Hybrid, Online, or F2F – It Depends

lynnz80By Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education

In her articles, “Adventures in Hybrid Teaching: The First Day Is the Hardest” and “Online Hybrid as Asynchronous, Co-present, and Remote,” Carrie Heeter addressed the issues that face teachers and students in a hybrid classroom, including technical, personal, and pedagogical. How the classroom environment is shaped by these issues is summed up in Carrie’s response to a comment by Steve Eskow, which appeared in “The Campus: The Old Imperialism?” Carrie said, “It depends.”

Her account of the issues and reader responses to her articles highlights the complexity of online versus face-to-face teaching and combinations thereof. In any classroom environment the technical, personal, and pedagogical issues are interconnected, making “it depends” a legitimate answer. For example, questions of whether live instruction is less demanding than online depend on the goals and objectives of the course; what kind of technology the teacher and students have access to; and the personal circumstances, personalities, attitudes, and motivations of the students and the teacher.

lynn2009febA graduate course that I teach, Multicultural Education, provides an illustration of this interconnectedness. The students are full-time teachers, and the course is offered in the evening at a regional campus. The course has evolved from a face-to-face class using one online discussion a semester to a hybrid using asynchronous discussion boards for student interaction online as well as face-to-face meetings. The students and I both agree that the hybrid class allows for options and opportunities to engage and interact in different ways.

The online part of the course, as others have mentioned, gives my very busy students an opportunity to engage actively in class without having to drive anywhere. Because it is asynchronous, they can also do it at their convenience, within parameters that they as a group agree upon. Because the forums are written and not oral, it gives those students who are comfortable with and good at writing a chance to engage the material in a different way and at a different level than face-to-face offers. Some of these students even try to engage their classmates more actively in the discussion. However, some of the students write enough to fulfill the assignment requirements and do not go beyond that.

The face-to-face format offers advantages as well. First of all, there are some students who are better at expressing themselves orally than in writing. Face-to-face discussions give them the chance to engage effectively with the materials and with each other. Face-to-face also seems more open to spontaneity. Perhaps I feel this way because I am a fairly good discussion facilitator. I watch faces and listen to tone of voice. I listen to what is being said and what is not being said, and I guide the discussion accordingly, creating more flow than I often find in my students’ written online discussions. As with the online assignments, some students participate more fully than others, despite my attempts at engaging all the students.

(I can hear someone out there saying, “You take care of the issue of oral discussions by giving your students the opportunity to have them online. Let’s save that discussion for later.”)

educating_net_genIn their essay “Preparing the Academy of Today for the Learner of Tomorrow” in Educating the Net Generation (an e-book), Hartman, Moskal, and Dziuban (2005) conclude that what constitutes good teaching practice is universal. “Students believe that excellent instructors:

  • Facilitate student learning
  • Communicate ideas and information effectively
  • Demonstrate genuine interest in student learning
  • Organize their courses effectively
  • Show respect and concern for their students
  • Assess student progress fairly and effectively” (section 7).

I think that hybrid classes serve as one example of good teaching practice because, in order to meet the needs of all of our students, we need to offer them as broad a learning environment as possible.

References

Hartman, J., Moskal, P., and Dziuban, C. (2005). Preparing the academy of today for the learner of tomorrow. Educating the Net Generation. Retrieved February 3, 2009 from http://www.educause.edu/Resources/EducatingtheNetGeneration/PreparingtheAcademyofTodayfort/6062

One Response

  1. Lynn, as you and Carrie and all of us agree: it depends. And perhaps it depends on some matters you haven’t mentioned.

    For example: it depends on whether your students can get to campus: have the auto or the bus fare, have the baby sitter or husband who will baby sit. those who can’t may take their graduate study in an all online program.

    You’re a researcher, Lynn, so I can ask this: is it possible that the agreement you report–your students and you having similar opinions in favor of hybridity– is a result of their clear awareness of what you’d like them to think? Would they give me the same opinions you get if you weren’t in the room? If I were your student and clearly aware of your views, I don’t think I’d want to risk offending you by suggesting that I’d just as soon have all the sessions online.

    I’m a bit troubled by your frequent references to students who are better at expressing themselves orally than in writing. I’m not sure the best pedagogic response to that common feeling among students is to go with it. Perhaps those students weak in writing are those most in need of more practice.

    Increasingly we hear of students resisting buying the required text books, and , crucially, resisting reading them. And I hear of eachers in this age of student evaluations who react to this resistance by respecting it: less reading and writing, in an age where the new technologies put a premium on the reader (of blogs, if nothing else) and the writer (of blogs, if of nothing else.) Might we as a profession need to take a stand on more writing in academic instruction?

    As I’ve indicated my own work is in the poor countries, and is influenced by the economics of building-based education, as well such other social impacts as the disruption of communities. I’d be willing to bet with you, Lynn, that as the economic situation in the US worsens we’ll experience lots less resistance to technology-mediated education by taxpayers, teachers, and students. those buildings your students come to are a technology that costs millions to construct and maintain.

    It does indeed depend.

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