Extending Our Educational Dollars


Suggested Subjects for Online/Hybrid

Some subject areas are not particularly amenable to online classes.  An example might be an English composition class (not a grammar and syntax class, but specifically a composition class).  Typically, English composition is not a lecture class.  Analysis of each student’s writing style and feedback require full-time instruction for the most part.  Thus, although possible, composition would not be considered the best model for online or hybrid instruction.

History, on the other hand, provides some of the best opportunities for hybridized instruction.  In fact, supplementary multi-media, news clips, animations and maps interlaced with the online lecture can greatly enhance the learning process in most history courses.   Class time can be spent on edification, and the “color” that history professors are fond of injecting into their commentaries.  Since most college-level history classes require reading assigned books and writing term papers for assessment, testing is not really any more of an issue than in a classroom.

Courses which include labs can benefit from hybridization.  Lab sciences are high-cost subjects for a college to provide.  The lab must be on-site, but the preparation lecture for the lab can be online.  The main lecture can be structured the same way as any other hybrid class:  one day in class for outlines, overviews, elucidation and testing, and the rest of the week for online lectures.

It is important to have a way to ask questions during lecture.  This is easy to do during a lecture, because an online forum which accepts questions, can be part of the window in the training.  Teaching assistants (or even the teacher in pre-recorded lectures) can be previewing the questions as they come in and posting answers to an online forum during the lecture.  Time at the end of the lecture can be used to review the answers.

Hybridization can be implemented experimentally in a small sample of classes without major effort.  It should be noted that using hybridization as a means to address major budgetary issues safely must be undertaken like a large software program: from the top down.  Administrators are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses inside academic departments, the areas of study which are most popular with incoming students, and where future expansion is expected.

It is important to determine what tools are available for hybridization of a particular class.  Computers are naturally considered the primary tool.   However, smart boards, movie projection equipment, laboratories, and even smart phones are other tools at one’s disposal.  Considerations about the target student influence the tools selected.  For instance, a class that attracts career-transitional adults might not depend heavily on browser cell phones.

A key factor is licensing of software.  A school must adhere to the legal terms associated with software.  Online and hybrid classes can bring about nuanced scenarios that may mean modifying the number of licenses or even the software version of a program used to present a subject.  A cost-to-benefit comparison may have to be considered in these cases.

© 2012 Laurie Mena


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