According to federal data, about a third of all students in higher education are taking at least one course online (U.S. Department of Education, 2018). This is a number that shows consistent growth each year and in light of COVID-19, we are likely to see a much larger increase beginning next fall as many schools remain closed or transition to minimal face-to-face classes. Despite these growing numbers, what isn’t considered is that some of these students may not be comfortable or prepared enough to take fully online classes. and are only doing it out of necessity or convenience. There is not an easy fix to ensuring that each student is completely prepared to take classes online, so many schools have realized the need to offer a recognize the need for a middle ground option for students who want the convenience of are transitioning to online classes but still desire are able to have some face-to-face interaction. Enter the hybrid classroom.
So, what makes a hybrid class a great experience for students and for instructors?
Hybrid classes really do have the best of both worlds when it comes to instruction. In a traditional classroom, the typical model of introduction of materials and outside work is followed, and in an online classroom, the students are given the resources and material needed to complete the assignments on their own time. The hybrid classroom allows you to give all the resources and assignments in an online environment but then still focus in on any materials you would prefer to cover in a face-to-face classroom. If there was a lecture that you feel is important but that you don’t have time to record and put online, the option is available to still give it in a traditional setting. Maybe there is group work that is better done in person for better results. On the other side, some of the materials or assignments that might take up too much class time can be put online to complete. The hybrid classroom allows you to decide in what medium you want to present all the resources of the class and what will be most effective for the students.
Hybrid classes provide multiple formats for interactions to occur between student-instructor and student-student. Discussions held in person no longer end when the class period is over; these discussions can continue in online discussion forums or group chats. Students will be able to communicate online more meaningfully since they can visualize a face/voice to their fellow students from the in-class discussions. The students who may be too shy or reluctant to speak in a traditional classroom are able to have a voice in the online portion of the class, which may lead to feeling more comfortable speaking in person. The students who might feel lost or alone in an online class are reassured by having traditional class time where questions can be asked, and a community built. Instructor presence doesn’t end after walking out of the door of a classroom, so the class time continues on, just in a different environment.
For many instructors who worry about cheating in online-only courses and have to setup proctors or anti-cheating software, hybrid classes serve as a way to avoid the hassle by having tests taken during in-class time. Students can also ask questions or seek clarification on parts of the test that they may have otherwise not had the opportunity to do. By taking tests in person, test results can also be handed back and/or gone over in more detail than might have been possible in an online class; in-person also adds an easier way for students to directly speak with the instructor about results without a chain of emails.
Increased Technological Knowledge
Many students who are hesitant to take online classes worry about what will be required of them and if they are able to handle it. The same is often true of instructors who have not taught an online class or are still new to teaching online. Hybrid classes allow both groups to wade in the shallow end of online learning, providing the continued familiarity of the traditional classroom setting while simultaneously offering online components to experiment and test out. When students are unclear where things are located in an online course or have a technological issue, sometimes it can take several announcements, emails, and even videos to explain to the students what to do. Having a hybrid class means that any new technology experiences have the in-class portion to address these problems and learn more about how to use technology for academic and eventually career purposes. This leads to both instructors and students being better prepared and more comfortable in the future for a fully online class.
Hybrid classes are often overlooked because they don’t fit neatly into the two main class structures of traditional and online that we see most frequently, but hybrids should be seen as a type of class that supports the best things of both classroom structures. It is likely that we’ll be seeing more hybrid classes on campuses across the globe. This is an opportunity to create a learning experience for students and instructors in a new way. A hybrid class provides freedom for you, as the instructor, to ultimately create a class that is tailored for you and your students’ needs and that will produce a positive educational experience for everyone in the class.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Table 311.15. Accessed at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_311.15.asp?current=yes