Monthly Archives: December 2011

The First Day – Preparing Students for Hybrid Learning

This is a guest post authored by ICC English Faculty, Jen Hopp. If you have virtual campus/online learning information or ideas to share and would like to write for the 5th campus blog, contact Patrice at

The First Day – Preparing Students for Hybrid Learning

On the first day of my first hybrid class, I asked, “How many of you know that this is a hybrid course?”

Two people raised their hands.  Most of the others looked panicked.  I had to take a second to swallow my disappointment. 

You see, I’d hoped that students would hear of the format, consider all of the positive aspects, and sign up with enthusiasm, knowing their schedule and learning style would be a perfect match for the hybrid delivery style.

Okay . . . I’ll pause while you laugh . . . 

When we first started hybrids, most students who enrolled in them did so because the hybrid section was the only one open two days before school started.  I can’t complain because it got me a classroom full of students to experiment on (umm . . . you didn’t read that).  Now, after six semesters teaching hybrids, I find that most students know what they signed up for.  Do they understand exactly what hybrid means?  No, but I can work with that.

In the time I’ve spent wrangling students into hybrid readiness, I’ve discovered that the biggest hurdle to jump on day one is the issue of work load.  For example, we know that student perception of an online course can be misinformed, at best; many students think online classes are easier with less work and less commitment.  In reality, online learning can be more challenging because of student self-motivation problems as well as the absence of face-to-face student/instructor interaction; since hybrids are half online, we’re working with those same issues, plus we have to get them to actually come to class meetings.

A common hybrid student attitude is “Great!  Half the work!!”  Combine that attitude with a Film 110 course, where some students think they’re going to watch movies for a free A, and you can imagine the challenge.  The solution?  Students need to know that they’re going to do just as much work in your hybrid as in any other course.  I advise you to say the following mantra ever so bluntly: “Mama’s not the maid!”  No, wait, wrong one.  Try this one: “Delivery style doesn’t change the work load; it only changes where you do the work.”

I like lists.  Here’s my list for getting hybrid students ready to learn:

  • Explain that they’re going to do the same amount of work but in a different way (insert mantra here).
  • Give them a clear, super-organized syllabus that lists not only what’s going to happen in class but what they need to do online between class meetings.  Some of your hybrid students will be highly organized people themselves, and they’ll appreciate this.  The less organized may learn something from your über-organization.
  • Advise them to use (or develop) some serious time management skills (i.e. “If you don’t have a planner, get one now!”)
  • Spend time introducing them to Blackboard and showing them how the online class is laid out.  This will allay fears.
  • Announce:  “If you ignore the online portion, you’ll fail.  If you don’t come to class, you’ll fail.”
  • Follow through on the above threat by assigning points properly.  If they see from the get-go that both the work load and the point load are evenly distributed between the live and the online classroom, they’ll know it’s all for real.

I’m sure most of us, in all of our classes, clearly lay out the structure on the first day.  However, in a hybrid course, it’s absolutely essential to get everyone on the same page with clear explanations and expectations.  Those who signed up for the course knowing it’s a hybrid will be expecting a break down.  Those who didn’t realize that the class is hybrid may very well be sporting that deer-in-the-headlights look.  In either case, the best gift I can give my students the first day of any class is structure: “Yes, I’m in charge; yes, I know what I’m doing; yes, you can trust me to help you through this learning process.”  And I’ve found that the more organized I am BEORE the students walk through the door, the more I can concentrate on their learning needs once they’re in the classroom, whether that be a physical one or a virtual one.  Thoughts?