Traditional, Online or Hybrid Learning: It’s all about access

Screenshot 2020-02-19 14.10.58As you know by now, we have an office dedicated to online learning and educational technology, the Center for Digital Instruction (formerly OLET). We even have a few full degrees that can be earned online. Yes, we are currently in the midst of developing more fully online degrees.

As you’d expect from the Director of CDI, I believe wholeheartedly in the method of online course delivery. I also believe that online courses can and should be at least as good as a traditional course. (If you haven’t already, you might want to sit down for this one) I also believe that an online course can be better than a traditional course, given good course design, compelling material, and engaged participants.

Despite all of this faith and optimism I hold for online education, I still believe in the traditional course built on weekly meetings. This mode of learning can be so beneficial to students. The opportunity to focus on one course as a group, for students to know the faculty, spend time in the library, and participate in the community of the institution makes traditional degrees and courses excellent learning opportunities.

Research supports that if most non-traditional students had their way, they would take classes in the traditional classroom setting. But they often can’t. Work, family, distance, and a combination of obstacles create a situation where many cannot take classes that are limited to certain times of the day on certain days of the week.

So in this instance, it’s the fully online courses that can provide the best opportunity for learning. The research shows, however, that these same students who take online courses for convenience would happily participate in a multi-modal degree. A multi-modal degree or course mixes online delivery with the traditional. Students who participate in hybrid, blended, or flipped classes typically find these to be the best of all worlds. They can make these classes work with their schedules, while getting the experience of the institutional community.

What does this kind of course look like? This mix of online and traditional delivery is called “hybrid” and comes in two different formats. The Hybrid Classroom is a course in which “online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant percentage, but not all required face-to-face instructional activities” (Mayadas, Miller, & Sener, 2015). A Hybrid Classroom course mixes both synchronous and asynchronous modalities, replacing a significant portion of the required face-to-face instructional activities, but not all. For example, a course may typically meet three times in a week. In this version, however, the class will meet in a physical space only once each week or even every other week, while offering online work that replaces the traditional face-to-face meeting.

The second type of Hybrid Course is called Hybrid Online. It is also referred to as a “flipped” course. Hybrid Online courses mix online and traditional modalities but with a strong emphasis on online. Most of the work will be done online while reserving some time at a physical location for specific work. For instance, a course may deliver most of the course content online but require a weekend of classroom work that would be highly practical and applicable to the course. In this example, students would only meet once or twice during the term.

Both of these kinds of courses (Hybrid Classroom and Hybrid Online) typically benefit regionally based students. So, while they expand the “walls” of the institution, it is still somewhat limited to those within driving distance of campus. That’s the trade-off.

In the end, we are interested in one thing: providing access to a quality learning experience for students who would not ordinarily have that opportunity. Friends, I don’t need to tell you, but that fits so neatly into the LaSallian model. If we can focus on opening our doors wider, reaching beyond the current boundaries to a broader constituency, then we create the opportunity to have greater influence than we have ever had.

If you are interested in putting your class fully online or creating a hybrid version, please speak to one of us here in the Online Learning and Educational Technology office. We stand ready and willing to help you imagine and dream, then embark on any of these creative course delivery methods to reach students in innovative and effective ways.

Contact: cdi@cbu.edu (901) 321-4004

Reference:

Mayadas, F., Miller, G., & Sener, J. (2015, July 7). Updated E-Learning Definitions. Retrieved from Online Learning Consortium: https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/updated-e-learning-definitions-2/

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Dale Hale is the Director of CBU’s Center for Digital Instruction (CDI). He holds a PhD in Education Policy Studies and Evaluation from the University of Kentucky. Previously, Dale was the Director of Distributed Learning at Asbury Theological Seminary where he was in charge of all aspects of the institution’s distance education program. 

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