Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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A few thoughts on teaching online and the future of hybrid courses

Earlier today, I dropped by the office of a colleague and was telling her how wonderfully the students in my current online class on Margaret Atwood are performing. Each student, and many of them are not English majors, is posting extensively on a daily basis and the level of the analysis that each of them is producing exceeds what I typically get out of students in the face-to-face learning environment. The question that immediately springs to mind, of course, is “What am I doing wrong in the classroom?” I joked to my colleague that maybe I should just set it up so that all of my classes start meeting online and that we get together in a “real” classroom once every week or two to have some less formal discussions about the books.

Tonight, just as I’m about to sit down and read the 27 new posts from my students today — I got smart today and only asked a single discussion question so that I didn’t get 76 new posts like I did yesterday! — I came across this intriguing article by Ron Bleed in the new issue of the Educause Review.

Bleed’s vision of “Twenty-First-Century Hybrid Courses” is exactly what I was talking about! I started to imagine what might happen if I told my students and department that I would be only meeting with my classes in person once every week or two. When Holly Parker introduced me at the blogging workshop yesterday, she jokingly referred to me as the “troublemaker” who came into the CTL one day and asked when UVM was going to start supporting blogging on campus. This might be one of the things I want to save doing until I have tenure, if I’m lucky enough to publish enough before I perish.

Of course, I come by this honestly. When my dad was teaching a communications class for the U of A‘s Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry in the early 1990s, he had his very large class meet twice a week and do the third class of the week as an online lecture and discussion. I think that’s the farmer in him, perhaps. They’re always the first people to figure out the most effective ways to do things. Of course, growing up on the Saskatchewan prairie might make it a bit easier to see the forest for the the trees.

Here’s a bit of what Ron Bleed has to say. LOTS to think about here:

If we in higher education are to be student-centered, we must overcome college and university traditions and move toward a course-schedule redesign that gives greater time flexibility from the student’s viewpoint. The Agrarian Age concept of a nine-month school year consisting of two semesters is not the most effective way to deliver instruction in the nonagrarian twenty-first century. Likewise, the Industrial Age paradigm of fixed-seat-time courses moving through an assembly line of specific curriculum requirements, creating uniformity for the sake of common accreditation measurements and mass production, presents serious obstacles for many of today’s students.

Research I conducted shows that replacing some of the fixed seat-time with technology-delivered content and having physical spaces for socialization lead to improved learning, higher completion rates by students, lower costs to both the student and the institution, and greater convenience for students who are not “captured” on a campus. A 2004 Maricopa Community College analysis of the course-completion rates of our students shows that the course schedule is a significant factor in student retention/attrition rates. Because our students are not “captured,” the type of course scheduling they experience affects their completion rate. The type of course with the lowest successful completion rate was the traditional, daytime, full-semester course with multiple fixed seat times per week. As Diana Oblinger stated before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 2004: “One of the best ways of ensuring that students succeed is to remove the barriers to their success. For many, the greatest barrier is the fixed time schedule of a traditional course.”3

A strategy to overcome this barrier to student success is creating hybrid or blended courses. I consider a hybrid or blended course to be one in which a chunk of on-campus classroom time has been replaced by technology-delivered instruction. The advantages of the classroom learning and online learning are combined and the disadvantages of each are minimized.

Ron Bleed “The IT Leader as Alchemist: Finding the True Gold”

EDUCAUSE REVIEW | January/February 2006, Volume 41, Number 1: