Leading-Edge Hybrid Courses

Tablet on top of a pile of books

FIU Online’s monthly Faculty Webinar series explores relevant instructional strategies and effective uses of technology for the online environment. The Best of Both Worlds; Leading-Edge Hybrid Courses explored tips and strategies for leveraging the hybrid teaching modality, balancing the benefits of classroom teaching sessions supported by the structure and transparency of the online class experience.

Instant Replay: The Best of Both Worlds— Leading-Edge Hybrid Courses

The hybrid course offers a unique opportunity for the simultaneously active and structured teaching that fosters truly meaningful learning for our students. A traditional hybrid course at FIU is taught 50% online or out-of-class, and 50% in the classroom, though hybrid teaching principles are a strong foundation for emergency remote teaching as well.  

A hybrid class lets professors tackle some of the toughest classroom teaching challenges by applying best practices for structured online learning. A fully leveraged online element reserves valuable live class time for instructor guidance, student collaboration, and the higher-order thinking and reflection that enable valuable learning experiences. By blending the classroom and online elements into a cohesive instructional strategy, instructors really can have the best of both worlds. 

To get the most from hybrid teaching, it is important to approach course objectives, organization, flow, and delivery with focus and care. 

Meaningful Outcomes for Hybrid Courses

The first and most important step to creating a memorable and effective course is to define meaningful course outcomes. Reflect on your topic and the context of your course. Is it a core class most of your learners must pass as a requirement or prerequisite? Should they be gaining essential skills for success later in the program or down the road in their chosen professions? Are you hoping they will gain a deep and knowledgeable appreciation of the subject matter? 

If they remember nothing else from their semester with you, what is the one thing your learners should walk away knowing? Meaningful course outcomes address these questions and provide a touchstone for orienting the objectives and learning activities throughout the course. 

Once you have defined meaningful outcomes for your course, articulate the objectives that will take your learners there in clear and measurable terms. Clear objectives precisely define what a student should be able to do if they complete the course, engaging with all of the learning activities along the way. The objectives offer concrete terms explaining how you will assess student’s learning, and what you expect them to do as a result of participating in the course. 

Strong Course Structure

The divide between in-classroom time and the online elements of the course is one of the toughest challenges instructors face with hybrid teaching. A course can feel disjointed to learners when in-class time feels like a rushed effort to convey all the instruction for the course, and the online courseroom feels like a dumping ground for assignments and quizzes. 

Consider developing a course model that serves as a roadmap for your learners, highlighting each segment of the course as part of a cohesive and intentional learning experience. For example, if the content in your course represents a linear flow of information such as a timeline or process, draw and share a course map showing the timeline of the course in sequence. By contrast, if your course explores a branching progression of topics or an iterative, spiraling “deep dive” of information, use a course map showing the breakdown of information. 

Linear Course Model; Branching Course Model; Deep Dive Course Model

Organize the flow of topics and assignments using your course map to reinforce and build on each other as the course progresses, and to align with your course outcomes. This sort of scaffolding can create continuity across the in-person and online elements of your course while making the hard work of learning both safe and approachable for your learners.

Laddering Learning Units

Within each learning unit, order the activities to help structure your students’ progress through the course material and guide their achievement of your learning objectives. Use the online portion of your course as “backbone” of your course, layering activities to organize and pace the learning. 

Example of Amazing Hybrid Module

Provide overviews and assigned reading at the start of each learning unit and consider assigning a pre-class activity learners must do online before coming to class. Use within-unit due dates to foster students’ accountability to the pre-class activities, allowing you to make the most of valuable class time. Don’t hesitate to post in-class notes, references, resources, or activities such as quizzes in Canvas. Have students go back into Canvas after your live session for discussions, homework, and other assessments to illustrate their achievement of the objectives for the learning unit. 

By layering the learning process in this way, you help guide the learners to make connections in new information. With this structure of resources, activities, and live instruction, you provide a ladder to help them reach higher-order learning.

Fostering Accountability and Engagement 

Organizing hybrid courses with well-defined objectives, a strong course map, and a series of aligned activities within each unit fosters both learner accountability and engagement throughout the course. Breaking down the course into a series of growth-oriented learning activities each unit provides your students with lots of interim milestones and a sense of progress in the course as they complete each.

Frequent learning activities such as routine reflections, short quizzes, online discussions, homework questions all foster engagement with the material. A cohesive blend of online and in-class activities also lets you hold students accountable to a greater portion of the course information than you might in an otherwise traditional classroom or fully online course. 

Future Faculty Webinars

Be on the lookout for FIU Online’s future webinars on re-imagining video lectures and other strategies for effective online teaching. If you have any ideas for future webinar topics, we’d love to hear them. Contact Christina Schettini (cschetti@fiu.edu) to share your ideas for future webinar topics.

Read our other faculty webinar instant replay articles:

Amber Webber, Ph.D. is an Instructional Design Manager at Florida International University (FIU) Online. Dr. Webber is an Air Force veteran, with experience as an adjunct professor, leadership development coach, corporate trainer, instructional designer, and organizational development consultant in civilian and government organizations. She is a “serial academic” and lifelong learner, coupling her practical experience with a Ph.D. in Business Management specializing in Strategy and Innovation, a Master’s in Adult Education, a Bachelor’s in Management and Human Resources, and a couple of Associates degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. She believes in building outstanding online learning experiences, leveraging students’ individual experiences and prior knowledge to create a nexus between learning opportunities and future application for each student.

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