Blended or Hybrid Course Design

What is Hybrid Course Design?

Hybrid course design typically refers to replacing some portion of face-to-face class time with learning activities conducted via the Internet. This model is also referred to as blended learning.

The proportion and timing of online vs. face-to-face time can vary significantly, based on the goals and work requirements of the program. For example, a program whose goal is to make learning more accessible to working professionals might meet once per month (or bi-weekly), with online assignments in the interim. An undergraduate class that typical meets three times per week might replace one of those weekly meetings with online assignments. Courses that are heavily project-based might meet face-to-face early and late in the semester, but infrequently or not at all during the middle.

Advantages of Hybrid Models

Hybrid course design enables faculty to take advantage of the “best of both worlds” of online and face-to-face instruction. Practically speaking, hybrid provides time flexibility for both students and faculty. This factor is especially important in graduate and continuing education programs targeting working professionals. Hybrid programs require less time on campus and traveling, and allow students to “attend” class while traveling and complete work at their own convenience.

Hybrid models offer advantages to learning, as well. The asynchronous nature of communication in most online activities allows students time to consider responses as well as improve written communication. Often faculty report an increase participation of less assertive students. Digital communication and document sharing can be used to facilitate group collaboration.

Designing a Hybrid Course

Teaching a course in a hybrid style does not mean simply trying to replicate a syllabus for a face-to-face class. Effective hybrid design takes into consideration the differences between face-to-face and online learning, and incorporates different learning and teaching strategies.

Hybrid models offer advantages to learning, as well. Asynchronous, meaning participants are not online together “meets” over a period of time, and must take into consideration the timing and pacing of activities. Communication is primarily written in the online environment, and the faculty role shifts to more facilitating than presenting. Although with new technologies such as video, student can use web cameras to record their discussion points and submit them online. Activities must be intentionally designed to encourage student interaction, and student work is often more “public,” since it appears in tools like threaded discussions.

Here are some steps to take to redesign a course for hybrid delivery.

  1. Consider your reasons for choosing a hybrid format and the characteristics of the students; determine the proportions of face-to-face and online time.
  2. Take a detailed look at the activities traditionally used in each course: i.e., content presentation, in-class activities, out-of-class activities like homework and projects, and assessment mechanisms.
  3. Evaluate the activities to determine which to present in class and which to redesign for online delivery; think about what your greatest value is for face-to-face time.
  4. Build course components. Developing a hybrid course can be time consuming, but thoughtfully-designed components can be reused in future deliveries.
  5. Outline the flow of activities and devise a course schedule.
  6. Define a structure for Blackboard course, and integrate components.
  7. Evaluate the effectiveness of the course by soliciting student feedback and evaluating results.