Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blended, Flipped, and Hybrid Courses for HBCUs

Last updated: Friday 10/11/13 @ 2:03 pm
Although online courses and programs have attracted the lion's share of the media's attention in the last few years, blended courses will provide far more cost-effective investment opportunities for an HBCU's limited resources for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the development a wide array of blended courses for its on-campus students will provide an HBCU with a firm foundation for its subsequent development of a wide array online programs for off-campus students.

Blended Courses 
A blended course delivers at least 30 percent of its content via the Internet (Babson-Pearson-Sloan-C's definition). The literal percentage isn't what's important because the goal of a blend is to make substantial use of information technologies to provide more effective learning environments for students. 
  • Converting face-to-race courses to blended formats is a non-controversial aspiration because there is growing evidence that blended courses can provide the best of both worlds. Blended courses enable instructors to combine the high-touch, personal contact of traditional face-to-face classes with the high-tech efficiency of online instruction.

    In other words, blended formats can not only meet the needs of an HBCU's better prepared students; they can also provide more effective learning opportunities for the academically at-risk students for whom HBCUs have maintained a substantial historical commitment.
  • It is also relatively easy to convert traditional face-to-face courses to blended formats -- once an instructor receives some basic training in appropriate technologies and makes a firm commitment to use them. For example, a blended course might place the following kinds of learning objects on the course Website: syllabus, course notes, some of the required readings, links to other required readings, links to optional readings, interactive quizzes, and supplementary videos of discussions of selected topics by the instructor and/or other subject matter experts.
Controversy arises when higher and higher blends are proposed. A faculty member might agree that converting his or her course to a 30 percent blend would result in a better course overall, but might become concerned about a 50 percent blend, and might strongly oppose a 70 percent or higher blend. National surveys suggest faculty in applied sciences and professional programs will tend to be more excited than fearful about 100 percent blends, i.e., fully online courses; whereas faculty in other programs will tend to be more fearful than excited by fully online courses.

Indeed, success in fully online and high level blended courses requires that students have stronger motivation, greater capacity to study alone, better time management skills, and a stronger grasp of math and language fundamentals than lower leve blends ==> fully online and highly blended courses are appropriate offerings for an HBCU's better prepared students, but they are inappropriate for its academically at-risk students.

In the context of the preceding considerations, it is somewhat surprising that HBCU's have not made a more substantial commitment to the development of blended courses. For example, the 2013 edition of the DLL's survey of blended and online degree programs at HBCUs found that only one HBCU, Fayetteville State University, NC, had launched a formal program to convert a substantial percentage of its traditional, face-to-face courses to blended formats.

Flipped Courses
"Flipped courses" are a particular kind of blend in which instructors make videos of their classroom lectures and/or use online presentation packages produced by online publishers (e.g. Pearson's MyMath Lab), then "flip" the classes by requiring the students to engage the online materials as homework. The instructors devote subsequent  classroom sessions to Q&A, problem-solving, demonstrations, and other activities that can enhance their students' understanding of the topics presented in the lecture videos. Particularly encouraging results have been reported for black students in remedial math programs in this format, especially for those in a the lab-styled, flipped courses called "emporiums"

Hybrid Courses
Although most institutions use the terms "blended" and "hybrid" as synonyms, some HBCUs identify "hybrids" as blended courses that use efficient eLearning technologies to cover the same topics in less class time. For example, material that was covered in three face-to-face classroom sessions per week might be taught with comparable effectiveness in two classroom sessions per week or one session per week.

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