Hybrid Classes: How do they Work, and are they Right for You?

Online classes have experienced dramatic growth in the last ten years. According to a 2016 survey by Babson Survey Research Group, 25% of all students in the United States are enrolled in

Online classes have experienced dramatic growth in the last ten years. According to a 2016 survey by Babson Survey Research Group, 25% of all students in the United States are enrolled in at least one online course. Online or distance education offers convenience and flexibility, making higher education possible for many who wouldn't otherwise consider it, such as those with families and full-time jobs.

One of the biggest downsides to online education is a lack of face to face meetings with professors and other students. Some concepts can be hard to explain over the Internet, this can actually lead to more time spent on self-learning instructional materials. Online learning also doesn't allow for connections to form between students and their professors; this can be difficult for some students, especially those who prefer direct meetings when discussing group projects or presentations.

Hybrid or "blended" classes are specifically designed to integrate in-person meetups with online learning such that the two formats complement and harmonize with one another.

Here's how hybrid classes work

Many institutions acknowledge the benefits of online learning, incorporating aspects of it into their curriculum. Web-enhanced courses, for example, may have a web portal, conduct tutorials, or provide instructional materials over the internet, but these exist outside of the traditional classroom educational format. In such classes, online learning is supplemental and meetups are not replaced by online work.

Hybrid classes combine the convenience of online coursework with face to face mentoring. Classes are conducted online and in-person; in contrast to web-enhanced courses, hybrid classes substitute some classroom instruction with online discussion. The exact ratio of online-to-traditional learning differs for each individual institution, but they tend to favor classroom meetups.

There is no universal standard definition that defines what a hybrid class is. As stated above, the distribution of traditional versus online class structures can vary significantly between institutions, classes, and instructors. Hybrid learning is an incredibly flexible instruction format that can be bent and stretched to fit the unique needs of both the course and its students.

Described below are some practical implementations of hybrid education that illustrate the flexibility of the format:

  • Your typical university course meets up twice a week. In contrast, a hybrid course might only meet once a week but conduct discussions and assignments online.

  • The courses are deployed through the class website as PowerPoint or video files. Students take advantage of classroom time to ask questions and review the online material.

  • Students form groups and discuss materials online. Homework is assigned and group projects are also largely discussed through remote interaction. They meet in class to report progress, present their projects, and receive the assessment.

  • The first few weeks are dedicated to classroom meetings. The next two months of the course are conducted online.

Hybrid classes combine the best of both worlds:  the flexibility of online learning with the direct instruction of traditional learning. A common misconception of online and hybrid learning is that they allow you to earn a degree with less effort than a traditional course structure. Though hybrid learning is highly flexible and allows for students with different learning styles to thrive, it still requires just as much effort and dedication as a traditional course.

Comparing hybrid classes with traditional and online formats

Hybrid classes aim to strike a balance between traditional classroom instruction and online learning. There are some distinct advantages to this combination that aren't offered by other formats.

Flexibility Without Isolation

Hybrid classes offer the scheduling flexibility of online courses. This allows students to balance a full-time job with full-time coursework. Traditional course structures demand not only a student's time but also their physical presence; this is often impossible for those with families and work. Online learning allows for the same scheduling flexibility but doesn't allow for face to face time with their professors or classmates.

On-demand instructional content

Hybrid courses typically offer taped videos of previous lectures. These are a great resource for students looking to review study materials and extract any valuable notes they have missed during class. The fact that these are readily available at any time during the semester means that students can work through the materials at their own pace.

Mirrors Modern Workplace Dynamic

The blending of remote and in-person interaction is not just a trend in higher education but is increasingly becoming the reality in the workplace. More and more, work is performed through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Hybrid classes prepare students for a work environment where they will be expected to both consider and foster ideas of others as well as dedicate significant time and thought to complete certain tasks individually.

Hybrid classes aren't right for everyone. The lack of a strict schedule inherent to this course structure means students must be able to manage their time well. Consider the following points before deciding to enroll in a hybrid course:

Every Part of the Course Is Important

Unlike web-enhanced courses, the online aspect of hybrid courses are not optional and are just as important to your passing the class as the classroom work. You will be expected to dedicate just as much time to a hybrid class as you would a traditional class.

Not As Flexible As Online Learning

Though they incorporate many of the concepts and practices of online learning, hybrid classes still require your physical presence in the class. The time you spend in the classroom interacting with your classmates and professors are vital to your passing the class, and on this matter, hybrid classes offer no flexibility.

Requires Strict Time Management

If you have a habit of waiting until the last minute to get work done, think twice before enrolling in a hybrid class. You should expect to spend just as much time self-learning as you spend in class participating in face to face sessions. For many students, the time required to grasp the materials offered in the online portions of the class may be longer than that needed to understand the classroom component. Regardless of your personal study style, those with a tendency to procrastinate or have difficulty adhering to a strict, self-imposed study schedule will struggle in the hybrid course structure.

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