Hybrid courses (also known as blended) replace a portion of traditional face-to-face instruction with web-based online learning (e.g., video lectures, online discussions or activities). There is little consensus on the amount of face-to-face instruction that is replaced by online coursework in hybrid classes and this varies greatly by institution, class, discipline, and learning objectives. The Sloan Consortium (a professional organization dedicated to postsecondary online learning) defines hybrid learning as a course where 30%-70% of the instruction is delivered online.
“Hybrid learning combines the properties and possibilities of both [FTF classrooms and online learning] to go beyond the capabilities of each separately. It recognized the strengths of integrating verbal and text-based communication and creates a unique fusion of synchronous and asynchronous, direct and mediated modes of communication in that the proportion of face-to-face and online learning activities may vary considerably” (Garrison & Vaughn, 2008, pg. 6).
As alluded to in the above quote, perhaps the most important and challenging aspect of designing and teaching hybrid courses is to properly integrate FTF and online activities. Designing an effective hybrid course does not simply entail adding online component to a FTF course and results can be less than ideal if both elements are implemented independent of one another. The rest of this guide provides best-practice instructional design models and specific examples that will help instructors design hybrid courses that integrate FTF and online elements while leveraging the best aspects of both.
Integrating FTF and online learning activities requires a reevaluation of course objectives and pedagogical approaches.
Managing both FTF and online environments can be initially difficult. In particular, many instructors find it initially challenging to facilitate online discussions.
Many students aren’t prepared to manage the demands of FTF and online activities.
(adapted from University of Wisonsin Milwaukee and Knewton)
FTF Driver: The instructor lectures and facilitates class discussion in the FTF classes and then students complete online assignments based on these classroom activities. Often these online assignments are collaborative in nature and use, for example, asynchronous forums or other online tools to facilitate discussion and interaction.
Online Driver: The instructor places lectures online using screencasts or other streaming media for students to review and then students use these materials to engage in FTF activities. Often these FTF activities include group discussions, problem-based learning, and/or other active learning techniques.
Lab Rotation: The instructor typically sets a consistent schedule whereby students learn material online via video lectures and/or activities and then come to lab for hands-on learning. Some FTF labs may also be replaced by virtual, online ones.
Flex: The first few weeks of the course generally are comprised of FTF preparation followed by an extended period (such as a month or more) of online work with the potential for periodic student check-ins (either online or FTF) as needed.
On average, redesigning a course for hybrid delivery requires 150 hours of development time plus additional support from instructional designers. The following evidence-based models are intended to direct this process and provide efficient pathways for designing hybrid courses. The first (Backward Design) is intended to provide a basic course design process, while the next two (TPACK, Communities of Practice, and Media Synchronicity Theory) are frameworks that can help instructors develop ways of thinking in regard to hybrid course design and the last one (Media Synchronicity Theory) provides specific guidance for integrating FTF and online tasks with communication technologies.
It is important to note that good course design is iterative. As discussed later in this document, it is important to build in constant feedback mechanisms so that each course can be improved during a semester and, to a larger extent, in each subsequent version.
(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005)
In Understanding by Design (book), Wiggins and McTighe present a framework for designing courses based on backward design principles. This process, in essence, helps instructor to develop their desired results and goals first and then design assessments and activities that align with those goals.
(Mishra & Koehler, 2006, tpack.org)
TPACK is an evidence-based model that identifies the knowledge instructors need to integrate pedagogy, technology, and technology. Specifically, it give instructors tools to help them think about how to integrate technology and pedagogy.
(Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000)
Communities of Practice is a model that identifies the three forms of presence (social, cognitive, teaching) that are integral to facilitating deep discourse and meaningful learning, especially in hybrid courses.
Publications on COI
(Dennis, Fuller, & Valacich, 2008)
Developed out of information systems (IS) research, Media Synchronicity Theory (MST) highlights the importance of matching differential task demands (e.g., a learning activity such as group discussion) with the affordances of communication technologies. Thus, MST adds specificity with regard to designing learning activities in ways that the previous models do not. MST posits that groups perform better when the types of tasks they’re asked to complete are matched with the level of synchronicity (e.g., asynchronous versus synchronous) required by those tasks. MST that tasks can be broken into two different communication processes: conveyance and convergence.
In practice, many learning activities involve both conveyance and convergence processes. Thus, the first step in using the model to design a hybrid course is to list all tasks in a course and then identify which components of those tasks involve conveyance and convergence, respectively. Then communication technologies can be selected that accurately support the processes involved in each learning task.
Understanding how to structure interactions (student-student and student-instructor) is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of designing hybrid courses.
(adapted from UCF’s BlendKit Reader)
There is a traditional tension in education between teacher- and student-directed learning. This issue has taken center stage in hybrid instruction as many feel that a move to hybrid instruction naturally necessitates a move away from teaching-directed learning. This is not necessarily the case and, in fact, there is a somewhat false dichotomy between instructivism (i.e., teacher-centered approaches) and constructivism (i.e., learner-centered approaches). In reality, there is a much more nuanced continuum between these two approaches and the best courses generally combine elements of both. For example, an instructor can provide a clear scaffold and expectations for a class project while also allowing students choice with regard to when, how, with whom they will produce the final product. In the same regard, some learning objective can be created a priori while others can emerge during the course. In sum, structure and self-organization need not be mutually exclusive approaches to hybrid course design.
Once learning outcomes have been developed and assessments written, the next challenge is to design learning activities that integrate both FTF and online interactions. There are many approaches to structuring content and activities in learning modules, but this guide from the University of Waterloo provides one of the better templates for doing so. Another approach is to design activities based on instructional challenges.
As mentioned in an earlier section on Communities of Practice, establishing teacher presence is an important aspect of blended course design. This is especially important if the first interactions in the course are online. Developing brief welcome videos can be one effective way to begin to develop teacher presence in a course.
Sample hybrid syllabi:
As mentioned many times in this document, integrating FTF and online activities is challenging. What’s more, matching activities with the correct mode of delivery adds another step in the process. This is where the principles of Media Synchronicity Theory can be very useful. As mentioned in that section, the first step is to list all learning activities and determining the communication processes (and associated technologies) that best support those activities. This will first help to determine which activities should be done FTF and online, respectively. It will also provide guidance on how to integrate these FTF and online components and the most appropriate technologies to use in each activity.
It can be challenging to facilitate productive asynchronous online discussions. Thus, it is important to follow a consistent structure and make clear expectations with regard to netiquette (general guidelines for proper online communication) and the quality of student posts. See the following examples for more information.
Assessment is an enormous topic and it’s beyond the scope of this document to address all nuances therein. As noted in the section on backward design, assessments should closely align with and provide evidence that students have grasped the big ideas, essential questions, and learning outcomes developed for the course. Starting from big ideas and essential questions allows instructors to construct assessments that go beyond the simple regurgitation of facts and address higher order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking) and more authentic learning outcomes. As detailed below, assessment can be broken down into two forms: formative and summative.
(adapted from UCF’s BlendKit Reader)
Formative assessment techniques are used to gather feedback from students during the learning process so that continual improvement can be made to a course. Many techniques are designed to get at students’ thinking (e.g., perceptions of what’s working and what’s not, misconceptions about key content) so that mid-course corrections can be made. These approaches are even more important for hybrid courses as instructors don’t have as much FTF time with students to quickly gauge students understanding and read non-verbal cues. Formative assessment has traditionally taken the form of Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs, see this site for many examples). Thankfully there are many online technologies (see below) that can be used to efficiently conduct CATs online.
Summative assessments are generally cumulative objective (e.g., quizzes, examinations) or subjective evaluations (e.g., essays, projects) used to measure students’ achievement at a particular point in time (although authentic assessments and mastery learning approaches can involve iterative assessments).
Many argue that online assessments provide students with more options to be academically dishonest (Watson & Sottile, 2010) although there is evidence to suggest that the frequency of dishonesty is no higher in online versus FTF settings (Dietz-Uhler & Hurn, 2011). With that said, there are many approaches that can be used to discourage academic dishonesty:
There are many models for assessing quality in blended courses with no one definitive approach. There is often a large gap between bare minimum requirements and those courses that truly maximize the the best aspects of FTF and online interactions. Regardless of the criteria used, the best designed courses have evaluative components that inform iterative and continual improvement.
(adapted from UCF’s BlendKit Reader)
Students at CU now have the option to enroll in hybrid instances of regular courses. This document provides recommended statements, guidelines, and questions useful when creating the syllabus in a hybrid course. Because hybrid learning is new to many students, it is important to provide additional information to help them be successful in your course. These statement help clarify how a hybrid course differs from a regular course and explain the additional course expectations.
Copy the text below into your Syllabus. Change the text as needed for your course
[Name of your course] is a hybrid course. A hybrid course replaces some in-class time with out-of-class, online learning activities. In-class meetings are used for collaboration and discussion.
For this course, [x many] classroom sessions are being replaced with these online activities:
[list your activities here]
Although we will meet less frequently than a regular course, this course requires the SAME amount of work. Taking a hybrid course demands a lot of discipline, self-direction, and time management skills. You may be expected to do more work outside of class that may otherwise have been previously been conducted in class.
You will need regular access to a computer with reliable Internet access to complete assignments and tasks. If you have your own computer or are considering purchasing hardware, please refer to OIT’s recommended software and hardware list.
There are a number of OIT computer labs or SCARPIES (Stationary Computing Apple Resource for Personal Internet and Email) available for your use.
As you are designing your course, consider providing answers to the following questions on your syllabus: