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Are Hybrid Courses for Me?

Most students who take hybrid courses report that they enjoy the format more than a traditional face-to-face course that emphasizes lectures and testing. Many students say that they learn more in a hybrid course, because they can use outside resources more easily than in a traditional course, but they still have face-to-face access to the instructor and the other students in the course. Almost all students who take hybrid courses appreciate its convenience and flexibility to adapt to individual work and family schedules.

But the hybrid course format is not for everyone! Many students say that the combination of both online and in-class learning required in a hybrid course demands more time, dedication, and time-management skills than traditional face-to-face classroom learning.

We've identified four questions that you should ask yourself before you enroll in a hybrid course. Be honest with yourself and answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions to find out if hybrid courses are for really for you.

Do you express yourself well in writing and have good reading skills? Reading and writing are more important than in a traditional face-to-face course.

  • You must be able to read others' writing -- both your instructor's and your fellow students' -- and understand what they mean.
  • You also have to be able to write clearly and concisely, with few grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Your writing must be persuasive and interesting.
  • You must be able to follow written directions to complete an assignment, and willing to ask questions when you don't understand what to do.

In other words, if you are not a good writer, or if you don't read well, you may not be a good candidate as a student in a hybrid course.

Are you comfortable working with computers and using the Internet? Being willing and able to work online, and to use computers in your work, is critical.

  • You should own a relatively recent computer, or be willing to use a computer workstation in the University computer laboratories or in the Public Library.
  • You should have a fast (broadband) connection, either through a cable modem, a DSL, or a "hardwired" campus or Public Library computer.
  • You should know enough about computers to be able to upload and download files to your course Web site, search and browse the Web, use email, and interact on a discussion forum or bulletin board. You should also know how to download appropriate plugins if one is needed to read or view a file. Basic computer literacy of this sort is essential in modern University education.
  • You should be able to type (or keyboard) well, and be able to use basic programs such as a word processor. Some courses will require you to know how to use other computer programs such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Photoshop, so you should check out the course syllabus as early as possible to find out whether you will be able to meet the computer requirements.
  • You should develop a backup plan in case your technology fails for one reason or another. Identifying a friend who can help out is a possibility, but you should also know where the nearest campus computer lab is and what its hours of operation are. You should also know how to contact your local Help desk, and what their hours of operation are.

Are you good at managing and scheduling your time? You will do at least as much work in a hybrid course as in a regular traditional face-to-face course.

  • Although your use of time is more flexible in a hybrid course, sometimes you will not be able to fit everything in conveniently with your personal schedule, just as in a regular face-to-face course. It's highly advisable to read ahead in the course syllabus to find out when assignments are due and what you will have to do first before you can complete them. This is particularly important if the assignments are online, and require computer access.
  • Since a significant amount of your work in a hybrid course will involve your meeting a specific schedule defined by your instructor, you must be able to complete a specified task on time. Extensions are often not available for online assignments, and if you run into a technical problem when you try to complete an assignment at the last minute, your instructor may reduce your grade as a result. In other words, if you tend to put things off or try to do things at the last minute, the hybrid will present you with serious difficulties.
  • You must be prepared to schedule some time online several days each week. You should expect to login to the course Web site at least three times a week, and spend at least two to three hours doing online work. If your other responsibilities make this schedule impossible, you probably should not take a hybrid course.

Are you willing to take responsibility for your own learning as well as work collaboratively with your classmates and instructor? A typical hybrid courses places significantly less emphasis on lecturing and exams.

  • This means that you must be prepared to do different kinds of work than you would do in a traditional face-to-face course. The work required may be more creative, may require more thought than simply memorizing material for testing purposes, and may ask you to demonstrate your understanding of the course ideas and concepts by applying them to real-world situations. If you are comfortable with standard lectures and exams, you may find the hybrid very challenging.
  • Your instructor is likely to require you to take more responsibility for your learning than in a traditional face-to-face course. You may be given less precise instructions, or asked to take the initiative to determine how best to demonstrate your learning. If you prefer to be a passive learner, accept whatever an instructor tells you, and do only what is required of you; a hybrid course will necessitate your adopting a different approach to your learning.
  • Finally, you may expect to be involved in small group collaborative work online. Teamwork is essential to the hybrid, and if you feel that you work better in isolation from others, you may not find the hybrid suitable.

If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, then the hybrid style of learning is a real possibility for you. If answered "no" to any of the questions, hybrid courses may work for you, but you may need to make a few adjustments in your schedule and study habits to succeed. Your instructor or advisor may be able to suggest means to improve your ability to succeed in hybrid learning.

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