Online Hybrid as Asynchronous, Co-present, and Remote

heeter80By Carrie Heeter
Editor, Games Development

[Editor’s note: The following article was submitted as a reply to a comment by Steve Eskow, which appeared in “The Campus: The Old Imperialism?” Eskow asked, “I wonder how Carrie Heeter feels about hybrid learning.”]

“It depends” is a cop out but also usually true. A major factor in deciding whether or not to be together in the same room is how motivated students are not to have to come to campus every week to be in class. I have found that full-time students who are enrolled in an on-campus program are most resistant to fully online classes. They are used to and enjoy the presence of fellow students, and they have organized their lives to be able to go to classes. The familiarity of in-person togetherness overshadows potential benefits of fully online learning. Those exact same individuals welcome a fully online summer section, enabling them to go home (or anywhere else) for the summer but still complete requirements toward their degree.

Students who live a long distance from campus, those with full-time jobs, and parents of young children are much more likely to welcome a class that they can attend from home. Here, too, the convenience of fully online outweighs perceived and actual limitations of technology.

I would like to add a distinction regarding online class sessions. They take three different forms: asynchronous, synchronous-physically present (co-present), and synchronous-but-online (remote). Each has different teaching affordances. Physically present requires a building.

As a teacher, quality of teaching and learning is another critical factor. I live in San Francisco and teach at Michigan State University. So it is a given that my students are going to have a distant professor. I get to decide whether to teach fully online, to require them all to go to an on-campus classroom almost like a “normal” in-person class, or to do something hybrid (asynchronous, co-present, or remote).

For eight years I exclusively taught fully online. Then I started adding an hour of optional “in-person” time huddled around a conference phone in a conference room. I didn’t know exactly what to do with that hour, but it seemed to add something the students had been missing. Then I had some students who didn’t want to go to campus so about a third attended via free conference.com audio and Breeze for PowerPoint, and two-thirds were physically together in the conference room, also linked by Breeze and an audio conference call. This mixed mode is a bit bizarre but meets both the co-present and remote students’ needs.

This fall I taught an in-person class that met in a classroom, live, three hours every Wednesday night. The only reason this happened is that I stepped in to teach this already scheduled class at the last minute. But I learned a huge amount trying to figure out how to make three hours of live class vitally interesting with a Skyped in virtual professor. It helped me better understand what to do with my live student time.

My current best practice thinking is a hybrid solution. When I am providing linear information, I can offer a much better learning experience if I write documents, craft PowerPoint presentations, and record audio. I do that for mini-lectures, content modules, and introducing assignments. I also package guest interviews with industry professionals. If I want every student to participate, we do it asynchronously (via blogs or uploading project reports).

I use synchronous time for:

  • Any questions? (clarifying assignments and concepts works better when everyone is live)
  • Breakout small group discussion or activity during class period, followed by synthesis and full class discussion
  • Quick review (Q&A – with me doing the Q)
  • Thought provoking questions (students volunteer answers, and I sometimes call on random people)
  • Student presentations to the class

Because my class this semester turns out to be entirely comprised of on-campus students, everyone  – except for me  – is in the classroom. Technologically, everything I am doing right now could immediately accommodate remote students. But I don’t have any who want that. At the beginning of a semester, I start with a student survey, to help me decide how to offer the class.

One Response

  1. Click here for Steve Eskow’s comment on this article.

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