What does Hybrid actually mean?

What does Hybrid actually mean?

Generally, when you enroll in college, you see different courses in the catalog.

“What’s this? Online. That makes sense. It’s an online course.”

“Meeting times listed? Cool. That’s when I show up.”

“Internship? Awesome. I should probably talk to my advisor.”

“Hybrid? Wait, what does that mean? It’s a cross between online and face to face right? I think. Maybe.”

Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

The terrible Marlon Brando adaptation of The Island of Dr. Morrow comes to mind when I think about what Hybrid actually means. It could lead to all sorts of things. Little worm people running around. Giant goat people starting new religions. And that’s just the beginning.

Ask us eLearning professionals, we all know, but we don’t really. We know what good pedagogy looks like, but we are powerless to define something as simple as Hybrid at many of our institutions. For me, the question makes me want to crawl inside a bottle, to defer the question to my superiors and hope that I can sleep until the issue has been resolved, like a good little almost extinct bear.

But then I have my days where I want to be emperor of the world.

Hybrid (or Blended) is a learning modality in which the best parts of online and face-to-face pedagogical practice work interdependently to allow students to learn collaboratively across environments.

But how much of a course should be online to call it a hybrid? Whatever you think. Enough is the answer I would give.

Enough to give students a rich learning experience in both environments. If they’re not getting anything out of the online experience, fix it. Increase the time, decrease the time. As long we’re using both of those environments effectively to create a quality learning experience. For me it’s problem solving, critical reflection on their own learning, authentic experiences and collaboration. If these things aren’t happening by blending the online and F2F, then it’s time to rework the class.

No, putting your PowerPoints online and having your students read them is not a Hybrid. Nor is it Online. It might have been called that in 1993, but not in 2014.

Another way of defining Hybrid is to invoke the Flipped Classroom approach: Whatever you CAN’T do online, you do in the classroom.

Over the years I’ve seen many definitions of Hybrid talking about the use of online tools. Email is an online tool. But its use in a course does not make that course hybrid.

Here’s what needs to happen: Instead of defining Hybrid courses in terms of in-seat time, instead of displaced face-to-face time, instead of using online tools or web 2.0 technologies (this is still a term we use?) we should be talking about Hybrid in terms of student experience. When people use technology in the workplace, we use them interdependently. I get an email, I reply to it, I send an invite, I attend a meeting, I collaborate and I create. All of these things I do are experiences. I work back and forth between the internet and the real world to manage my time, create things, and assist those in my workplace.

It’s almost 2015, the year of the hoverboard. We now have technology in place to allow students to talk in real-time, to collaborate and create in real-time, to parse humanity’s collective knowledge through the internet and we’re still talking about Hybrid learning as if it’s the Walkman. It’s now over 20 years old and the definitions haven’t really changed.

Wherever we work, it’s important to start having this conversation. Students’ experiences in learning mean more to them than saying they get to play with shiny objects. Hybrid and Blended learning allows for more flexibility, it allows for complex interactions, enhanced creativity. To make these things happen, it takes a certain amount of time, it takes a specific course design and it takes talented instructors.

Institutions should look to invest resources in all of these if we ever hope to tell students “this is what a hybrid course really is” AND, more importantly “This is what you’re going to do in it”.

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