By Jan Schwartz
I work with people in alternative health care and career type schools. Hybrid education is excellent in these fields where some of the more kinesthetic skills cannot yet be taught online. I say “yet” because who knows what will be possible in the future?
I teach a practice management class in an acupuncture school and it is a hybrid course. No hands on components (as in skill development with needling) are taught, but the nature of the practice is such that the students like having some face to face time because that is how they will be functioning with clients or patients when they graduate. We meet the first week or two in the classroom (I give them the choice at the end of the first meeting), usually one week in the middle, and then again on the final week. That’s 3-4 times out of a 10-week quarter.
If the goal was to do this fully as a distance course, it could easily happen. But the goal is to teach the students in a way that they can learn best and in a way that has relevance to what they will be doing after they graduate. These students are adults, almost all of them with undergraduate degrees and many with graduate degrees. Most have had some online experience, and all are technologically savvy enough to have an easy time navigating around a course site.
I don’t understand the need to have education be either-or — either face-to-face or fully online. Or even to push for fully online or face to face. What about the students’ needs/desires? Their own objectives for a course? The students I teach are from all over southern AZ and some drive a distance of 100+ miles to get to school several days a week, yet they choose to do that, both for the reputation of the school and for the human contact with their classmates. They love having a hybrid course and think this is the best of both worlds. I posted online the material we would cover in the face to face classes in case they couldn’t make it — but they all did.
Education for students is for the student to learn something. Education for the teacher is a field of employment, and our job is to not only help students learn in an environment that works for them but to help them find answers to the questions that will help them succeed. The practice management course I teach (that’s a fancy name for a business course) is to assist them in developing a plan that they can run with when they graduate. This is a simplistic description, but in a nutshell that’s what I do. All students do not want to do the same thing so they have different questions, different ideas, different needs.
What they all have in common is the current need for flexibility and the future need to describe themselves and what they do to real people. They will interact with patients on a daily basis, and they will interact with the larger healthcare field on a periodic basis. Part of what I do in the face to face class is bring in a panel of other professionals so the students can have a conversation with the panelists to help them build their confidence. Not all health care practitioners are accepting of acupuncture, and this gives the students a chance to practice their “pitch,” as it were. The students asked for this opportunity.
As teachers, we are not even on the same page with the definition of hybrid or blended learning. To make a generalization about what is the right method of delivery in education or where education must go are mistakes. Students’ needs and, yes, their opinions do matter.
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