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Creating an engaging hybrid course that doesn’t feel like two disparate halves isn’t simple but it is doable. ULearn Certified faculty members participating in the Office of Distance Learning’s Hybrid Design Challenge found they were able to afford students new opportunities through the format.
Faculty selected as part of the initiative developed courses to reach more students, flip content delivery, and become more learner centered. In the process, these faculty gained new skills and insights into online tools and pedagogy.
Flipping the Classroom
Assistant Professor Dr. Ignatius Cahyanto prefers to teach using a flipped-classroom approach, encouraging students to complete assigned theory readings before class and diving into the applied elements of his hospitality management course content during class time. But he ran into a recurring problem. Students weren’t reading the material.
By redesigning some of his courses, including HMGT 431: International Tourism, into a hybrid, students review content outside of face-to-face class time and complete assessment activities to demonstrate their understanding.
“This allows me to approach the same material from different angles,” he says. “And because students have to post to demonstrate they’ve read materials, then conversation becomes more meaningful.”
He says he’s also hoping the hybrid delivery will make the course more accessible as the management department opens the course to students outside the college of business.
“Tourism is very interdisciplinary,” he says. “My hope is by taking this class, students learn a global view of how we’re connected and can apply it in their own fields.”
As part of the Hybrid Design Challenge, participants enrolled in the Course Design Practicum workshop, which Dr. Cahyanto says introduced him to new tools to make his courses more engaging for students.
"I have more confidence now in designing online courses because I have more tools in my arsenal,” he says. “I was kind of nervous, designing this course, but the tools are there to help us develop course. It’s an exciting experience to learn new skills and new tools. Many of us are hesitant to teach online or hybrid because it’s a lot of work in the beginning, but it’s nothing to fear.”
Dr. Cahyanto says that by working through the hybrid course design process, he’s been able to deliver a more cohesive learning experience for students.
“With hybrid, it forces me to prepare materials cohesively in the beginning – how each piece fits together,” he says. “I found it easier for me to manage my time. For most people, the challenge is balancing the teaching part, the advising part, and other parts of our lives. With hybrid, it allows me to be more organized.”
Assistant Professor of Music Education Dr. Dale Bazan has years of experience developing online courses for Kent State University and University of Florida that he’ll use as part of the school of music’s efforts to open their graduate programs to a wider population.
For the Hybrid Course Design Challenge, however, Dr. Bazan addressed a different problem.
"(MUS 104: History of American Popular Music) is one of our most popular undergrad music courses and has a broad reach outside the school of music,” he says. “This is one that always fills up our classrooms in Angelle Hall. They usually have three sections with up to 80 or 90 students, and it’ll always fill up.”
By re-designing the course for hybrid delivery, Dr. Bazan says, the school of music has more options in terms of how to use available classrooms and how to meet individual learner’s needs.
“It’s more accessible; we have more students able to — rather than always having to come on campus or across campus to Angelle Hall — attend virtually or once a week instead,” he says. “We know there are learners who enjoy being face to face in a class with an instructor and other students. We know that. We also know there are students who learn better independently at their own pace. Having those different modalities increases the types of students we can serve, as well as students off-campus.”
Dr. Bazan’s dissertation focused on student-centered instruction. He says in developing his hybrid course, he sees the advantages for his students.
“Hybrid is the best of both worlds where they have that regular contact synchronously as well as that online modality with technology that we know students enjoy,” he says. “Some students will find they learn better when they can pick the time they learn best. You know, some people work better in the morning, some work better in the evening.”
“I know there are some faculty who are reluctant or see a steep learning curve creating online materials or going from traditional methods, but I think there are a lot of advantages to hybrid, including increasing student to student interaction outside the classroom through discussion boards, VoiceThread, and Flip Grid. There are a lot of options out there to make students’ experiences more vibrant in the hybrid modality.”
Creating new opportunities
In IRED 320, future teachers learn about the tools, apps, and websites to organize their classrooms and engage students.
“The hope is they try out enough things and build out a portfolio of technology tools to use in their classrooms later,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Aimee Barber. “Technology is always growing and changing so we also do a lot of robotics and coding, computational thinking, problem solving. We’re introducing them to the idea that, ‘Here's best practice in education, now let’s look at how existing technology can support that."
Dr. Barber says by redesigning the course as a hybrid, she and Professor Dr. Doug Williams can create a more hands-on learning experience as they customize the course for different levels.
“We were telling them about so many of these online tools that we thought, ‘What if we delivered the course in a way they’re using the online tools to learn so that they can know a little bit more when they go to teach with them.’ So, it’s more about making it more experiential so they’re learning in the same way they’d eventually be teaching,” she says.
“I have a lot of experience with online learning tools, so it was an exciting challenge to use the stuff I teach in my course. I’m not just teaching about it; I’m actually teaching with it.”
Through the Course Design Practicum, Dr. Barber says she also learned about new online learning tools, like VoiceThread and Flipgrid, as well as concepts.
“I took away how important structure and organization is; there’s no room to be vague,” she says. “I felt like I learned from the content but also facilitation.”
Dr. Barber says teaching through a pandemic has underscored the need for teachers to enter classrooms armed with these skills.
“We see this increased need right now with being able to pivot to online learning while still being as effective as you were in the classroom. We know we need teachers to facilitate the learning, but how can we leverage these online tools?” says Dr. Barber.
“Now more than ever, it can only help you. It can only open your mind to new possibilities, even in a face-to-face class, it really opens opportunities for staying connected with students, keeping them connected with each other."