Lisa asked me to share my experiences with Hybrids, or rather my experiences trying to teach Hybrids. Let me preface this by saying that when I set out to teach my first blended course, I felt I had done my due diligence. I had been to numerous conferences and had just come off a sabbatical on the feasibility of online language instruction. [Please note that languages have been taught online for years. Unfortunately, many of those courses simply sacrificed the essential F2F component which most of us consider sacrosanct.] I had concluded in that sabbatical that teaching languages online responsibly could indeed be accomplished thanks to newer and improved online communication tools such as Skype, Elluminate and Wimba. It was my opinion that too many of our students still did not have access to fast enough computers and Internet connections, nor did we have on campus the facilities to accommodate online teacher and student needs. I went on to state that until we were able to replicate the F2F experience with technology, that the blended model would work better. That is the stage upon which I entered to teach my first Hybrid class.
Since all of our language classes were two days per week I decided to eliminate one day and increase the F2F day from 2.5 to 3 hours. My main mistake was not clearly defining the school week. Most of the assignments were individual study, practice and research and did not require interaction with classmates (since those activities were to be reserved for the F2F day). Even after a number of admonishments, some students still felt that they could get-by simply by attending F2F class sessions (just as some of our students in regular classes think they just coming to class is enough). I tried to inculcate in them the necessity and importance of the Virtual Day, and that by failing to complete the online activities and assignments they were not only losing those points and a large component of the course, but that they were also unable to participate in the in-class activities on which those assignments were based.
Fully online or on-ground classes do not have such a difficult time in this regard since students are either in class or they are not. In a hybrid class, if they only come to the F2F sessions and do not complete the online portion, they are missing half of the course.
Even after my negative experience, I do still believe in the Hybrid format, and really like the University of Utah model. They have transformed their normal F2F course which normally meet four days per week into two F2F days and two virtual days. (I would use the abbreviation VD, but maybe that wouldn’t be appropriate. But who knows, it may be catchy… Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Since our language classes here at MiraCosta meet two days per week, I would probably make one virtual day and one F2F day. The key is to have those virtual days (and F2F days as well) completely planned out ahead of time, perhaps as early as at the beginning of the semester. I would prepare lots of hands-on activities appropriate for the classroom, which would be followed up (and introduced) on the virtual day by other activities that are more conducive to the online format. Another key point is to try to avoid doing in the classroom what student are able to do online, and visa versa.
So that is my experience with Hybrids. Maybe I will take another look at teaching and designing a hybrid course in the future, but for now I am content with my F2F sections and the final planning stages of my first fully online course which I will be teaching this summer.