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Frequently Asked Questions

What are Hybrid or Blended courses?
"Hybrid" or "Blended" are names commonly used to describe courses in which some traditional face-to-face "seat time" has been replaced by online learning activities. The purpose of a hybrid course is to take advantage of the best features of both face-to-face and online learning. A hybrid course is designed to integrate face-to-face and online activities so that they reinforce, complement, and elaborate one another, instead of treating the online component as an add-on or duplicate of what is taught in the classroom.

The definition of hybrid or blended continues to be a much debated topic, as does the use of the term hybrid or blended itself. Although many definitions of hybrid and blended learning exist, there is a convergence upon the three key points identified above: (1) Web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work; (2) "seat time" is reduced, though not eliminated altogether; (3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each. This Web site uses the term "hybrid" throughout for historical reasons specific to our campus; we intend our usage, however, to include the alternative nomenclatures "blended" or "mixed mode."

How do hybrid courses differ from Web enhanced and online courses?
While Web enhanced courses may have a course Website or some instructional activities online, these supplement but do not replace face-to-face coursework. Students continue to meet in the classroom for the standard number of scheduled hours for that course.

An online or distance education course is conducted entirely and exclusively via the course management system assessable from the Internet. The online format is the primary method to deliver the course materials. Communication and interaction occur online between faculty and students. All assessment of student work is conducted online.

Although most institutions recognize a continuum from Web enhanced to hybrid to fully online courses, there is no broadly accepted taxonomy or cutoff points for these three course formats. As a general rule of thumb, courses in which fewer than 20% of the learning activities occur online are more likely to be labeled Web enhanced than hybrid. At the other end of the continuum, many institutions — for obvious logistical reasons — require that a course advertised as "online" in fact include no face-to-face component, and that 100% of learning activities be Web based. However, even here there are a few institutions in which a program identified as online may include an initial face-to-face orientation session, so the distinction between hybrid and fully online can blur on this end of the continuum as well.

Is there a recognized standard for the structure and schedule of hybrid courses?
No, the schedule and structure of hybrid courses can significantly vary from one class to another. This underscores the pedagogical flexibility characteristic of the hybrid model. The instructor of a hybrid course typically determines what instructional activities should be online or face-to-face depending on the learning goals, course objectives, content, and available resources. Similarly, the timetable for face-to-face versus online work can be organized in quite different ways that may reflect not only pedagogical criteria but also the particular circumstances of the instructor and students.

Here are a few examples of hybrid courses that illustrate different structures for the deployment of face-to-face and online learning activities:

  • the instructor lectures and facilitates class discussion in the face-to-face classes, students complete online assignments based on these classroom activities, then these online assignments are posted to asynchronous discussion forums for online discussion;
  • an instructor places lectures online using voiceover PowerPoint or streaming media for students to review, then subsequently in class students use these preliminary online materials to engage in face-to-face small group activities and discussions;
  • students prepare small group projects online, post them to discussion forums for debate and revision, then present them in the face-to-face class for final discussion and assessment.

By the same token, hybrid schedules can be quite diverse:

  • a typical practice is for an instructor to meet with the class face-to-face for a couple of weeks, then go online for a week;
  • alternatively, the first few weeks of the course may be face-to-face preparation, followed by an extended period (such as a month or more) of online work;
  • or a night class that would ordinarily meet face-to-face for three hours once a week reduces each class meeting by 45 minutes and requires the students to complete assignments online in lieu of maintaining the full three hours of face-to-face class time.


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