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A comprehensive guide to hybrid learning

Nhi Nguyen
Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
|
January 31, 2023
Table of Contents
A complete guide to flexible course design that promotes active learning, student engagement, and retention.
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What is hybrid learning

Hybrid learning refers to an approach in which a group of students participate online while others are taught on campus. This means that the instructor is teaching both remote and in-person students at the same time. 

Many people might use the words “hybrid” and “blended” interchangeably, but in fact, they mean different things. That difference lies primarily upon the proportion of face-to-face, online sessions or instructional materials provided in a course. 

Read more about online, hybrid, blended, and hyflex learning

Why hybrid learning

Studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of hybrid learning, with the majority highlighting the great benefits presented to institutions, instructors, and learners. And here are the advantages of hybrid learning: 

1. Flexibility course design 

Hybrid learning offers the best of both worlds, as it harnesses the unique advantages of each approach: face-to-face (FTF) and online instruction.

That is, faculties can generate a flexible, personalized learning experience by making use of both online and FTF resources (learning activities, study materials, and assessment) to address the varied learning barriers and needs of students. Hybrid learning allows for flexibility in learning schedule, teaching approaches, how students interact with the study materials, and in communication with peers and their instructor. 

2. Increase students’ satisfaction, engagement, and retention 

Students prefer hybrid instruction to online and FTF learning, as many researches show. In hybrid courses, students are presented with more instructional strategies and resources, also greater opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. This critically enhances learners’ satisfaction and engagement throughout the course, leading to a higher level of performance in final assessment.

3. Enhance motivation, engagement, and interaction

Hybrid learning allows students to learn at any time, anywhere, and at their own pace.  Furthermore, pedagogical technology enables the creation of highly interactive, engaging course materials and activities, which stimulate active learning and engagement among the students. For example, pre-recorded lectures enriched with questions or discussions encourage students to really “follow” the lessons, and to engage in conversations with others to develop deep understanding. 

4. Nurture career ready skills 

‍“Honing lifelong skills should hold as much importance in the curriculum as discipline-specific content.”Quality online teaching and learning.  

More and more universities have been moving away from exam-oriented, rigid curricula, toward the pedagogical approaches that center career readiness and lifelong skills. Lifelong skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication, while not always directly related to the core learning content, have an overwhelmingly positive impact on students’ performance and are deemed essential to future professional success.

Hybrid learning is among the delivery modes that help cultivate a multitude of tangible skills. Exposure to eLearning materials and learning activities stimulate the development of research skills, self-direction, decision making, and technology literacy. As hybrid instruction allows for creation of activities where students need to work together to produce a project, skills such as team work, problem solving, and communication have the place to thrive.

How to prepare for hybrid learning

With the rise of os hybrid learning, institutions face the challenge of delivering effective, engaging lessons for both in-person and online learners. Instructors, therefore, are in high need of professional training, effective practices, and teaching communities in hybrid and online course design. Furthermore, considerations should be made in terms of space, learning and teaching design, teacher readiness, and support system. 

Jenae Cohn, Director of Academic Technology at California State University, Sacramento, shared 4 key recommendations to help faculties and instructors be well-prepared for a new phase of hybrid teaching.

Focus on cultivating a learning community

Prioritize creating meaningful interactions and dialogues within the hybrid classroom with engaging learning activities, clear instructions, and continuous feedback.

Develop a shared vocabulary of online/hybrid instruction

Universal understanding of online and hybrid instruction enhanced teacher-student communication when it comes to delivering course expectations.

Be selective in curriculum planning and development

Decide on the most important content to cover and design a handful of highly engaged activities with the support of pedagogical tools.

Advocate for inclusive course design

Hybrid learning allows institutions to address accessibility, and diversity. Adopting Inclusive course design and Universal Design Learning (UDL) is then a must.

Read more: 4 tips to prepare for hybrid teaching

How to set up hybrid classroom

Creating a successful course, whether face-to-face, online, or hybrid requires a lot more thought than merely producing study materials and assigning work to students. Think of the course design process as building a house. Though different house types (course design formats) require different procedure, they all come down to these 6 basic steps:

Step 1: Establish clear objectives and expectations

Instructors need to think about the course type, host platform, teaching tools, and most importantly, the course objectives. Course objectives will act as the northstar for your entire course development process, as all learning activities and assessment practices will be derived from them.

Here are some resources for creating clear, effective learning objectives: 

‍1. The Bloom’s taxonomy and its associated verbs are very useful tools for setting up course objectives

2. The SMART criteria is also a wonderful framework to help you define the objectives for your students

Step 2: Decide on the Teaching approaches

Hybrid learning, with the combination of both online and FTF instruction, can accommodate and optimize plenty of learning methods such as Collaborative Learning, Problem-based learning, or Social learning . Introducing a variety of teaching approaches to your classrooms is the key to nurture lifelong learning, increase students’ autonomy, engagement, and active learning, as well as contributing to an inclusive learning environment.  Technology presents instructors with endless opportunities to optimize these teaching approaches. For example, when adopting the Flipped Classroom or Team Based Learning in hybrid courses, instructors can integrate several e-learning at every stage. 

How to build an online learning community shares 5 evidence-based strategies on how to cultivate a social online classroom

Step 3: Plan for Assessment

Assessment is one of the key elements in course design. Therefore, it is important to decide on which assessment types (formative or summative), and specify evaluation criteria to measure whether students meet the learning outcomes. And to facilitate assessment practices that evaluate students fairly and inclusively while contributing to the transfer of lifelong skills, instructors need to use the right assessment tools. Below are some assessment practices and tools to facilitate them: 

Combining self, peer and teacher assessment

‍Integrating these 3 assessment types throughout the course has been proven to help students develop lifelong skills, while reducing the workload for teachers. Instructors can effectively exercise this combined approach in hybrid classes, with the help of pedagogical technology.  

Teachers can rely on different e-learning tools to design projects (portfolios, presentations, videos, etc.) where students submit assignments and then review their peers’ work, as well as reflect on their own performance. Finally, instructors provide comments on students’ submitted work on the digital platform, identifying misconceptions and providing explanations to help students. Several FeedbackFruits tools like Peer Review, Group Member Evaluation, and Assignment Review allow for issuing these feedback types.

Online discussion and conference

‍Asynchronous and synchronous discussion is another effective method that instructors can use to establish effective dialogues and communications in online/hybrid settings. The opportunity to provide clear, concise responses to both teachers and peers allows students to cultivate critical thinking, and evaluation skills, while further reducing teachers’ workload.

Pedagogical technology, again, allows teachers to create seamless discussions in online classes. For example, instructors can design discussion group projects where students work together on a project (a presentation, a video, or a paper), upload their work, then provide feedback on other groups’ work based on a given rubric. 

Digital summative assessment

‍In a face-to-face setting, knowledge-based tests like quizzes, tests, or exams are favorite methods to measure students’ progress and performance. In the online/blended classrooms; however, there are major constraints to how these assessments can be conducted. As students’ use of outside resources can’t be monitored, knowledge-based tests need to be redesigned to focus on developing higher order thinking skills and delivering constructive feedback, rather than rote memorization. And FeedbackFruits tools such as Quiz and Team Based Learning tools can help you upgrade the traditional pen-and-paper exams. 

‍Digital performance-based tests

‍Performance-based strategies like presentations, videos, or podcasting are great ways to measure multiple learning objectives and allow students to apply and showcase what they learned. There are plenty of great teaching technologies that allow instructors to replicate on-site performance-based assessments in a blended environment. And FeedbackFruits tools are among these. Many institutions have used tools such as Discussion on Work, Discussion on Topic, Assignment and Skill Review to set up the activities where learners can present their work and engage in discussion with peers, thus demonstrating their ability to apply knowledge and information learned.   

Read more: 4 strategies for effective assessment in online/hybrid learning

Step 4: Design Online/in-person Activities and Course content

Once the course’s goals and assessment have been set, let’s decide on the learning activities and resources needed for the course. It is critical to identify activities that capitalize on the advantages of each environment (online and face-to-face). Here are some suggestions of activities suitable for synchronous/asynchronous and in-person sessions, along with the tool suggestions:

Activities for asynchronous, synchronous and in-person courses
Activities suggestions for asynchronous, synchronous, and in-person courses

‍Example Learning Activities and Tools

For further suggestions on e-learning tools for hybrid classes, check out this guide: Designing Hybrid Experiences: Example Learning Activities and Tools.

Developing study content is the most time-consuming aspect of course design. Especially in the online/hybrid settings, instructors need to dedicate certain time deciding on the appropriate types of study materials (written, audio, or video), and the order in which they will go that suits students' learning needs and preferences. Below you can find suggestions of where to find and craft multimedia course content (click on the image to enlarge): 

Where to find and craft multimedia course materials
Where to find and craft multimedia course content

Step 5: Final touches - Ensure for Accessibility and Interaction

Make sure the course is accessible and inclusive to everyone, as your students will be attending the course from different parts of the world, from different platforms (in-campus or online) and time schedules. Also, leave room for online interactions as well since remote teaching makes up for a large part of the course. Instructors can create captions for the video, vary study materials types, or combine different teaching approaches to cater for students’ diverse needs. Many teaching tools also offer multiple accessibility features, such as automatically generated captions, or multimedia file upload.

You can refer to the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework or Inclusive Course Design considerations to promote inclusivity and accessibility. 

Hybrid learning in action: Increasing engagement in a large course at Boston University

Denise Kreiger, Digital Learning Designer and Monty Kaplan, Platform Administrator at Boston University successfully utilized teaching tools to facilitate peer assessment. For an MBA online course of 400 students, the teachers wanted to incorporate elements of peer feedback, group work, and automated grading. FeedbackFruits Peer Review was chosen to help instructors reduce the manual workload in grading for this large student cohort, while still allowing students to work both individually and in teams to provide meaningful feedback. 

The course curriculum was structured with asynchronous lectures in the first half of the week followed by live sessions in the second half. A Peer Review assignment was arranged after each live session. For this, students submitted and conducted formative evaluation of each other’s submitted Executive Memo based on a 3-criteria rubric designed by teachers in Peer Review. At the end of the course, they were asked to write a Formal Memo which was marked by the instructor as a summative assessment.

Read the full use case here

Further resources on hybrid learning

Below are some additional resources to assist you in implementing successful hybrid instruction:

Ebook: 

University resources:

Articles: 

Hybrid learning in action: Increasing engagement in a large course at Boston University

Denise Kreiger, Digital Learning Designer and Monty Kaplan, Platform Administrator at Boston University successfully utilized teaching tools to facilitate peer assessment. For an MBA online course of 400 students, the teachers wanted to incorporate elements of peer feedback, group work, and automated grading. FeedbackFruits Peer Review was chosen to help instructors reduce the manual workload in grading for this large student cohort, while still allowing students to work both individually and in teams to provide meaningful feedback. 

The course curriculum was structured with asynchronous lectures in the first half of the week followed by live sessions in the second half. A Peer Review assignment was arranged after each live session. For this, students submitted and conducted formative evaluation of each other’s submitted Executive Memo based on a 3-criteria rubric designed by teachers in Peer Review. At the end of the course, they were asked to write a Formal Memo which was marked by the instructor as a summative assessment.

Read the full use case here

Further resources on hybrid learning

Below are some additional resources to assist you in implementing successful hybrid instruction:

Ebook: 

University resources:

Articles: 

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