Instructional Continuity, Spotlight on Teaching, Tips on Teaching

Taking the Guesswork Out of Developing Hybrid Courses

by Katie Devany, M.S., Program Director & Instructor – Leadership and Organizational Behavior, School for Professional Studies

I was selected for the Innovative Teaching Fellowship (ITF) in fall 2017 and taught an introductory entrepreneurship course. My experience differs from many SLU faculty in that I have been teaching online almost exclusively for seven years. While I very much enjoy seeing and interacting with students, I also value the benefits of distance education. To that end, I selected a hybrid modality for my ITF course to promote learning in both the physical and virtual classroom. I wanted to share my experience teaching a hybrid course in hopes it may provide you with some inspiration as you begin to prepare your courses for the fall semester.

Designing with the end in mind

It may seem a bit paradoxical to plan with the end in mind when we are not yet certain what the end of the semester will entail. However, we can plan to remain intentional in realizing the goals of the course regardless of modality. I found the Backward Course Design Process (see Figure 1) to be a helpful tool in designing my hybrid course. This model is implemented by determining course goals, mapping the student learning outcomes to each goal, identifying a formative or summative assessment method, and identifying related learning activities.

devany_fig1Figure 1. Example of Backward Course Design Process funnel

While seemingly straightforward, I am cognizant that this process can be overwhelming to implement. This is especially true for courses with applied or complex goals and/or learning outcomes. Furthermore, integrating multiple modalities can generate even greater trepidation. To that end, I found that dividing course goals into 2-4 overarching themes/categories helped break down the process into manageable pieces that could be further delineated through the remaining components of the funnel.

For example, the course I taught was broken down into three overarching categories (see Figure 2): (1) Foundational Framework, (2) Collaboration, and (3) Concept Development. These became the three buckets in which I used to group the student learning outcomes.

devany_fig2Figure 2. Introduction to Entrepreneurship overarching course goals

After the main categories have been identified, student learning objectives are mapped to the related course goal, and the form of assessment (formative/summative) is determined (see Figure 3).


Figure 3. Mapping course goal with student learning objective and identifying the related assessment.

Determining the type of assessment

It is likely that up to this point the course design process is very similar to that which you have currently been using. However, the assessment component of a hybrid course may look different from previous course iterations.

For example, in my course, guest speaker presentations served as formative assessment for two student learning outcomes. Students were required to review the resume for each speaker and prepare at least two questions while applying course material. Additionally, one to two questions from each of the three presentations appeared on the bi-weekly quiz to further ensure understanding of course content related to student learning objectives.

Using a hybrid modality to accomplish this goal was realized through in-person guest speaker presentations that were also streamed live via Fuze (now Zoom) and recorded for students unable to attend class or to view again later. Preparation for the presentations (i.e.: reviewing of resumes and submission of questions) was done through Blackboard along with the completion of quizzes. Having these components available online serves to not only increase the availability of in-person class time, but also assist in streamlining grading (quizzes) and creating a library of professional insight (guest speakers) to be used in future courses if desired.

Other artifacts used for assessment might include student presentations, papers, or even group projects (I know what you are thinking…it can be done!). Utilizing a hybrid course provides the medium to accomplish these and more advanced assessments such as simulated project application or real-time problem-based learning (PBL) that can be done synchronously or through an application found within a virtual desktop.

Planning learning activities for any modality

The final and perhaps most challenging step is determining the learning activities that work to achieve the student learning outcomes (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Sample learning activities that can be achieved both in-person or online.

In the entrepreneurship course learning activities were developed for both in-person and online sessions. Small group discussions, online simulations, and virtual discussion boards served as some of the learning activities that were utilized. It may seem difficult to provide activities that are compatible for both modalities. However, I encourage you to focus on what you are looking to achieve while remaining flexible in how it might be accomplished.

As with any course, you will find areas that need to be tweaked for future offerings as well as components that worked well. I found offering a midterm course survey about half-way through the semester assisted in identifying what was working well and what could be improved while there was still time to make minor modifications. Hybrid courses approach mission-centered student learning in an exciting and innovative way. While there will inevitability be roadblocks throughout the process, I encourage you to enjoy the journey and perhaps even consider integrating components of hybrid learning again in the future.