There is an advanced mode of delivery for teaching that is becoming popular here at UWEC. Many educators are developing hybrid courses, courses that combine face-to-face class time with online elements. Hybrid courses have anywhere between 30-90% of class content online, and when talking to a few professors who are currently developing their hybrid courses, most of them seem to agree that having 30% of their class content online is most productive.
D'Arcy Becker is developing her Accounting 313, Introduction to Auditing and Assurance Services into a hybrid course, and says, "I think one of the things that has been limiting us is that we have been thinking of courses being online or on campus. Sometimes we're not able to accomplish face to face what we can accomplish on the computer. The technology available with hybrid courses offers students the chance to learn how to use online collaboration tools."
Jennifer Dahl foresees hybrid courses increasing student interaction in the Department of Material Sciences, "Students that are normally vocal in the standard classroom will get the same opportunities for face-to-face interaction in the lab, while others who are a bit more reserved might be more inclined to interact via message boards. Having multiple dimensions for interaction amongst students will increase the sense of community and cohesiveness amongst our students."
Students are learning in a highly technological world and many are used to communicating through different social media such as Facebook and Twitter. More and more businesses are using online technologies to communicate, organize and advertise. It is with good reasoning that Universities are adapting teaching methods to include more technological diversity.
D'Arcy Becker agrees the University is taking a great step in integrating technologies into teaching. "Continuing education in most fields is electronic; students are going to have to be able to learn things online. At some point the whole world will have passed us by if we are not using the most modern techniques. I want students to know the latest technologies, because in our field people do a lot of research online to figure out what to do in a situation for their company. We need to be aware of the greater world and to think about what else students are going to do in the rest of their lives. We talk about preparing students for a whole life and a whole life involves the computer."
Hybrid courses provide students and educators an additional learning environment, and one in which students are familiar with and can easily be incorporated into their usual online interactions.
"I want to incorporate a venue for more discussion and application of classroom lecture content," explains Robin Beeman as she looks forward to developing her Nursing 350 class into a hybrid course, "The course is primarily lecture, but more discussion and application is needed in the course and I think those features can be incorporated nicely in a hybrid course."
Kate Lang is looking forward to having a hybrid course ready for the Fall 2012 semester, "History 793 is a required course for MA students. Many of our MA students live far away and work full time; a hybrid course will serve their needs very well."
Hybrid courses offer students the time to work more independently and give teachers the chance to utilize class time more effectively. Having class content posted online better prepares students for class and gives students the chance to navigate the material at their own pace.
"Hands-on, immersive learning environments such as the laboratory can create an opportunity for rapid knowledge acquisition, but some level of preparation is always needed before working in a lab," says Jennifer Dahl. "The online portion of the hybrid course would allow students to prepare for the lab experience at their own pace, ensuring that all participants are ready to work during lab sessions."
Jennifer Dahl describes how the hybrid course has real world application, "By having students prepare independently for lab via the online lecture portion of the course, we are better mimicking the way that many scientists learn new methods- first by reading up on a topic, planning the experiment, and then carrying it out in the lab."
Robin Beeman explains, "Nursing is a practice discipline and we need to do more with helping students apply what they learn in the classroom to case studies and real life examples, instead of straight lecture."
In D'Arcy Becker's Accounting 313 class, there is a fraud investigation project in which the students must gather evidence. She states that "one of the things the hybrid course can be very good at is giving students a place to gather their evidence, discuss it and turn it in online. I do not need to have class for them to gather evidence; I know they're doing the work."
D'Arcy has other projects that are often difficult for her to administer. She anticipates the online elements of the hybrid course will "offer students many ways to share and collaborate online that could help to make these projects run very smoothly. Students are all so busy and getting together in person for group work is hard to do. And, many companies use online collaboration in place of face to face meetings to save time and expense in getting people together."
Jennifer Dahl agrees that "the primary reason for offering courses in an online format is to increase accessibility for our students by offering flexible scheduling options and multiple course formats that are intended to appeal to a wider range of students."
Kate Lang also addresses the fact that "adult students need the flexibility that online and hybrid instruction offers."
Hybrid courses offer possibilities of further student retention. Robin Beeman looks forward to "a deeper level of learning with the students [in the hybrid course], instead of more surface learning. The students will need to be more active in their learning."
"It's important for both students and instructors to understand that hybrid courses will require the same amount of engagement as a traditional course," Jennifer Dahl clarifies.
An important question that D'Arcy Becker leaves us with is, "What are the things that we can be doing to help our students learn more effectively and prepare them for the future?"