Seven keys for hybrid course redesign

By Cub Kahn
Oregon State University

The application of blended (hybrid) approaches to teaching and learning is growing throughout higher education. Quoting Oregon State University’s Curricular Policies and Procedures, a hybrid course “includes both regularly scheduled on-site classroom meetings, and significant online out-of-classroom components, that replace regularly scheduled class meeting time.”

Based on instructional design principles, recognized effective practices and research on online/blended learning, the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning can help guide faculty who plan to design and teach a hybrid course for the first time. Here are seven suggestions to get started:

1. If you’re converting a traditional classroom course to a hybrid course, approach it as a true course redesign. Plenty of instructors have learned the hard way that if you simply add a raft of online content and components to a successful face-to-face course, you can end up with a “course-and-a-half” or a “Frankencourse,” made up of mismatched parts, that is actually counterproductive to learning. Instead, redesign your course to balance online and classroom components, and to ensure that all course elements are aligned with your learning outcomes.

2. “KISS” — That is, keep it simple starting! Successful hybrid courses don’t need to have every bell and whistle, especially the first time the hybrid course is offered. Focus at the outset on teaching, learning and student engagement. Tech tools and new activities can always be added later.

3. Integrate, integrate, integrate! The art of effective hybrid course design and delivery comes down to a Ping-Pong match, metaphorically speaking. As the instructor, you start of the term by “serving” course elements to your students in your first classroom meeting (or maybe your serve is in your first online communication on the course site). From then on, throughout the term, you are volleying with the students, back and forth, from online to classroom, from classroom to online. Every course component needs to connect with what comes before and after, whether online or in the classroom.

4. Build on existing knowledge and experience by learning about effective practices for hybrid course design. See the CTL’s resources for hybrid course development for key links.

5. What goes where? One of the biggest questions in designing a hybrid course is which content, activities, assessments should be online, and which should be in the classroom. If you can do a particular learning activity as well online as in class, then strongly consider putting it online. Why? In any classroom course, but even more so in a reduced-seat-time hybrid course, you’ve got a limited amount of meeting time, but the weekly online activities don’t have a fixed time limit!

6. Take a team approach to your hybrid redesign! As an instructor, avoid the lone wolf syndrome. Instead, take full advantage of campus resources, and seek out pedagogical and tech support as needed. Contact the Center for Teaching and Learning and Technology Across the Curriculum.

7. Would you like to learn more about blended learning? Want to see the approaches of OSU faculty to teaching hybrid courses? Check out the Hybrid Course Initiative page on the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning website.

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Cub Kahn is an instructional designer for Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning and Oregon State Ecampus. He holds degrees in marine sciences and environmental sciences and a doctorate in technology education. He has taught a wide variety of environmental sciences and geography courses over the past two decades, developed environmental curricula and created online courses. He moved over to the Center for Teaching and Learning and Ecampus in 2011 to coordinate OSU’s new Hybrid Course Initiative and facilitate hybrid faculty learning communities.

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