Hybrids: An education alternative

Dr. Susan Tourville
by T.J. Guese

With strong traditional and extended campuses as well as a successful Online Campus, what's next for Columbia College? Hybrid courses — a blend of in-seat and online courses that Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for Academic Affairs, says will become an important new delivery system for the college. Smith formed a committee in fall 2008 to study how the hybrid course concept could be implemented.

Hybrid courses fill the gap for students who want in-class interaction but have obligations that would keep them from attending a regular evening course, says Mike Perkins, instructor of Human Services and a member of Smith's committee. "I feel that [hybrids] are just connecting the dots," Perkins says. "We have a good Online Campus, we have a good bricks and mortar campus, but we need something for the student in between that. The time had come for hybrid courses."

The committee defined hybrid courses at the college as 50 percent of class time on campus and 50 percent online. It planned a pilot project to test the hybrid concept after reviewing courses that are offered at various campuses and considering which would be the most likely to work in both the in-seat and online settings. Instructors were chosen based on their experience teaching both online and in-seat courses as well as the currency of that instruction.

Eric Cunningham, associate dean of Adult Higher Education, also served on the hybrid course committee. He says that many of the Adult Higher Education campuses use a one-night-per-week, five-hours-per-night course delivery system. This system is a tough teaching and learning scenario. It can be difficult for both faculty members and students, Cunningham says. Hybrid courses may provide a way to eliminate the five-hour format because the face time will be reduced by half. Students would instead only meet for one night a week for two and a half hours.

The hybrid concept will be tested at the Evening Campus in Columbia as well as the St. Louis and Fort Leonard Wood campuses. The Evening Campus will offer five courses while two courses will be offered in St. Louis and Fort Leonard Wood. Courses include CISS, religion, math, English, psychology and management, ranging in academic levels 100 to 300.

Perkins taught one hybrid course, HUMS 335 Working with Groups, in Summer 2008. Perkins says the course lent itself to the hybrid format. "First of all, the students really liked it," Perkins says. "They liked all the positive aspects of the online format and all the positive aspects of the in-seat. They felt they had the best of both worlds."

Since March registration began in mid-February, the college has logged 34 total enrollments at the home campus and 13 enrollments at the St. Louis and Fort Leonard Wood campuses.

This article originally appeared in the Columbian, the college's student paper.