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Suggested Topics

There are numerous topics that could be covered in a hybrid course faculty development program. Typically, faculty have to modify their approach to teaching, manage their own and students' expectations regarding hybrid learning, integrate face-to-face and online teaching environments, learn new communication skills, develop new ways to assess student learning, master new technologies, and much more. A list of all the possible topics for an effective faculty development program would be very long. However, based upon experiences of the UWM Learning Technology Center, the following is a short list of a dozen primary issues and topics, which should form the core of any program preparing faculty for hybrid teaching. This list is written for faculty developers but it can also be a helpful guide for faculty who are preparing to design and teach their first hybrid course.

1. Begin the course redesign process by re-examining course goals and objectives and by considering how they can best be achieved in the hybrid environment. We have developed Ten Hybrid Course Planning Questions for faculty self-reflection. These ten questions identify areas where such re-examination must occur.

2. Develop new learning activities that capitalize on the strengths of the online and face-to-face learning environments. In particular, online learning activities should ideally meet course goals and objectives more effectively than is possible in a face-to-face learning environment alone.

3. Integrate face-to-face and online learning activities to avoid teaching two parallel and unconnected courses. The employment of online learning activities as "add-ons" or "icing on the cake" typically suggests that an instructor is still oriented to traditional means of instruction, making it more difficult to take advantage of online learning practices.

4. Learn to make the transition from a lecture-centered teaching approach to a more learner-centered teaching focus. Since this may require instructors to move out of their "comfort zone" particular attention must be given to suggesting sound pedagogical examples of learner-centered activities.

5. Avoid the common tendency to cover too much material and include too many activities in the redesigned course that result in a "course and a half." As a rule, the emergence of the course-and-a-half syndrome indicates that full integration between online and face-to-face learning activities has not yet been achieved.

6. Acquire and practice the skills needed to effectively manage and facilitate online asynchronous (i.e., anytime, anyplace) discussion. Together with online discussions, effective use of small group interactions online are often areas of particular vulnerability or insecurity for beginning hybrid instructors. Successful management of small group activities will help create an online community of learners by providing an inclusive, positive, and friendly learning environment where students feel safe sharing ideas.

7. Keep technology use simple in order to avoid turning the course into a support nightmare and add more advanced technology only very gradually. However, it is valuable for instructors to be aware of typical means of online content delivery that are low-risk and do not require substantial investment of resources. Voice-over PowerPoint is an example of a simple technology that can be readily adapted to a hybrid approach.

8. Develop a plan for conducting course activities when technology fails, as even very simple technologies are wont to do. An instructor should check out the viability of course technologies on a routine basis, and develop a network of contacts who can assist when things go wrong.

9. Manage student expectations regarding the hybrid format and course workload, starting very early in the course and repeatedly as needed throughout. Redundancy is a key asset in hybrid instruction.

10. Identify and develop plans, materials, and activities to help students with the technology and time management challenges many encounter. A simple instance of this is to break up longer, higher-stakes assignments into smaller "chunks" that can be submitted throughout the course for instructor feedback and awarding of course credit.

11. Use the tools in the course management system to get organized and stay organized when teaching hybrid courses. Successful documentation of all aspects of student learning cannot be overvalued in hybrid instruction.

12. An online learning environment lends itself readily to shorter, low-stakes assessment of student learning. Instructors should be strongly encouraged to discover alternative methods of student assessment, and modify more traditional approaches such as high-stakes exams and lengthy term papers.

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