September 2011

Hybrid Course Development Workshops 
Part I: Inspiring New Teaching Methods

By Emily Sparrow

Several Hybrid Course Development Workshops were held over the summer. Many educators participated in these workshops and learned or reviewed how to develop their courses into hybrid courses, courses which combine learning in and outside of the classroom with online elements.

Hybrid courses enhance students' learning in many ways. Class content is accessible to students online to be viewed at any time, students can discuss material and post questions in online forums which can enhance important face-to-face class time and activities, and overall, hybrid courses give teachers and students the chance to work on more flexible schedules.

Faculty members across a diverse array of departments think that the hybrid mode of delivery fits well into their disciplines.

As Robin Beeman begins creating her Nursing 350 course into a hybrid course, she says, "I am excited about the possibility of more discussion and deeper application of content on an ongoing basis along with some scheduled classroom time."

The Department Chair of History, Kate Lang, had developed a hybrid course in the past, but says, "This workshop gave me an opportunity to rethink and revise what I had done."

In the Material Sciences Department, Jennifer Dahl says, "In many ways, scientists are largely self-taught. The fact that the students will have to navigate the material and process it on their own prior to applying their knowledge in a campus-based lab [in the hybrid course] more closely mirrors the process by which students transform into independent scientists."

As D'Arcy Becker develops her Accounting 313 class into a hybrid course, she says, "The core content cannot shift tremendously, but how you think about it, how you present it or how students learn about it can be different. Something different is always good. It offers a different way for students to learn, a different way for me to think about the same material and a different mode of delivery that I can use to get the students to think more in depth." 

The Hybrid Course Development Workshop gave instructors the chance to see some of the tools available to them and time to discuss plans for improving their courses. As many of these educators develop their hybrid courses they reflect on their experiences at the Hybrid Course Development Workshop.

Jennifer Dahl says, "At the workshop, I realized that teaching a hybrid course requires far more advance preparation than a traditional course. However, I think the potential benefits to students are well worth the effort."

"It was great to have time dedicated to thinking about my course with CETL staff and other faculty in the room so that I could talk through some of my ideas," Kate Lang explains.

D'Arcy Becker shares what was most helpful to her during the workshop, "There were new and different technological tools that I learned about that I did not know existed. It's always interesting to me to learn new technologies and I think using them in the classroom is good for the students; we can't send students out into the world without knowing these things."

"Seeing all of the new teaching modalities available to us and how they might be used in the classroom was most helpful," Robin Beeman agreed.

Many of the participants stated that learning to use these new technologies can be a trying process; however, the process is made easier with the constant presence and encouragement of workshop staff members from CETL and LTS.  

"Teaching with technology always makes me nervous," says Kate Lang. "I'm just glad we have such great support. I'm much better prepared than I was the first time I taught this course as a hybrid."  

"What seems to be holding some of us back," D'Arcy Becker explains, "is that we think of teaching our material as being very specific and traditional. This is why there is an advantage of having someone like Bob Eierman to help run the workshop because he really understands the tradition of teaching and traditional methods, but he's also aware of the greater world; the need to think about what else people are going to do in the rest of their lives."

There are many advantages to teaching hybrid courses and a lot of educators foresee their students being more engaged with each other and the class content when being taught with this method.

"I think that it will be fun and useful in the sense that the face time that I have with students is going to be very active. It is not just going to be me standing in front of the classroom anymore!" Jennifer Dahl exclaims. "What I'm hoping to experience is students that are very well prepared to walk into a lab and be ready to work."  

"The content can definitely become more understandable and more interesting to students using these newer techniques," says D'Arcy Becker. "I think a lot of these online tools are a huge convenience improvement. It just makes it more logistically possible for everybody to get together and collaborate and possible for me to hold a high content class in a condensed period of time."

Hybrid courses create opportunities to have more interactive and directed class time. They also provide better methods of monitoring your students' advancements through the course content with tools like D2L.

Jennifer Dahl looks forward to using these new teaching tools. "Online lectures may prove to be a more effective means of sharing information with students. Instructors will have many more opportunities to ensure that students are processing the lecture materials through the inclusion of self-tests, where students must confirm base levels of understanding in order to 'unlock' additional lecture content. It will be impossible to sleep through class!"

Hybrid courses provide us with innovative and interactive teaching methods that keep us up to date with the fast-changing technologies in the world today.

"We should not be afraid to try new things," insists D'Arcy Becker. "I think the campus should know that there are a lot of new technological processes on the computer and in the world that our students need to know about. No matter what field you're in, there are new technologies on the computer. Our students need to know about these new technologies and the hybrid element is a great way to immerse us in what is happening online."

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