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Preparing Students for Hybrid Courses

Since hybrid learning is a relatively new concept and practice in higher education, students must "learn how to learn," as it were, in a hybrid course. In other words, through high school and early in university, students learn the conventions and rhthyms of traditional face-to-face courses. Since those conventions and rhthyms will necessarily change when moving from a traditional course to a hybrid course, students must be explicitly taught these new conventions from the first week of class.

In addition, students often sign up for hybrid or online courses with the misconception that a hybrid or online class will require less of their time for course work than a traditional course. This misconception might arise because the in-person class time has been reduced. Obviously, this is not the case. In fact, hybrid courses can sometimes require more time for student work due to the dynamics of online work and discussion.

In sum, it is important to set expectations and explicitly detail requirements for students immediately in a hybrid course. Furthermore, course time (whether in-person or online) must be spent to teach students how to participate in the hybrid course. Below are some suggestions for setting expectations and teaching hybrid course participation.

Calling it out in the syllabus

The first step to setting clear expectations and modeling effective learning strategies for a hybrid course is to explain clearly what is required of students in the course syllabus.

  • Teaching Best Practice: Add a section near the beginning of your course syllabus that calls out the fact that the hybrid format is different than a traditional course, and it will require different kinds of activities and work from the students. Also, in this section, call out the common student misconception of "less time and work in hybrid and online classes," and make clear that if students do not put at least as much effort, if not more, into the course, they will not be successful.

Describing and Modeling Appropriate Online Communication

Since much of a hybrid course's discussion and communication takes place online (whether through a discussion board or an email listserv), students will spend much more time communicating through formal and informal writing than in traditional courses. From formal papers and less formal discussion board posts to emails to the class listserv and private emails to the faculty instructor, students navigate a range of genres and audiences when writing for online portions of classes. Often, students are not prepared to jump into this morass of writing conventions.

  • Teaching best practice: Explicitly describe and model how a student should communicate online, specifying writing conventions and audiences for the various genres, perhaps in an assessment rubric, and using those conventions in your own communication.
  • Example text for syllabus about email communication: "When communicating via email with other students or the course instructor, students should give a descriptive subject title for the email, including the course number, such as "BIS300 syllabus question"; they should include a salutation at the beginning of the email, such as "Hi Professor ___" or "Hello John," if the student's name were John; they should fully explain the purpose of the email and give context for any questions, so that the recipient student or instructor can respond to the email appropriately; and, finally, they should sign the email with their name, so that the recipient knows from whom the email was sent."
  • Example text for syllabus about discussion board posts: "Think of a discussion board post as a shortened class paper. You should: 1) Directly respond to the discussion question(s) that the instructor or another student has posed; 2) Have a single, clearly-stated claim; 3) Present evidence for your claim; 4) Engage class readings and discussion board posts from other students and the instructor that have come before the post you are writing; 5) Write as succinctly (that is, keep it as short) as possible.