Hybrid Education: The Interactive Class of Today and Tomorrow

Judith McDanielBy Judith McDaniel
Editor, Web-based Course Design

I’m learning several new things in the classroom these days, thanks to the opportunity and necessity of online teaching. At the university, every class is assigned a learning management system course site. It is used for all course reserve materials, and as a teacher, I have gradually expanded to using automatically graded quizzes, posting class news and information, and now requiring online discussions. Hybrid classes are those that go beyond using the course site as a bulletin board. Hybrid classes incorporate a significant amount of online learning and interaction along with the face-to-face component of the class.

I teach face-to-face classes at a large public university and I usually have about 100 students in a class. It’s easy for a student to hide in that setting. I don’t know all the names, and even with a seating chart, it is hard for me to call on the right student with the right name! They also don’t know each other, for the most part. A shy student could go through the entire class without ever making a public comment, saying hello to a fellow student, or interacting with me beyond submitting papers and taking an exam.
a group of people discussing; picture artistically blurred
That’s changed now. Every student in my class is part of a small online discussion forum of eight or nine. Each student is required to post in response to regular prompts from me. At least twice during the semester I schedule time for these discussion groups to meet face-to-face. So students not only know that Brad posted an opinion that contradicted or supported their opinions, but they know who Brad is when they sit next to him in class or pass him on campus.

For the most part, students love this kind of interaction. Out of perhaps 1000 students I have engaged this way, I can remember only two comments from students who did not want to be required to express and support an opinion that could be identified as theirs.

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