Three tips from “How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course”

Today’s post comes from Claire Hardin, graduate student in professional and technical writing at Portland State University.

In my experience as a graduate student, hybrid and online courses often aren’t as effective as in-class instruction…but not because they can’t be.

The problem is that many ineffective professors (or trainers) simply assume that the methods that work in person will translate to an online classroom. And hybrid courses seem to be even more problematic–you must use both techniques in order to communicate successfully.

How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course is concerned with just this problem. In the words of author Dr. Jay Caulfield,

This book is written for all who teach, and especially for those who have chosen to teach in a hybrid learning format. It is a practical handbook about outcomes-based practice applied to hybrid design to use when designing and teaching a hybrid course.”

What do the best hybrid teachers say?

The book will be useful to those who like both the theoretical applications as well as detailed ideas and tips for planning a hybrid course…all with the goal of meeting or exceeding your learners’ expectations for the course.

One thing I appreciated about the book is that Dr. Caulfield includes interview data from numerous experienced hybrid course teachers. To summarize their collective wisdom, here are a few tips for those who are either thinking about or still working through moving classes and courses online:

Start small and start early

Instructors who were interviewed averaged about three months planning and designing their hybrid course. To improve your initial efforts, try putting just a few of the course elements online and walking through them as if you were the audience.

Key: Take a step break from what you created and come back with a fresh pair of eyes. Which aspects of your assignment or instruction seemed clear when you wrote it, but now could be confusing?

Avoid doing too much–a simple and effective course is always better than a flashy but ambiguous one.

Let technology serve as a tool versus a prescription for how and what to teach

One critical takeaway from Dr. Caulfield’s work is that technology should be used as a tool to enable engaging, interactive, and student-centered learning environments, not as the focal point of the class or training session.

If applying the knowledge of the discipline of a hybrid course is “second fiddle” to the technology when planning, then the possibilities of the most engaging hybrid course possible are limited to the scope of the technology chosen.

In Caulfield’s analogy, if a chef is going to create an exciting new dish, he must utilize all of his knowledge about the culinary arts to create something that will taste good and look attractive. If he is more concerned with the pan he’s using than with which ingredients to choose, he will limit his creativity to only what can be cooked in that specific pan.

Set student expectations during the initial F2F class

As a student, knowing exactly how a hybrid course works at the beginning makes me more engaged and comfortable participating in discussions and small group sessions.

The class structure and workload should be evident from the beginning; nothing’s worse than not being able to plan for a course because there’s too much uncertainty!

Assure that your learners on two fronts:

One, ensure they’re not disengaged or overwhelmed by explaining the flow of the whole program and how F2F and online learning tasks work together.

Two, ensure that they’re aware that reduced in-class time does not mean reduced time spend on achieving objectives for the course.


How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course is an insightful read that should save you making many mistakes as you move some or all of your courses online. I can only hope my future professors using online and hybrid classes learn some of these lessons.


1 Comment

  1. teaching courses

    Assessment is a way of finding out if learning has taken place, but it’s also necessary to assess the entry behavior / understanding of your learners as well as checking to see if objectives have been met. In this article, based on an assignment prepared as part of my PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course, I’ll be considering different assessment types, and also the need for good Record Keeping. Records are kept to show how learners are progressing and are essential in allowing a learner to complete a course and gain the qualification for which they have studied.

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