Hybrid Courses

“Hybrid” historically refers to “blended” courses, meaning that from the earliest planning stages (not mid-semester), the course is planned to be partly online and partly face to face. At most universities it corresponds to “reduced seat time” – so a lecture hall can be used at 10:30 on Tuesday by a chemistry class, and that same space at 10:30 on Thursday by an engineering class.

Flexible Hybrid at USF in Fall 2020

For reasons that include ensuring maximum fairness and an emphasis on the health of students, USF has adopted a model for some (not all) classes called "Flexible Hybrid" in Fall 2020. As USF is using the term, Flexible Hybrid is very similar to a national model called HyFlex, particularly in that any given student has the option to participate in the class remotely if they so choose, on any given day, without penalty or limitations in their access to the course contents. Flexible Hybrid does not include sharing of lecture hall space with another class in the same time slot.

In practice, this will mean that faculty in Flexible Hybrid courses will need to teach to two audiences simultaneously: one in-person in the classroom, and the other streaming online via MS-Teams. Because all console computers will have Microsoft Teams installed, this will be the default choice for most faculty for capturing/streaming the class. We've built a page to outline best practices for teaching to dual audiences.

Note: remember that not all in-person classes have the Flexible Hybrid modality. If the course is coded as just a regular face to face class, all students would be expected to attend every day.

Some courses will be placed in rooms large enough for all students to attend every day, even with six-foot distancing followed in the seating pattern. Others may be in rooms where students will have to rotate (they will be assigned certain days they can attend). In both instances, there may be students who opt for remote-only viewing even on days they are allowed to be present face-to-face. Because classroom management is likely to manifest new challenges with this format, we've constructed a separate page for classroom management during social distancing.

Pedagogically, the approach most likely to maximize student learning is to utilize a full "flipped class" method. With a flipped class, content is delivered asychronously via readings and videos in Canvas. Basically, students do content consumption as homework. Synchronous time (classroom time) is then given over to student practice: case studies, worked examples, scenarios, homework problems--whatever is appropriate for the discipline and the level of the course. In short, the classroom time becomes akin to a recitation section.

Click here to view our handout on best practices for students to learn in a hybrid environment (to share with students).

If a flipped class is not chosen, the instructor will likely want to focus efforts in the opposite direction: becoming a very strong lecturer, so that classroom time is made as engaging as possible.

To enable online students to interact and engage with the faculty member, each other, and the students in the physical classroom, the rooms are equipped the following technology:

  • Instructor camera
  • Instructor mic
  • Classroom speakers
  • Student (audience) mic
  • Teams desktop app installed

Live online students will also have minimum technology requirements in order to participate in the flexible-hybrid experience. See USF IT’s specs for more info. At the faculty’s discretion, we also suggest face-to-face students participating in the flexible-hybrid experience bring their own device to class (placed on mute and speakers turned off). This will enable them to view course content via Teams and interact with the online students.

AV Note: Due to physical limitations in some spaces (such as large auditoriums), as well as student distancing requirements due to COVID, there may be some instances where it is impossible to provide a student-facing microphone in the room. In these instances, other classroom strategies will need to be developed to enable student communication.

As seen above, the exact definition of "flexible hybrid" may vary at USF by context, class size, discipline, and departmental policy. The ideas below are meant to provide a pedagogical framework that can be adjusted to specific needs of certain classes.

Five Steps to Blended Learning

Step ONE: Sort Your Content

We use the concept of backward design for any instructional activity (face to face, online, or blended). To do so, we “start at the end” and look backward. We list the skills the students should be able to perform by the end—these are the student learning outcomes (SLOs)--and those SLOs mandate what we have to TELL them, how we should ASSESS that they can perform those skills, and how they will need to PRACTICE to perform well on those assessments.

If you know the SLOs, then you know exactly which CONTENT the students need to be exposed to. In a normal F2F class, you’d make decisions about which content to deliver face to face, and which to have them absorb as homework, either via readings or videos. In a blended class, the F2F time is much more limited. It may be wise to aim for a completely online delivery in terms of content, reserving the precious F2F time for student practice when you can observe and help them. Beyond readings, the most common methods of delivering content online are lectures captured through recorded PowerPoints or screencasts.

Step TWO: Decide on Assessments

The same SLOs mandate how students should be assessed properly so that the instructor is certain they have mastered the skills. Most of the time, the SLOS also dictate how they should be assessed. If the SLO is “able to repair condensers,” then a multiple-choice quiz is not as effective as having them physically repair a condenser (with similar logic applying to writing business plans, creating multimedia websites, etc.). To prevent temptations in academic dishonesty, many faculty reserve high-stakes exams for the F2F environment. As a general practice, assessment should be frequent. To aid in memory retention, it’s often best to make these same assessments cumulative for the semester, such as frequent quizzes within online modules.

Step THREE: Allocate Student Practice

The same SLOs mandate what students have to PRACTICE in order to have mastered the skills. The practice should line up with the planned assessment: if the assessment will be to identify rock types based on photos, the practice should be much the same. In a blended environment, it’s common for most (and sometimes all) of the face to face time to be used up in such practice. In fact, it’s useful to think of the F2F time not as “lecture” time at all, but more like a “recitation/discussion section.” It may also be the case that the students may need even more practice as homework, as well. As with content, practice that can be accomplished online should be assigned online. In some cases, it may take some creativity to develop workarounds for online practice, but ATLE can help you brainstorm.

Step FOUR: Build Modules and Course Documents

With the major components of the course mapped out (content delivery, student practice, frequent assessment) for both online and F2F domains, now begins the work of constructing the online materials. This may take the form of Canvas modules that contain uploaded readings, video lectures created by the instructor, and Canvas quizzes. Video files are best uploaded to Kaltura.

The online course experience should include a significant introduction to yourself (ideally with video) to forge connections to the students, and humanize the instructor. The introductions will need to explain the concept of blended learning to students, and stress the importance of completing the assigned homework before each subsequent meeting, as the F2F time is meant to practice the content delivered online. This approach may be new for many students, who might instead be expecting content delivery to happen only face to face. Be sure to include an online presence, such as online office hours.

Step FIVE: Create Lesson Plans

A class driven by F2F lecture might not need a lesson plan beyond the assembled PowerPoint. But a F2F recitation section, in which practice is given priority over content delivery, benefits greatly from a thought-out plan for how to use class time to encourage student practice. The general idea is to avoid lecture entirely (or at most, no more than 15 minutes of the entire class period), and instead generate activities, worksheets, problem sets, case studies, and groupwork that provide a structure for the class time. Aim for each activity to last 10-20 minutes, so there is both variety and high engagement. ATLE’s list of 200+ interactive techniques can be a useful source of inspiration. This lesson plan template will show an example you can edit for your own class.

This document lists more details about the above steps, and offers many practical suggestions.

General Considerations

Accessibility. Remember that online materials need to be created with accessibility in mind (ALT text for images; captions for videos). Captions can be requested in Kaltura videos, and refined once the automated process completes.

Don’t Overdo Technology. Students can be reasonably asked to learn one new technology per class, but not several. Relatedly, do not assume that all students are technologically savvy.

Technology Breaks Sometimes. Have a plan for tech failures, Internet outages, or student versions of the same thing.

Outline Expectations in Syllabus. Clearly explain how the hybrid process will work in your course, and highlight the learning advantages you perceive.


Further Reading

Asarta, C.J., & Schmidt, J.R. (2013). Access patterns of online materials in a blended course. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 11(1), 107–123. http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?tabs=detailsTab&gathStatTab=true&ct=display&fn=search&doc=ETOCRN324365744&indx=1&recIds=ETOCRN324365744

Aycock, A. (2011). Teaching a survey course in anthropology. In A.J. Kezar, F.S Glazer, & J. Rhem (Eds.), Blended learning: Across the disciplines, across the academy (pp. 59-85). Stylus Publishing.

Behling, K. (2017). Accessibility considerations for hybrid courses. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 149, 89–101. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20230

Di Paolo, T., Wakefield, J.S., Mills, L.A., & Baker, L. (2017). Lights, camera, action: Facilitating the design and production of effective instructional videos. TechTrends, 61, 452–460. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0206-0

Glazer, F.S. (2011). Introduction. In A.J. Kezar, F.S Glazer, & J. Rhem (Eds.), Blended learning: Across the disciplines, across the academy (pp. 1-12). Stylus Publishing.

Gurley, L.E. (2018). Educators’ preparation to teach, perceived teaching presence, and perceived teaching presence behaviors in blended and online learning environments. Online Learning, 22(2), 197–220. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i2.1255

Jerke, D., & Mosterd, E. (2017). Creating an online presence for hybrid support. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 149, 103–109. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20231

Kaminski, J. and Currie, S. (2008). Planning your online course. In Commonwealth of Learning (Ed.) Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practice from Around the Globe. From  http://www.colfinder.org/materials/Education_for_a_Digital_World/Education_for_a_Digital_World_part2.pdf

King, S.E., & Arnold, K.C. (2012). Blended learning environments in higher education: A case study for how professors make it happen. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 25(1/2), 44–59. https://www.mwera.org/MWER/volumes/v25/issue1-2/v25n1-2-King-Arnold-GRADUATE-STUDENT-SECTION.pdf

Klotz, D.E., & Wright, T.A. (2017). A best practice modular design of a hybrid course delivery structure for an executive education program. Design Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 15(1), 25–41. https://doi.org/10.1111/dsji.12117

Kung, M. (2017). Methods and strategies for working with international students learning online in the U.S. TechTrends, 61, 479–485. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0209-x

Linder, K.E., Bruenjes, L.S., & Smith, S.A. (2017). Hybrid platforms, tools, and resources. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 149, 27–36. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20224

Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Vojt, G. (2011). Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital technologies. Computers & Education, 56(2), 429–440. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.09.004

McGee, P., & Reis, A. (2012). Blended course design: A synthesis of best practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7–22. https://www.learntechlib.org/p/89268/

McKnight-Tutein, G., & Thackaberry, A.S. (2011). Having it all: The hybrid solution for the best of both worlds for women’s postsecondary education. Distance Learning, 8(3), 17–22.

Nilson, L. B. (2016). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Ross, D.N., & Rosenbloom, A. (2011). Reflections on building and teaching an undergraduate strategic management course in a blended format. Journal of Management Education, 35(3), 351–376. https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562911398979

Stein, J., & Graham, C.R. (2014). Essentials for blended learning. Routledge.

Stromie, T., & Baudier, J.G. (2017). Assessing student learning in hybrid courses.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 149, 37–45. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20225

Thompson, K. (2011). BlendKit Course. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course/

Troha, F. (2003). Bulletproof Blended Learning Design: Process, Principles, and Tips. 1st Books Library.

Further Reading: Hyflex Course Design

Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.). EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex 

Bell, J., Sawaya, S., & Cain, W. (2014). Synchromodal classes: Designing for shared learning experiences between face-to-face and online students. International Journal of Designs for learning, 5(1), 68-82

He, W., Gajski, D., Farkas, G., Warschauer, M. (2015). Implementing flexible hybrid instruction in an electrical engineering course: The best of three worlds? Computers & Education, vol 81, pp.59-68.

Kelly, K. (2020, May 7). COVID-19 Planning for Fall 2020: A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flexible Course Design. Phil on Ed Tech. Available online: https://philonedtech.com/covid-19-planning-for-fall-2020-a-closer-look-at-hybrid-flexible-course-design/ 

Leijon, M., & Lundgren, B. (2019). Connecting Physical and Virtual Spaces in a HyFlex Pedagogic Model with a Focus on Teacher Interaction. Journal of Learning Spaces, 8(1), 2019.

Lieberman, M. (2018, January 24). Introducing a new(-ish) learning mode: Blendflex/hyflex. Inside Higher Ed. Available online: https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/01/24/blendflex-lets-students-toggle-between-online-or-face-face?mc_cid=d423ee5bc8&mc_eid=d2ce1b0fe2 

Miller, J., Risser, M. & Griffiths, R. (2013). Student Choice, Instructor Flexibility: Moving Beyond the Blended Instructional Model. Issues and Trends in Educational Technology, 1(1), 8-24. University of Arizona Libraries