Online Learning

What is a hybrid class? Exploring this increasingly popular college learning model

September 02, 2020

What is a Hybrid Class?

There was a time when most students’ higher education experiences looked pretty similar — soon after graduating high school, young adults would attend a brick and mortar institution where they’d file into classrooms and lecture halls alongside a handful of likeminded peers.

Now the college experience may include many more scenes than a classroom with desks or a lecture hall with stadium seating. It may also look like the kitchen table of a busy dad who is logging into a learning management system (LMS) after putting his toddlers to bed (and then putting them to bed again). Today’s classroom may also exist in a quiet corner of a buzzing coffee shop, where an aspiring career-changer responds to discussion board questions after working eight long hours at her day job.

Student demographics are changing, and the higher education landscape has begun to transform so that it can better support the needs of the average learner. As a result, online course offerings have grown steadily over the years, and an increasing number of colleges and universities now offer hybrid classes and programs.

Hybrid learning models afford students some of the same the flexibility they’d get with distance education while still creating opportunities for face-to-face interaction with instructors and classmates. Perhaps you’re intrigued by the idea, but you’re still wondering, “What is a hybrid class?” Start familiarizing yourself with this innovative learning model right now.

What is hybrid learning and why is it a good option?

Programs that are either fully face-to-face or fully online often struggle to meet every student’s unique needs. But hybrid learning combines both modalities, which helps provide avenues for all students to succeed. If the convenience of online learning appeals to you, but you also want to maintain some of the traditional classroom experience, a hybrid learning model can offer the best of both worlds. It can help you balance the demands of your life with your studies in a way that really propels you to succeed in college.

But that’s not the only benefit of hybrid learning. A study from the U.S. Department of Education actually found that, while students in online courses perform modestly better than those in face-to-face classes, students in hybrid learning programs ultimately outperform all their peers.

Additionally, some experts suggest that presenting information in multiple formats increases knowledge retention. Others point toward the fact that when technology is integrated into learning models, students are more likely to remain interested and focused.

Hybrid course instructors have also detected a number of benefits. A study from the Center for Digital Education reports that 73 percent of k-12 educators who utilize the hybrid learning model observe an increase in student engagement. A separate study from Blackboard reveals that 59 percent of teachers report their students are more motivated to learn in a hybrid learning environment.

How do hybrid programs work?

All hybrid programs have one core thing in common: they offer students the unique opportunity to benefit from in-classroom instruction while also giving them the ability to take their lessons home where they can sink in. Exactly how each hybrid course is formatted, however, may vary by institution — and sometimes by student. But generally speaking, students will attend approximately half of their class sessions on-campus, while attending the remainder online.

At a school like University of Massachusetts Global, students can enroll in undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs either completely online or in a hybrid format with in-person classes held at more than 25 campuses across California and Washington. On-campus classes in UMass Global’s hybrid programs take place in the evenings to accommodate the busy schedules of working students.

Students in a hybrid learning model will experience both in-classroom and online discussions of course materials. The difference between the two environments, however, involves the ways in which students spend their time and the activities they engage in. Compared with traditional courses, experts believe, "the expectation in a hybrid course, of both students and instructor, is that in-seat time is more actively used."

For example, face-to-face time may be perfect for defining and clarifying upcoming assignments, or engaging in activities that allow students to receive real-time responses like brainstorming, role playing and presentation feedback. Online activities might include multiple choice quizzes that can be graded real-time, critical analysis, discussion forums and wikis. Online learning management systems such as Blackboard® and collaboration tools like Google Docs still allow for individual and group interaction, all while allowing the student determine when and where they tackle a task. This flexibility is the key to hybrid learning.

Throughout this experience, students can not only obtain an array of new real-world skills, but they can also put their existing experience to use as they take more control over their learning experiences. The mix of traditional instruction and flexible, online learning can really empower students to take charge of their classroom experiences, track their achievements and look for their own resources.

Other institutions may have hybrid courses that are open to students living in any location — the students simply travel to campus once per semester to attend an all-day residency. “When we embrace innovative, hybrid educational models, we are relinquishing control, allowing students, projects, clients and teamwork dynamics to mold the learning process,” Salt Lake City professor Curtis Newbold wrote in an article for Inside Higher Ed.

The beauty of hybrid learning is that while students are encouraged to take ownership over their education, they still receive the steady support and guidance of professors and academic advisors both in person and through online tools. Newbold notes that within this model, instructors are not teaching as much as they are mentoring.

Find the right balance with a hybrid program

What is a hybrid class? It’s more than just a learning model in which students can study both online and on-campus — it’s an opportunity for students to have more control over their higher education experiences, personalizing the process to fit their unique needs.

If you’re looking to learn more about how a hybrid learning model could help get you closer to achieving your career goals, you might want to familiarize yourself with the options that are out there. Take a look at University of Massachusetts Global's programs to get started.


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