Hybridity is the order of
the day, as teachers combine the distributed teaching and learning of
distance education with the comfortable interaction of the classroom
in an effort to achieve a synthesis of the two. Even a cursory search
will turn up evidence of the expectation that hybrid forms of teaching
will supplant others, especially for people who may need an alternative
delivery format because of their busy schedules, but who also need the
support structure of a traditional classroom. (Levine and and Warren
K. Wake; Isenhart)
Hybridity in postcolonial
studies refers to cultural and racial mixing resulting from forced commingling
of peoples. In genetics, hybridity refers to offspring of two genetically
dissimilar parents. A hybrid is also a mechanism in which two dissimilar
parts produce the same function or result. Hybrid teaching and learning
partakes of each of these concepts to some degree.
In the case of the hybrid course, seat time is reduced and some of the
course activities--information transfer, exchange of ideas, testing,
essay-writing, etc.--are distributed throughout the semester, with students
accessing course materials and performing other tasks online. This is
often accomplished through an off-the-shelf Course Management System,
such as Blackboard, Prometheus or WebCT, but it can also be accomplished
via something as simple as email, or as information-rich as streaming
video. Because of the highly text-based nature of websites and email,
hybrid courses become de facto writing-intensive courses when teachers
work carefully to integrate the online and classroom components.
A prominent example from outside the UW System is the work being done
at University of Central Florida, where the Center for Distributed Learning
and the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness (http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/%7Erite/)
have studied their own very large program that encompasses the range
of possible uses of technology from purely online to hybrid to technologically
enhanced classroom courses.
Recent research, such as
that on "overcoming barriers" to teaching online, has both
confirmed previous understanding of what is required for success and
added new insights, such as that while the range of problems is interconnected,
creating an "organizational culture or norms favorable to"
the program is necessary to minimize the other obstacles (Cho and Berge).
This is similar to the insights of the Writing Across the Curriculum
movement (McLeod and Soven 5-7, 47ff). Berge and Cho found ten major
- technical expertise
- administrative structure
- organizational change
- social interaction and
- student support services
- [feeling] threatened by
- faculty compensation and
- legal issues
With some effort, faculty
members can address technical expertise, evaluations of effectiveness,
social interaction, their own and their students' feelings of being
threatened by technology, and the effective use of their time.
Because the online component
of the hybrid class is the unfamiliar and time-consuming one, teachers
have to pay closer attention to that than to their face-to-face interaction,
so long as those face-to-face interactions successfully connect with
the online work in the course. Successful hybridity--however that may
be defined--requires bringing the two dissimilar parts together so that
they work in concert and produce a third result. In the case of effective
hybrid courses, there are two dissimilar groups of two that must come
together and produce a final result: teachers/students and online/face-to-face
Some basic instructional
strategies exist that can help teachers tie together the two components
of their hybrid courses. Although there is significant published research
in various disciplines about teaching in hybrid environments, what follows
is a distillation of experience rather than a synthesis of the published
studies. Much of what I have to say comes from basic tenets of the Writing
Across the Curriculum movement (Bazerman and David R. Russell; McLeod
and Margot Soven). Additionally, the lore and research surrounding computers
in composition, a branch of English Studies where networked computing
has been in use for more than two decades, provides a good background
for online teaching in other disciplines (Hawisher, et al.). Teachers
interested in teaching online would do well to familiarize themselves
with the range of helpful books more directly related to hybrid or online
courses, such as Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace
(Palloff and Pratt) and 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Online Groups
(Hanna, et al).
Here are five simple principles
that may help teachers better connect their online work with face-to-face
1. Start small and work
backward from your final goals.
This is a basic precept of course-planning: what do want students
to be able to do at the end of the semester? What must we do on the
first day, the second day, the third day, to get there? But when planning
major integration of digital communications technologies to a course
careful attention to learning objectives becomes even more important,
helping teachers to avoid a counterproductive focus on the technologies
2. Imagine interactivity
rather than delivery.
While information-transfer may be more effective online, simply putting
materials upweb will not guarantee that students engage with and learn
from them. For that, you need activities that require students to
perform basic academic tasks, such as summary and analysis, and that
place them in conversation with each other, such as through responses
to each others' summaries and analyses. For every student who says
in my course evaluations that they enjoyed or learned from lectures,
there are scores who report higher engagement because of interactions
with each other as well as the teacher.
3. Prepare yourself
for loss of power and a distribution of demands on your time more
evenly throughout the week.
Once seat time is reduced and everyone is online but not in the same
room, opportunities to monitor and manage interactions move from the
geographic space of the classroom to the temporal space of the week
(or month, or whatever unit of time intervenes between classroom meetings).
4. Be explicit about
time-management issues and be prepared to teach new skills.
Students who have
spent the past two decades or so in traditional classroom settings
will have to learn new skills to cope with the distribution of requirements
over time, and to cope with their new dependence on each other, for
if teachers create opportunities for interaction, then each participant
becomes dependent on the participation of the others.
In the traditional classroom,
conversation is hampered by the academic schedule: if someone has
an idea on Wednesday, but their class meets on Tuesdays, that person
has to wait six days to discuss with the class and professor. And
that's assuming that the class is small enough--or designed--to allow
for conversation rather than lecture alone. But in a hybrid model,
where classroom time is reduced and students engage each other directly
online, a conversation can be sustained over several days and even
If a hybrid class meets
regularly, say once a week for a reduced time, then one of the ways
to sustain a conversation is to distribute due dates for reading responses
and other writing assignments throughout the week, rather than just
on the day of the class meeting. If your class meets less regularly
in the physical classroom, such distribution occurs naturally because
there has to be a set of assignments and goals that keep students
returning regularly to the online meeting/discussion space.
5. Plan for effective
uses of classroom time that connect with the online work.
This is the most important
tip. Recall the discussion earlier about the nature of hybridity:
bringing dissimilar elements together to perform the same functions
and achieve a shared result. If you're thinking about how to integrate
the online and classroom components, it is only a short step to increased
interactivity in your course. Many teachers bring to class one or
two responses from students that were posted online and project those
responses using an overhead projector, then discuss them with the
Additionally, by sequencing
assignments so that they move students from significant discussion/responding
online, through written reflections about their responses and the
reading, to group or individual projects that are posted to a common
learning space, such as a website or discussion board, for discussion
and elaboration, teachers can have students engaged in doing, rather
than just experiencing or reading.
What many are now calling
low-threshold applications, such as email and word processing, are pretty
well integrated in students' lives already. Conversely, many students
who claim significant computer literacy really only have experience
with email, chat and web-surfing, but not necessarily with the full
complement of applications we call "office suites."
It is not appropriate to
teach all applications in a single class. It may not even be desirable
to attempt to teach all applications of possible use in a given class.
For my purposes, spreadsheets and databases are rarely useful in a class,
although I might use them to keep track of student grades or information
that I'm teaching. On the other hand, specialized database software
for notetaking or bibliography generation, such as Citation or Endnote,
can be of use in my research-intensive writing or literature seminars.
Similarly, while email has made such terrific inroads in every aspect
of academic life that it has the potential for great use in a class
and rarely needs to be "taught," the file-sharing capabilities
of the network, of office software, and the humble Internet browser,
are rarely familiar to students, and must be taught as skills. The best
way to do so, in terms of managing time and information is to teach
the skills in the context of a task that must be completed or information
that must be learned. This is in keeping with the cognate principles
for teaching of grammar and mechanics in context (Kolln; Weaver).
Particularly in a small class,
there is pressure to integrate the out-of-class activities with in-class
activities. Rather than having students review terms or read lecture
notes, have students write definitions of key terms and post them on
a class bulletin board for discussion and refinement, then read the
postings an hour or so before class, select one or two to be displayed
on an overhead or on a computer projector, and prepare the lecture in
part as a response to what students write. This is a just-in-time-teaching,
or JITT-style writing and response method that distributes time spent
thinking about the course throughout the week and helps the teacher
teach material when the students need to know it and are ready to learn
it, rather than only at a prescribed time in the syllabus (Novak; Novak,
Evelyn T. Patterson and Andrew D. Gavrin).
Bazerman, Charles, and David
R. Russell, Ed. Landmark Essays on Writing Across the Curriculum.
Landmark Essays 6. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press, 1994.
Cho, Soomyung Kim, and and Zane L. Berge. Overcoming Barriers to Distance
Training and Education. USDLA Journal 16.1. Featured Articles.
January 2002. 13 March 2002 (http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/JAN02_Issue/article01.html)
Hanna, Donald E., Michelle Glowacki-Dudka, and and Simone Conceição-Runlee.
147 Practical Tips for Teaching Online Groups: Essentials of Web-Based
Education. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing, 2000.
Hawisher, Gail, et al. Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American
Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1996.
Isenhart, Lucie. CCD's Teaching/Learning Innovations (Hybrid Courses).
13 March 2002 (http://ccd.rightchoice.org/tlc/innovs/i_hybrid.htm)
Kolln, Martha. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical
Effects. 3E. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1999.
Levine, Sally L, and and Warren K. Wake. Hybrid Teaching: Design
Studios in Virtual Space. October 2000. 13 March 2002 (http://research.the-bac.edu/sva/index.htm)
McLeod, Susan, and Margot Soven, ed. Writing Across the Curriculum:
A Guide to Developing Programs. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.
Novak, Greg M., Evelyn T. Patterson, and Andrew D. Gavrin, ed. Just-in-Time
Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology. Prentice
Hall Series in Educational Innovation. NY: Prentice Hall, 1999.
Novak, Gregor. JITT. 1999 (http://webphysics.iupui.edu/jitt/jitt.html)
Palloff, Rena M., and Keith Pratt. Building Learning Communities
in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. SF:
Weaver, Constance. Teaching Grammar in Context. Portsmouth, NH: