At the Engaging Minds blog, we wanted to learn more about the experiences both instructors and students are having in hybrid courses… so, we set out by asking instructors and students some questions that would give us some insights, which we’ll share with you today!
To begin, in our recent Instructor Engagement Insights survey, we asked: Have you taught a “hybrid” (part online, part on-campus) course before?
When we reviewed the responses, we found that nearly half of the instructors have experience teaching a hybrid course: 26% of our respondents said that they were doing so at the time of the survey, and 23% said that they had done so in the past. An additional 31% said that they were open to the possibility of teaching a course.
Of course, not everyone wants to, or will, teach a hybrid course. Ten percent of our respondents said that they would not want to teach a class in this format. Another 10% wrote that the opportunity is not currently available to them: 9% told us that their school does not offer hybrid courses, and 1% said that they teach at a completely online school (with no face-to-face options).
Given that many instructors and students have participated in hybrid courses, we wanted to learn more about their experiences in them. Interestingly, they observed similar benefits. We’ve summarized and shared them below.
Five benefits of hybrid courses
1. Flexibility for the students… and instructors
“Flexibility” ranked as a top benefit among both instructors and students. Instructors noted that this flexibility affords students “more freedom with schedule and assignments” and an “anywhere/anytime” learning experience.
The flexibility of hybrid courses also serves as an asset to those with demanding schedules and multiple responsibilities. For example, this class format “…is convenient for working students” who may otherwise have a more difficult time attending a course on a regular basis.
Others wrote in practical points about their reduced commutes to campus, saying that hybrid courses “…may reduce travel time and many of our students need more time to get everything done” and that “the students and I saved time and gas.” (Given that time and money are both such valuable commodities, benefits such as these are not to be taken for granted!)
Students’ responses echoed those of instructors. As one student put it: “Hybrid classes make it possible for a student to manage their time with ease. It’s hard going to school full time and working full time. Hybrid classes have made this possible for me.”
Students also value the ability to work at their own pace. One said that a hybrid course “[allows] the student to move as quickly as they feel comfortable with, but lets them have the face-to-face with teacher and classmates.” In addition, “a student would learn self-pacing and self control, while also having classroom time to learn from a professor.”
2. The opportunity for face-to-face time
Many instructors of hybrid courses were quite enthusiastic about the opportunity to talk with and teach students in person, which they wouldn’t have in a fully online course. One wrote that the face-to-face time “…would decrease the isolation of 100% online and develop a better connection to the course.” Another noted that “[instructors] have an opportunity to meet with the students and answer all their questions, form relationships, and they can connect with each other.”
Instructors also appreciated that “students have an opportunity to meet and greet,” and that they can “…find time to come to class one day a week so they still get instruction and interaction with classmates!”
Students, too, value the chance to meet their instructor and classmates in person. They like “the ability to meet with an instructor for class meetings in order to clarify or request elaboration on assignments.” They also like that “you get to meet everyone in your class” and noted that a hybrid course’s in-person meetings have a way of “humanizing the group”—a factor that can shape the way students dialogue and relate to one another (as noted in our next point!).
3. Increased interaction and community
Because of these face-to-face meetings, instructors and students in hybrid courses often see increased interaction and community within both the classroom and the LMS. One instructor noted, “I get more students to participate more regularly in online discussions because everyone is accountable to participate. Flipped classes allow for more interaction and collaborative learning when we meet in person because so much has taken place outside the classroom.” Instructors also commented that “students can ask questions while in class that they may not know how to articulate via email,” and wrote that, when the face-to-face portion of the class occurs, “…the teacher and students can interact, allowing students to better learn the material.”
As you might expect, students enjoy many of these same benefits. Several welcomed the “ability to ask the instructor questions real-time.” Others wrote that the “ability to meet students in person [creates] potential for deeper relationships and understanding of student backgrounds” and that it’s “good to communicate with other students face to face and develop friendships.” We were encouraged to read these responses, which reinforced the idea that students do want to be connected to the other students in their courses.
4. Opportunities to present and learn course materials in a variety of engaging, motivating, and valuable ways
Within the hybrid course, instructors have the ability to deliver and expand the experience inside and outside of the class, “using technology for what it is best to do, and physical meetings for what they are best to do.” It promotes “greater use of seat time for active learning experiences.”
One instructor wrote: “Students can have a structured way of preparing for class, so class time is used for tasks that need to be done collaboratively.” Another instructor appreciates that “the flipped model allows for better student preparation and the face-to-face element accelerates cohesiveness and community.”
In a similar vein, one student wrote: “I think the benefits of a hybrid course are that you get to meet everyone in your class. You also get to learn some of the material ahead of time in class before you get online to complete your online section of the class.”
Per instructors, the model does put more of the onus on students to “…do more learning outside the classroom” and “take more responsibility for their own learning”…which can be an empowering experience.
Interestingly, a few instructors and students noted that the mix of online and in-person learning experiences can help prepare students for what they’ll experience in today’s workplace. An instructor wrote: “The mix of synchronous and asynchronous engagement mirrors real life/work experiences. Asynchronous work fosters more thoughtful engagement while synchronous fosters more openness to others’ ideas and insights.” Meanwhile, a student told us that “…some benefits of a hybrid course are to challenge you and prepare you for jobs/careers that will require you to multi-task, and jobs/careers where you must be capable of performing and finishing multiple duties.”
5. Students receive the “best of both worlds.”
Can you have it all in one course? Numerous instructors and students stated that hybrid courses can provide “the best of both worlds,” combining the benefits of fully on-ground courses with those of online courses.
One instructor wrote that the hybrid model “…combines the efficiency of an online course, with the personalization mostly possible face-to-face.” Another said that in hybrid courses, students receive “…electronic integration (tests, papers, discussions), but also can clarify concepts in person in real time and have real relationships and partnerships with their classmates and the instructor as real people, not just their names on a screen.”
Several noted the balance between instructor-led and student-led learning experiences. As one instructor put it: “My students love them. They get me and the ease of doing work at their pace.”
Mirroring these sentiments, one student wrote that hybrid classes provide “all the best things about being in person, knowing your prof, knowing your classmates, having discussions… but also not having to carve out time every single day or even twice a week. Once a week I see everyone in person, the rest of the time is up to me to get my work in online.” Another cited the “flexibility of learning outside of class on one’s own time, as well the ability to still meet in person and have the ‘learning’ experience of being in a classroom.”
Though everyone’s experience in a course (whether hybrid, fully online, or completely on-campus) will differ, these comments are representative of what we heard back from instructors and students. If a hybrid course may be in your future, consider these points in anticipation of what’s to come. If you’ve taught a hybrid course, let us know if these observations resonate with you!
Have you taught (or taken) a hybrid course? What benefits have you observed? Share them in the comments.