Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Onsite Support for Hybrid Students

I’m hoping that some of my wise and worldly readers can help on this one.

As is true at many colleges, most of our “online” students are actually hybrid.  In other words, they’re taking both classroom courses and online courses at the same time.  They’re using online classes to make their schedules more compatible with work and family demands.  We have some purely online students, but most of our online students aren’t purely online.  Most come to campus, or to an affiliated location, at least once a week.

Which raises the possibility, at least in theory, of using onsite resources in support of the online classes that these hybrid students are taking.

(I’ll pause for a moment to let all that jargon settle.  Occupational hazard.)

Online classes are becoming increasingly popular, but success rates in them tend to trail their onsite analogues.  (Analogs?)  If students are flocking more to the format in which we succeed less, we have a choice to make: either accept lower success rates as the wave of the future, or get better at online support.  I prefer the latter.  

(To be fair, there’s also the third option of sticking our fingers in our ears, holding our breath until we turn blue, and trying to wait out the whole “internet” thing.  I don’t see that ending well.)

So here’s the opportunity.  We have students coming to campus on a regular basis while they’re also taking online classes.  Conceivably, they could get help unique to their online classes while they’re on campus.  In a perfect world, that support would help students succeed at greater rates in their online courses.

My question to my readers:


We offer a few hybrid lab classes where the lecture is online and the lab is in person. Our policy is to make the labs for these sections one our longer than for the in person sections so that students have a dedicated time blocked into their schedule on a day they are already on campus to get help. Faculty can also use that time for whole-class troubleshooting on common weaknesses and I suppose this extra hour could also be used for in-person exams.

My department only offers hybrid classes paired with in-person labs, so I we don't have to worry about support for fully online classes.
First, we use the term "hybrid" only to describe a course that has both on-line and f2f components, not a certain type of student, so I had to read your question twice.

Much like CCBioProf&HSBioT describes above, hybrid classes are ones where the lecture part is entirely on line but there is a one-hour recitation/discussion/problem session that is 100% active learning (no lecture). Exams are given in a test center (like a fully distance ed class) so no f2f time is wasted on testing. Those seem to fall between fully f2f and fully online classes, so your idea is a good one.

That said, we have a large center for learning that is like a giant office hour with both staff and sudent tutors. It is only for math, science, composition, and library reserach, but that covers a great deal of what we do on line. I don't know the degree to which on-line students use it in person (some of its services are provided online), but that could be promoted to hybrid students.
Thinking negatively (haven't had my tea yet), what about purely online students? If you have supports for people who are taking exactly the same course, but can get to campus, do they get different support? A partial refund because they aren't getting the same resources as those onsite?
In the CC where i last worked, we had a similar situation of primarily f2f students taking online classes. In that school, there was an excellent student success center. The online director (and instructors) worked with the employees there to make sure they had the knowledge and ability to support these students. In fact, often the online director was alerted to problems by the student success center.

TL;DR: we didnt' do anything different. We just made sure that the tutors had the resources to assist these students.
One clarification to my remarks above: The word "those" in the last sentence of my second paragraph is referring to success rates in the hybrid classes.

Ditto on what LJL said to anonymous@5:55AM. The center for learning already has the necessary resources to assist online students when they are on campus (and some for both groups when they are at home), so the main thing is to get them to use it when they are on campus. The biggest challenge we see, which applies to on campus students as well, is that jobs and family commitments limit the time they have to do homework on campus. They often do not schedule classes so there is a gap between them that can be used to do homework and consult tutors.
I will add this to the mix: at our institution we have found that student who adopt a hybrid curriculum (mixing online and face to face classes) have a significantly (in the stats meaning) higher completion rate than either strictly face to face or strictly online.

Some of the resources we've developed for online students (our online writing lab) are actually used more by our face to face students. Students who take our orientation to online learning tutorial do betting in the courses in either mode (even when controlling for previous GPA)

We are fortunate that our administration appreciates these effort on their broader impact rather than the effect they have solely on online or hybrid classes.

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