly scaffold to that end.
For example, in my hybrid course there is a major research project that runs through the semester. Students investigate a topic of their choice through primary sources. The project requires phases along the way such as an annotated bibliography and outline. Synchronous sessions provide direct instruction on the steps and individual support in a computer lab. Beyond the research project, synchronous sessions are utilized for graded socratic seminars based upon asynchronous readings and research with discussion boards to follow up. The interconnectivity of the two parts is evident in all aspects.
Use a Map!
How to apply all this to a remote course? First, list the course-level student learning outcomes. Below each one, jot down how they would traditionally be satisfied. Then, circle back and consider, which ones can only be achieved through direct, synchronous instruction? Next, plan out those sessions across the semester with web-conferencing tools in mind. Finally, evaluate how the remaining objectives can be achieved through asynchronous activities. Be creative! Utilize a variety of tools and assessments. All the while, keep the goal of symmetry in mind.
Leaning on the hybrid model for remote planning might just be the lifeline instructors need!