Best Practices For Implementing Hybrid Courses

Thanks to the emergence of digital learning and training programs, the hybrid course model has risen in popularity in recent years. Hybrid courses, which combine face to face instruction and online instruction into a single course, have a myriad of advantages. They include increased flexibility for non-traditional students with sporadic schedules, improved graduation and retention outcomes, and a framework to easily switch to fully online courses if needed. 

Whatever your reasons are for implementing hybrid courses at your school, below are a few best practices for you to follow.

Organizational Buy-In

First, successfully implementing hybrid courses requires commitment from all levels of the organization. Executives must emphasize the priority of implementing hybrid courses and provide administrators and instructors with the proper resources to do so. Administrators and instructors need to be ready to modify their approaches to execute hybrid courses effectively. For a smooth and efficient implementation, everyone at the school must be bought-in and work together. Without top-down buy-in, some aspects of implementation or training may lag behind, causing poor execution during the process.

Defining Success

Because implementing hybrid courses is a big organizational undertaking, defining measurements for success is key to improving and refining your hybrid course offerings. Some possible ways to monitor the success of your courses include maintaining or exceeding current attendance, retention, enrollment, and placement rates. You may even elect to poll your students on their overall satisfaction, giving you another figure to measure success by. 

Having defined metrics for success will help you judge the effectiveness of your hybrid courses and identify which aspects of your courses need improvement. 

Having The Right Technology In Place

Because online and digital interaction make up the largest part of hybrid course delivery, schools looking to implement hybrid courses will need the proper infrastructure and technology in place to do so.

An online course delivery platform, like CourseKey or a learning management system (LMS), is vital to hybrid courses because it stores all of the content that students will be using during the online portion of their course. In addition, it acts as a repository for deliverables and relevant documents (i.e. syllabi), giving students full access to their course materials 24/7. Because students will complete the online portions of the course when it’s convenient for them, they will need access to their course materials at all times. Without a system like this in place, instructors will be forced to resort to emailing students their materials, which is extremely inefficient, can cause materials to get lost in inboxes, and requires instructors to be on call throughout the day. Have a discussion with your colleagues to determine which type of technology would provide the best online delivery for your course content and help maximize student learning.

During online delivery, some schools may need to document how long students were active and how many opportunities for engagement they had during the online portion of their course. Those schools can leverage technology like CourseKey to accurately and securely track student attendance hours while providing opportunities for engagement like polls, assessments, live discussions, and others. CourseKey makes sure opportunities for student engagement stay high while students are learning remotely and delivers timely documentation for administrators to review and access when audits occur.

Integration Of Technologies

When considering technology to enable hybrid courses, check that it offers integration with the systems your school has in place (or is planning to implement). Otherwise, school staff will be required to manually extract data from one system and upload it to another. Through integration, data like student attendance and grades can transfer seamlessly between systems you have in place, like your SIS and LMS or your SIS and CourseKey for example. This saves your administrative team hours of manual data entry per week just to keep records up to date. Automatically transferred data is essential to ensuring timely reporting of student data, which helps administrators keep tabs on the measurements for success your team decided on.

Ensuring Curriculum Consistency

Having a consistent curriculum in place is vital to understanding the effectiveness of your hybrid courses, especially when rolling them out for the first time. Consistency around lesson plans and instruction will ensure that you can compare the performance of separate courses and identify aspects that need improvement instead of treating each course as a singular use-case without anything to measure it against. Without curriculum consistency, it will be difficult to identify the cause of disparity between results from multiple courses.

A consistent curriculum across courses will also guarantee students are getting the same delivery of instruction module to module regardless of any instructor turnover.

Training Instructors

Hybrid teaching may be an entirely new concept for some instructors. To bring instructors up to speed with the technology that hybrid courses call for, create a training module that explains how to use it. That way instructors can use the technology to its full extent and help their students if they have issues with it throughout the course. 

Your instructors may also need to be coached on how to be effective hybrid instructors. Because they will have less face to face interaction with their students, they will need to understand how to maximize the time they do have. For example, some programs may ask their instructors to focus on guiding students through hands-on tasks or teaching them soft skills while they’re together in person, whereas instructors are likely used to answering questions and lecturing form slides. 

Student Support

There are two types of student support that are vital to the success of hybrid courses. The first is a reactive approach to student support, which means having staff members available for students to contact if they need assistance. For example, students may have technical issues at home and need to speak with an admin about how to proceed. There are many reasons why students may need assistance during hybrid courses, so it’s important to make sure your school has a team dedicated to being available to provide student support when called upon.

The second type of student support takes a more proactive approach. By leveraging timely reporting on attendance data and grades, administrators can intervene with students before they become at risk for dropping out of their program. Technology like CourseKey, which reports attendance data in real-time, can enable staff members to reach out to students the same day that they missed class to determine the reason and how to avoid it in the future. Similarly, if an admin sees a student begin to perform worse than usual, they can reach out and offer suggestions to help that student persist. This type of proactive approach to student support dramatically increases students’ persistence and ensures that while students are on campus less frequently, their success is still of utmost importance to the school. 

In Conclusion

To ensure that your school rolls out effective and valuable hybrid learning courses, keep the points mentioned above in mind during the implementation process. Having valuable hybrid courses in place will broaden your school’s offering and increase capacity for student enrollment without needing more physical space. Plus, if school closures are mandated due to coronavirus outbreaks, your school will have the infrastructure and technology in place to easily turn your hybrid learning model to fully online without any overhaul. 

To learn more about how CourseKey can help your school implement successful hybrid learning courses, request a demo below. 

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One Comment

  1. Rachel March 16, 2021 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Nice article, Alex! I have been obsessed with reading articles about different types of training methods and new approaches to employee training post-COVID. So many businesses are new to implementing hybrid training programs, and I think we’re all trying to get our feet underneath us in this new crazy world we live in. I’ve been a fan of digital learning since before COVID, and I prefer working remotely, but not everyone feels that way. I know for some business owners, the idea of implementing a digital or hybrid training program feels impersonal and ineffective. But if they could read this article or others like it, I think they’d see that it’s not that hard, ineffective, or even impersonal. Especially if they implement student support in the way that you outlined it. I loved how you covered the training instructors section. You really do need to create a training module that brings your instructors up to speed on using whatever technology the training relies on. Instructors need coaching and teaching too, especially when they’re navigating this new remote-oriented landscape! This article is definitely a keeper, and I have a feeling that I’ll be referring to it in future conversations with colleagues. Thanks for sharing it!

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