The Future of Instructional Models

Hybrid instruction, a combination of online and traditional classroom instruction is the latest trend in higher education.

Mention the word hybrid, and the first thing that's liable to come to most people's minds is a vehicle that runs on a combination of gas and electricity. However, for those in higher education, the word hybrid brings to mind something entirely different--the concept of hybrid instruction.

What Is It?

Hybrid instruction, or hybrid courses, refer to classes where there is a carefully planned blend of both traditional classroom instruction and online learning activities. In other words, hybrid classes combine the best of both styles of instruction. Students are able to make a meaningful connection with their instructors, as well as other students, and yet they are no longer required to travel to campus on a regular basis in order to attend courses because the majority of the coursework can be completed on the Internet.

Going Hybrid

In order to make their classes "Internet-ready," many instructors must adjust their class content--particularly their lecture materials. However, in doing so, they are often making their materials more effective than traditional classroom instruction. The reason? Rather than having students sit in a lecture hall taking notes, instructors can teach through more "active-learning" assignments such as case studies, self-tests, tutorials, and online group projects, all of which takes place over the Internet.

Benefits of Hybrid Instruction

While there are some detractors who are against the "hybridization" of learning, there are, in fact, several advantages of hybrid instruction, the least of which is how it reduces traffic on campus and frees up valuable classroom space. In addition to these rather unusual benefits, some of the most important educational benefits are how hybrid courses help improve writing and computer skills. In addition, hybrid classes also encourage self-directed learning, time management, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills in those who participate in the programs. However, while these additional benefits are certainly important, one question remains: Does hybrid instruction allow for greater subject-matter knowledge than strictly online courses or traditional classroom instruction?

Learning More, More Effectively

While it's still fairly new, many instructors are reporting good success with hybrid courses, and here's why: Students are required to do more work on their own--and this kind of "active learning" results in better test performance and what is known as subject mastery (or subject knowledge). In addition, students in hybrid programs are more likely to participate in group discussions and collaborate online with other students because there is not only ample opportunity to prepare a response, but also because they are not physically speaking in front of a group. In fact, hybrid class participants tend to be more outgoing and responsive because they are "speaking" online versus in a classroom setting. However, even though students seem more confident about being involved with discussions online, it is important to keep in mind that it is because of the actual on-campus classroom component that students are more likely to find success in a hybrid course than in a strictly online class.

The Hybrid Advantage

In addition to the obvious academic advantages, hybrid courses are also making it easier for more people to get a quality education. That's because hybrid programs require only limited on-campus attendance, which means these kinds of college programs are now more accessible to more people in more places, which is perhaps the biggest advantage of all.

Sponsored schools offering hybrid (classroom/campus + online) programs:
University of Phoenix
DeVry University

Sources:
Teaching And Learning Center (http://courses.durhamtech.edu/tlc/www/html/Special_Feature/hybridclasses.htm)

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