As faculty consider using hybrid approaches in their teaching, especially more complex approaches like HyFlex, what support do they need?
We’ve seen common needs in several areas, here are four:
- Learning how to teach online students
- Preparing (or adapting) instructional materials for online learners
- Facilitating live online students (if web conferences are used)
- Designing a learning environment that connects traditional and online students and activities
Because the faculty isn’t giving up the traditional teaching environment (in the classroom, normally), s/he can continue to work in that context – normally a strength. The main challenge in learning to teach online is developing skills in interacting with online learners through various communication technologies (ICT). Presenting information is not normally a new challenge, especially with lecture capture solutions that become easier to use each year (we use echo360on our campus).
Many universities have developed robust training programs for faculty who want to transition to teaching online or in hybrid class. Two I have been impressed with recently are those at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and the University of Central Florida. A key component of any effective program, it seems, is to have the faculty experience learning as an online (or hybrid) student as they learn how to teach in that environment. Since many faculty still have no experience learning in an online class, or have had only poor (non-interactive) experiences in online classes, this is an important step. Interaction makes the biggest difference in offering quality online experiences to students. As open courseware becomes more widespread and expands in scope, quality information is even easier to find than before. Interaction with qualified faculty remains the real “value-add” of a university class.
With a HyFlex course, when both online and traditional students are engaged in the same learning environment, the faculty has an opportunity to leverage the efforts and interactions of students in both modes to support and enhance the learning of all students. Online forum participation can become an opportunity for traditional student interaction as well. Interactions in the classroom can be made immediately available to live online students or can be archived for review by asynchronous online students and connected to a forum discussion for ongoing engaged learning. Common forum assignmentsfor all students can be used to draw students together in shared discussions throughout a course. With new and emerging technologies designed to support ubiquitous social connection and interaction, the opportunities for learning interactions are limited primarily by the creativity and the amount of time available of the faculty.
If motivated and engaged faculty are provided with good design ideas, usable technology, positive experiences both learning and teaching online, and an ongoing community to support their development as HyFlex instructors, anyone can do this successfully.