Ramping up to Hybrid Teaching and Learning

Ramping up to Hybrid Teaching and Learning

Raj Boora (University of Alberta, Canada), John Church (University of Alberta, Canada), Helen Madill (University of Alberta, Canada), Wade Brown (University of Alberta, Canada) and Myles Chykerda (University of Alberta, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-380-7.ch025
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Hybrid learning models attempt to create an environment that can harness the best parts of both face-to-face and online modes of content delivery. The creation of these environments can be achieved in a very straightforward manner. However, the challenge is to develop these environments so that they fit the needs of the students, the abilities of the instructors, and also the nature of the content, all of which are numerous and varied. Deciding what elements to put online and what elements to deliver face-to-face presents a significant challenge, as the number of tools available to instructional staff will increase significantly over the next decade. Once the means of delivery are understood, it is possible to take the idea of hybrid teaching and learning environments one step further by first making the most of online and face-to-face delivery separately and then using them together when the need arises.
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Technology has been changing classrooms for many years. From the printing press, to the advent of radios to bring live events from around the world closer, technology has allowed students and their instructors to connect with the world in a way that was not possible a generation before. While this observation is often suggested as part of the reason that the adoption of new technology is infuriatingly slow in education, there are always pioneers who are willing to try something new.

For many instructors at the post secondary level, the new technology is the Internet, which is a source of information that was not available to senior instructional staff when they were undergraduates. The Internet is not a single technology; it is a collection of technologies that enable and enhance communication as many of the technologies that came before it. The environments created by the integration of Internet technologies with traditional teaching methods are often referred to as “blended” or “hybrid”. These two terms are used interchangeably in both the literature and in conversation, leading to some confusion (Riffell and Sibley, 2005; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) as to why both continue to exist. Through this chapter, the term hybrid will be used as a general descriptor for two types of course designs, multimodal and parallel.

Commonly, hybrid or blended learning courses (and their related classrooms or environments) are described as having some element of traditional face-to-face interaction as well as some element of online support or interaction as part of the course delivery (Riffell and Sibley, 2005; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). In these environments, the choice of content delivery may be dictated by the instructor, or it may be up to the student depending on the instructor’s own willingness to adapt their course material to alternative delivery formats. As there can be great variation of this mix, hybrid learning as a term may best be used to describe a range of environments that incorporate differing amounts of face-to-face and computer mediated interaction. In combining the two modes, perhaps a better descriptor than the currently used terms of blended or hybrid, would be “multimodal”. Looking at course designs ranging from completely off line (face-to-face) to completely online (virtualized), multimodal course designs would be those that sit in the middle.

In multimodal environments, the use of the secondary mode of interaction is often limited to predefined experiences, and there is often little consideration given to student initiated interaction either face-to-face or online. In addition to asynchronous technologies provided by Course Management Systems (CMS) such as Blackboard’s WebCT, these courses are now able to make use of Virtual Classroom Technologies (VCT) such as Elluminate. Keegan et.al. (2005) concluded that virtual classrooms have great potential as they are able to leverage the respective advantages of all available classroom systems. These virtual learning environments provide an opportunity for more interaction between students and instructors than asynchronous technologies alone. It should be noted that these benefits will only be seen if the pedagogy is the driving principle not the technology.

Nascent to the multimodal course designs that have interaction modes dictated by the instructor is the “parallel learning environment”. These environments generally have all, or at least the majority, of their content online. They also provide a venue for face-to-face time between the instructor and other students in addition to an online environment. A parallel learning environment is a truly unique course design, which allows students to choose how they access their course materials and interact with each other. Students could choose to attend class in person or through the virtual classroom system. Some students could choose to discuss ideas over chat, while others may use in-class discussion, with both groups of students being able to carry on the exchange of ideas using a threaded discussion board within their CMS. If the technology is available, students who prefer the online format may also be able to access the face-to-face classroom through synchronous technologies. This configuration could also allow the instructor to be online with students meeting face to face. This is of course a significant step forward for the instructor. Table 1 depicts the differentiation of hybrid course designs and how the multimodal and parallel course designs relate to each other.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transliteracy: The ability to use multiple platforms, such as the Internet, television, instructors, textbooks, etc, to assimilate and integrate information into a coherent understanding of a topic.

High Think: A teacher centred didactic means of educating students. It requires only a teacher to speak and students to listen. It may include other educational aids such as slides or writing as on a whiteboard, but these things aren’t required.

High Touch: A student centred teaching method that involves students doing hands on exercises to gain knowledge in a specific domain. It is typically overseen by a subject matter expert and makes learning a multi modal experience.

Multimodal Learning Environment: A course that is primarily delivered in one mode, with a secondary mode being used to deliver enrichment, also referred to as Blended or Hybrid Learning. Examples of this include a traditional lecture with resources available to students through a CMS.

High Tech: A student centred learning approach that is primarily self-directed, self-paced and technology mediated.

Virtual Classroom Technology (VCT): Synchronous technologies that create an environment that allows individuals within a class to share audio, video and text. These environments attempt to recreate as many facets of the face-to-face classroom as possible on a screen.

Student Response Systems (SRS): AKA “clickers”, are RF or IR based remotes that are used in a classroom by students to answer questions posed by the instructor.

Parallel Learning Environment: A course designed to have students move through either face to face or online only content at the same time, interacting with each other using VCT or in person as allowed for by social or spatial constraints.

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