Welcome to the Hybrid Initiative open resource for professors who are new to online teaching and who are planning to create and teach hybrid courses, as well as experienced online professors wanting to refine their practice. The resources and tools presented here include the work of colleges that participated in the Hybrid Initiative of the City University of New York. CUNY’s Hybrid Initiative supported an increase in hybrid courses at these campuses with the overall goals of improving learning outcomes while conserving precious classroom space.

One of the most frequently asked questions is what exactly is a hybrid course. CUNY defines this as any course wherein 33-67% of instruction occurs online. However, knowing the exact percentage of the course to be delivered online is far from understanding the complexities and intricacies of hybrid courses. Most professors spend a considerable amount of time planning how to seamlessly blend the online portions of the course with the face-to-face meetings.

Throughout this site you will find strategies, models, and resources that can help you plan for and design an effective hybrid course or even program. Whether you are a professor beginning on your path to online teaching, an instructional designer adding to your toolbox, or an administrator planning a program, this site can provide you with a wealth of ideas. A work in progress, the Hybrid Initiative site encourages contributions from members inside and outside of CUNY in the spirit of building and refining effective practices. Feel free to share your ideas and become part of our hybrid community by contacting Professor Chris Stein (@cstein).

We have tried our best to accordingly cite, reference, and credit the material found on this site.  However, if there is something we missed, please contact Professor Stein so that we can make corrections and adjustments.

Defining Hybrid and Online Courses

Just like face-to-face teaching will differ based on who and how the information is delivered so will online learning.  The basic differences found across online teaching defined below were adapted for this site  from Lehman’s Faculty Online Rich Media Teaching and Learning, “Online Courses” found at http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/online-education/faculty/online-courses.php

Hybrid (Blended)

Hybrid online courses are taught both online and in the classroom. Hybrid courses are like regular courses in that they have a class meeting schedule, and the hybrid course often begins as a regular in-person classroom course would. Usually the teaching and learning are evenly split between in-class meetings and online.  Faculty should check with their institution for suggested minimum and maximum guidelines for online teaching. (Again, CUNY defines the hybrid course as any course wherein 33-67% of instruction occurs online.)

Benefits: There are great advantages and benefits to hybrid/blended online learning for the instructor and the students. Those who design online courses know that it takes more work and reflection than simply to decide what assignments and activities to move online- they are the planners, designers and facilitators of the learning modules. They use the resources of the Internet and online discussion to form creative learning opportunities that are both substantial and motivational to shift the focus from a traditional lecture format to self-directed, hands-on and peer-to-peer learning that is dependent on the student’s active participation. To meet educational outcomes in the hybrid classroom, your syllabus will be driven by group and individual effort, the self-directed capacities of your students, and by the structure of the course itself. There are multimedia programs, e-books, and videotaped lectures, threaded discussion boards, videos, wikis, blogs and many other artifacts that allow students to work together and at their own pace, and that can also provide the necessary assessments and social stimuli inherent to learning in the blended online classroom.

Cognitive participation is found to be more prevalent in asynchronous online learning as it describes a more reflective type of participation appropriate for discussions of complex issues. In his study of asynchronous and synchronous e-learning methods Stefan Hrastinski discovered each supports different purposes: synchronous e-learning better supports personal participation and asynchronous e-learning better supports cognitive participation.

Asynchronous Online

Faculty and students can log on to their virtual classroom at any time at their own convenience and schedule classes via Blackboard. They can respond to and communicate with peers and their instructors either via e-mail, threaded discussions, e-bulletin boards, live chats, wikis, or blogs. They can download and read written, audio or visual material and reply at their own pace, heightening the perception of convenience and flexibility.

Benefits: There is space for silence, and time for thinking, so that participants can think about what is being said and take time to think about how they want to respond. This often benefits the quiet students that are rarely heard from in the classroom setting. Students have time to read and comprehend, and process, filter and refine their thinking because immediacy is not expected, more likely leading to more thoughtful contributions than if a student is put on the spot to respond.

Limitations: In online learning there is a definite time-lag in communication and the asynchronous format can sometimes make the conversation feel disjointed. Students need to be highly self-directed because they seldom meet their instructors or peers face-to-face at a given time. There is risk of having weeks go by with no-shows who eventually drop out or fail. While there is a high degree of self-pacing inherent to online learning (especially when students and faculty don’t have to show up to class exactly at 6 p.m. on a precise date), students may need to be specifically told what weekly participating means, (e.g., students will be asked to participate several times over the course of a week in order to post and respond to comments from others).

Synchronous Online 

Students logging on and communicating real-time in a Web-based classroom often utilize video-conferencing and live chat, and have the potential to support the development of strong learning communities because of its face-to-face nature.

Benefits: Students and teachers experience synchronous e-learning as more social and are able to ask and answer questions in real time. Those who are involved in other forms of social networking find online chatting familiar, and easy, and students remark that it is more like a conversation. Synchronous sessions use Internet connectivity to offer real-time chat and whiteboards that mimic a real life environment. They run on familiar sounding platforms and go by the brand names of Web CT, Adobe Connect, and Elluminate, to name a few. These types of platforms or environments have a relatively easy learning curve and help e-learners feel more connected to their peers and to their learning. Students often cite that they feel like participants rather than isolates. (Hrastinski, 2008)

Limitations: Issues of honesty and plagiarism notwithstanding, academic integrity is key in the virtual as much as the in-person classroom. Students and faculty in an online setting now have many issues to consider such as ‘how can I manage my synchronous teaching environment’ ‘how do we define participation?’ ‘how do we build cohesion and community?’ ‘what is effective with respect to discussion board facilitation and developing meaningful conversations?’ or ‘how do I help students organize and participate in group work?’ or in the best case-scenario for a complaint: ‘how do I read and respond to all this material?’.

At its most basic, online classes are time-consuming: if a student wants to succeed in any online course, it should be made clear to them from the outset that it is his or her responsibility to access the Internet and participate in the class regularly (3-5 times per week) at times that are convenient, yet thoughtful to the requirements and their peers. That instructors need to keep to that promise is another time-management consideration our office can assist professors with.

Depending on the institution, students generally meet face-to-face once at the beginning of the semester to become familiar with the course requirements and to meet the instructor. Usually there is only one class meeting, but no more than four of the fourteen weeks in a semester are taught in class. The rest of the course happens online in an asynchronous format. All discussions, project presentations, delivery of assignments, group work and even tests can occur in the course site.  As with hybrid meeting designations, faculty should consult their institution for minimum and maximum number of online and face-to-face meetings for asynchronous and synchronous online learning.


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