Skip to main content

Hybrid Hiccups vs. F2F Courses

This year has been a study in contrasts. I chose to teach a traditional technical writing course in the fall and a hybrid course during the spring semester. The differences in student projects, the quality of their analyses, and general attitudes is remarkable.

I know research found no easily quantified differences in learning outcomes. However, I think anyone could compare the group projects between these courses and see a difference in the products. While the lessons learned and the facts students retain might be similar, the results do demonstrate something.

Some elements of are "intangible" because they are social and philosophical. For example, groups struggled online, even with guidance and gentle remainders to establish schedules and routines. In the traditional course, groups developed stronger bonds and worked together frequently. It should be noted that the face-to-face (F2F) students exchanged more e-mail and chatted more often than the students on the officially hybrid course.

Students in the traditional course met in a computer lab once a week. This allowed them time to help each other with desktop publishing issues. Both courses included design students, but in the F2F course these students were leaders. In the online course, leaders failed to emerge. (I try not to influence how groups function, but maybe I should be more proactive online.)

The hybrid students did the bare minimum on assignments. They counted words, literally, and seemed driven by convenience instead of a desire to learn something new. Online was, as several admitted, perceived as "less work" because there were fewer in-person meetings.

I had not registered D or F marks for nearly three years. Unfortunately, the hybrid course had a high number of incomplete and missing assignments. Ten percent of the students will not receive credit for the course. I am told that the failure / drop rate approaches 30 percent online.

The best students in both classes were definitely equal. For some students, the online space was not problematic. The problem is that the average grade was approximately six percent lower. Sure, a 81 versus an 87 seems minor, but it is significant to me.

I like online content. As a teacher, I was able to post my lectures as audio, include supplemental videos, and I could return papers easily with comments. Students could easily check the calendar, announcements, and obtain handouts. Unfortunately, even with those materials available, less than half of the students downloaded all the materials I offered.

Students have to be self-motivated for online learning to function. I am disappointed, but I realize I did all that I could. I sent students e-mails to remind them of due dates. I asked questions when they seemed to struggle. I posted leading questions, imagining they would realize I was hinting they needed to communicate better within groups.

Maybe it is because so many parents, working students, and students with misconceptions about online learning were in the hybrid that it had a slightly shifted grade curve. The convenience was essential to some of these students, but that meant they were balancing a lot in their lives. If students who could not otherwise take the course were able to complete a requirement, I suppose that is a good thing.

Though I like the hybrid model, with both online and traditional meetings, it is clear that I need to consider that the students attracted to such a course might have different needs and expectations. A course with group projects is not like a computer programming, math, or statistics course. One of my students said his online econ course was great because he worked ahead. Group work online, in his view, was annoyingly complex.

I kept student comments, with their permission, and hope to write about this in a more formal way. Who takes a course affects the dynamics more than I anticipated. It might not be the format caused the reduced grades, but the student population attracted to the format.

It would be nice to discuss this with other teachers of hybrid courses.

The change I would make is to have more F2F meetings before switching to an online course. I think the students needed a greater sense of community that requires more time to develop online than in person. I would have six consecutive traditional courses, at a minimum, if group work is to remain a component of the class.

I admit, the social aspects are not "officially" part of a class on writing, but they are important to the future success of graduates.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Slowly Rebooting in 286 Mode

The lumbar radiculopathy, which sounds too much like "ridiculously" for me, hasn't faded completely. My left leg still cramps, tingles, and hurts with sharp pains. My mind remains cloudy, too, even as I stop taking painkillers for the back pain and a recent surgery.

Efforts to reboot and get back on track intellectually, physically, and emotionally are off to a slow, grinding start. It reminds me of an old 80286 PC, the infamously confused Intel CPU that wasn't sure what it was meant to be. And this was before the "SX" fiascos, which wedded 32-bit CPU cores with 16-bit connections. The 80286 was supposed to be able to multitask, but design flaws resulted in a first-generation that was useless to operating system vendors.

My back, my knees, my ankles are each making noises like those old computers.

If I haven't already lost you as a reader, the basic problem is that my mind cannot focus on one task for long without exhaustion and multitasking seems…

MarsEdit and Blogging

MarsEdit (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mailing posts to blogs, a practice I adopted in 2005, allows a blogger like me to store copies of draft posts within email. If Blogger, WordPress, or the blogging platform of the moment crashes or for some other reason eats my posts, at least I have the original drafts of most entries. I find having such a nicely organized archive convenient — much easier than remembering to archive posts from Blogger or WordPress to my computer.

With this post, I am testing MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software based on recent reviews, including an overview on 9to5Mac.

Composing posts an email offers a fast way to prepare draft blogs, but the email does not always work well if you want to include basic formatting, images, and links to online resources. Submitting to Blogger via Apple Mail often produced complex HTML with unnecessary font and paragraph formatting styles. Problems with rich text led me to convert blog entries to plaintext in Apple Mail and then format th…

Screenwriting Applications

Screenplay sample, showing dialogue and action descriptions. "O.S."=off screen. Written in Final Draft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A lot of students and aspiring writers ask me if you "must" use Final Draft or Screenwriter to write a screenplay. No. Absolutely not, unless you are working on a production. In which case, they own or your earn enough for Final Draft or Screenwriter and whatever budget/scheduling apps the production team uses.

I have to say, after trying WriterDuet I would use it in a heartbeat for a small production company and definitely for any non-profit, educational projects. No question. The only reason not to use it is that you must have the exclusive rights to a script... and I don't have those in my work.

WriterDuet is probably best free or low-cost option I have tested. It is very interesting. Blows away Celtx. The Pro version with off-line editing is cheaper than Final Draft or Screenwriter.

The Pro edition is a standalone, offline versio…