Preparing Faculty to Teach Online and Blended/Hybrid Courses

As the demand for online and blended/hybrid courses increases, necessary technologies rapidly morph and faculty members require more training and development for this new technology.  While the use of some time-management techniques have been shown to have some effect on faculty members’ ability to better handle the load, very little research specifically investigates how faculty members teaching online and blended/hybrid courses handle the often time-consuming process of keeping courses on the cutting edge (Whalen, 2009).   One study shows that faculty members tend to shy away from teaching blended courses because they need more time to master the instruction’s complexity, to plan and organize, adjust to the role, and learn and adopt the new technologies (Ocak, 2011).  In addition, faculty members in this study reported a lack of institutional support and a lack of effective communication to get an online or blended/hybrid course started (Ocak, 2011).  With so many potential issues with adding online and blended/hybrid classes to a course load, teachers must be receive additional training and support, including technical skills, pedagogical awareness, and time management practices,  (Gonzalez, 2009; Ocak, 2011; Whalen, 2009).

     Time management practices can include: work-life balance planning, using technology appropriately, delegation, prioritizing, and goal setting (Whalen, 2009).  Having additional support and training in these areas can greatly aide a faculty member’s transition from a traditional classroom to an online or blended/hybrid environment.  Some suggestions for adding support in these areas includes using email that give tips to faculty members either planning or teaching an online or blended/hybrid course(s) (Whalen, 2009).  While emails can offer support, more formal training from the university will increase faculty members’ views of having institutional support and more effective communication with the institution.  A formal training can also provide opportunities for questions and concerns to be addressed and resolved as much as possible.  In addition, while blended/hybrid  courses give teachers a great deal of freedom to help students learn, it won’t be obvious to them how they can spend their time in an optimal way; proper time management training can help alleviate this (Hernandez, 2011). 

     Training in time management can help solve some of faculty members’ frequent fears about teaching online or blended/hybrid courses.  Planning and organizing can be easily addressed as an extension of time management, which brings opportunities for better course designs and more effective learning.  Adjusting to the role of teaching online or blended/hybrid courses can also become a portion of the time management training, as faculty learn the balance required from them and ways to manage the new role effectively.  

Faculty also need to be trained to conceive teaching as a student-focused endeavor to help them frame e-learning as an opportunity for them to support “quality learning experiences” (Gonzalez, 2009).  Teachers with a teaching focus may tend to compartmentalize face-to-face and online learning, instead of integrating them to amplify or personalize learning.  In fact, without a learning-focused approach, online and blended/hybrid courses will likely do little to enhance student learning (Gonzalez, 2009).  Faculty preparing to teach online or blended/hybrid courses need to be introduced to a student-focused approach for their course(s) and be impressed upon on how important this approach will be for not only their students’ experience, but also for their own perception of and experience with online and blended/hybrid teaching.  Such pedagogical awareness will bring greater ease to the transition into faculty members’ new role and help to plan and organize the course(s) more effectively.

Technical training will also help prepare faculty members for teaching online and blended/hybrid courses, as well as maintain competency for those already teaching these courses.  Because technology changes so frequently, new software and hardware become available almost daily that could enhance the learning experience in an online or blended/hybrid course.  Institutions can offer greater support to their faculty by giving regular training on what technologies can be effectively used with the equipment available.  Such training will also increase faculty members’ confidence in their ability to teach courses in this way (Ocak, 2011).  Proper technical training will also help with time management as faculty can more competently choose technologies that will work best with their class design.

Although being new to teaching online and blended/hybrid courses can be very intimidating for faculty members, much can be done to help them be prepared and more comfortable.  An institution must offer support through training in time management, changing faculty members’ pedagogical approach, and adequate technical training.

References

Gonzalez, C (2009). Teaching in ‘blended’ learning environments: How are conceptions of teaching and eTeaching associated? Proceedings ascilite Auckland, 2009.

Hernandez, A (2011). Blended learning’s impact on teacher development. Clayton Christensen Institute, July 11, 2011. Retrieved from <http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blended-learnings-impact-on-teacher-development/&gt;.

Ocak, MA (2011). Whay are faculty members not teaching blended courses? Insights from faculty members. Computers & Education: 56(3): 689-699.

Whalen, MA (2009). Is time on their side? Exploring faculty time management in online and blended/hybrid higher education. Boston College Dissertations: 3387399.
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11 comments

  1. I’ve not taught hybrid yet (though developing a class for summer) but having taught online I can attest to the extra time commitment. Students tend to feel online courses are easier and faculty who do not teach online may also feel their online peers somehow have it easier. I think the opposite is true. With F2F you know when you have to be there, run office hours and only have to worry about the administrative aspects (grading and such). With online you are “on” nearly all day, every day. You have to constantly check email and discussion posts, and respond, keep a course alive by posting useful announcements (such as links to relevant articles which require time to find), and the course development process tends to be ongoing and changing each semester.

    Regarding blended and hybrid, I think it’s probably good to try and keep those terms separate. While I’m not sure there is anything officially published, hybrid tends to refer to courses that have some percentage of F2F time moved online. Instead of meeting 3 times a week, a hybrid class might only meet once or twice. Courses are usually developed by asking the question how much seat time will be moved online. Blended courses tend to be fully face to face classes that use technology to enhance the experience. For example, a F2F class might have online discussions via a blog or learning system like Blackboard which are started online but carry over into the class to build and clarify. Collaborative projects might involve some out of class time facilitated via tech (of course students could meet face to face as well).

    1. Thanks for the clarification. In the articles I read, I did not find anything defining them specifically, so that helped. I assume that a hybrid course can also employ blended approaches? I like the idea of a hybrid course with blended activities from a student perspective, but from a teacher perspective, I have to admit, I think I would be afraid of the amount of time for preparation. If it does take so much more time for faculty to teach online or hybrid courses, how are they appropriately compensated? It seems time versus pay could become extremely off balance.

      1. Again, my word isn’t law here, but I think you can look at the levels of integration as a continuum from blended (100% F2F but using tech and online tools) to Hybrid (less than 100% F2F but still using tech in various ways) to fully online. You might check out “how to design and teach a hybrid course” by Jay Caulfield if you are interested in this. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on Blended, but I think anything happening in a hybrid in a blended environment as well.

        Regarding time and compensation, no, online instructors are not paid more to my knowledge and just as in F2F courses instructors can go out of their way or the bare minimum. Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not that online instructors work so much more, maybe F2F instructors aren’t working enough. I know many would say they work plenty hard enough but I’m thinking more about averages. In other words, the effort made to create a quality online experience is probably similar to the effort needed to make a quality F2F class which, in the 21st century, should almost certainly be a blended experience.

        1. Yes, I think you’re right that a lot of F2F instructors aren’t doing enough. I actually think that research demands are a big part of the problem, where focus should be on student learning instead. I know that this is an institutional problem in general with higher education depending on the school. I’ve had F2F instructors on both sides, ones who just don’t care because research is their baby, and others who live to see their students learn.

  2. At my institution, full-timers receive a small extra stipend for teaching all-online, but there is nothing extra for hybrid. So far, we get the stipend every semester we have an online course, although that tends to reward continued efforts versus rewarding big up-front development.

    I fully enjoy the stipend, but it does create tension between full-timers who teach online and those who don’t. It tends to devalue the non-onliners, and the stipend isn’t tied to continuous improvement.

    I don’t know which type of teaching takes more effort and time, though. It seems like teaching is a 24/7 job, no matter what form it takes!

    1. While I think it is nice that institutions out there give stipends for online courses, I definitely see how it could devalue non-online faculty. In society as a whole, it seems that degrees from a brick and mortar school are valued more than online degrees, but when it just comes to classes here and there within a brick and mortar institution, it’s interesting that online classes are valued enough that an institution will give a stipend. It seems that there is a disconnect somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have a problem with many online degrees, depending on the field of study…It’s just an interesting observation to me.

  3. Do you think that it is harder to get faculty to teach blended/hybrid courses more than online courses? why or why not? In my distance education course, we studied that a major barrier to distance education is that it is time consuming. I think that this would deter more faculty from teaching hybrid courses as it is both face to face and online. I would assume that hybrid courses would be more time consuming than just teaching online courses. I agree that providing technical training would show institutional support for both online and hybrid courses. Institutional support may encourage faculty to teach these type of courses. Training instructors on student-centered approaches is very important for online and hybrid courses and might help with the instructors being so intimidated. What do you feel is the most important aspect of training when it comes to online or hybrid courses? why?

    1. I actually have no idea if it is more difficult to get faculty to teach hybrid or online courses, but I can see why faculty would be even more averse to hybrid courses. Intuitively, they seem like they would be more time consuming than online courses, like you pointed out. I think the most important aspect of training for online and hybrid courses is to drill in the concept of having it centered on student learning. If that is put forth as completely necessary, hopefully, faculty will design their courses with that in mind. I think this is a good foundation. An instructor can have all of the tech. skills needed, but if the course isn’t centered on student learning, the course won’t have much of a point. Yet, if an instructor is committed to making the course centered on student learning, even if they aren’t necessarily tech savvy, the technology side can usually be figured out.

      1. I think Jim is right; hybrid saves a little time because you don’t have to work so hard “offloading” stuff that can be handled in a three-minute conversation. Take citation for example; it’s really hard to teach in a fully online class and requires a lot of work. In-person, I can quickly sit down with folks and show them how to do it. (Not that it isn’t still tedious and hard to learn!) However, in a hybrid I don’t have to do all the annoying online part. I take the parts that work in person best and keep them there; then, I take the parts that work best online and put them there.

        There’s only one big problem, though. For whatever reason, my students don’t check in for the online part. It just slips out of their minds. Most students fail my hybrids because they forget the online piece!

        Any ideas on how to improve online attendance in a hybrid class?

        1. What do you have students do in the online part? I think the nature of the online tasks will have a lot of impact on what students do or don’t do. I have taught the same class F2F for a long time but I use a blended approach so my hybrid version will be very similar with just a bit less F2F time. Most of my students do the online parts. For example, most of the discussions happen online with a recap, follow-up and clarification in class. Not doing the online discussions tends to result in being confused so I stress the importance of being in the discussions. My courses tend to be project based as well and I use the online environment to talk about these and have students share their creations. I also share a lot of course information via online so students learn pretty quickly that not following along can be detrimental. I think the key is to make the online experience integral and meaningful to the course. Not that it’s not in your case, but I think a lot of it comes down to the nature of the online component. If it’s police work (e.g. quizzes over reading assignments to make sure they read) students are more likely to tune out as they don’t see the value. Of course, if my first hybrid is a bust then it’s back to the drawing board 🙂

    2. I’ll let you know at the end of the summer after I teach my first hybrid class. Personally, I expect it to be a bit less time consuming than fully online due to the opportunities to address the class as a whole once a week.

      As for finding faculty to teach I think the process is driven by faculty so classes only become online or hybrid when an instructor decides to offer it. I’m sure some courses are offered online and then they need to find faculty to teach, but I suspect it was originally because a faculty member wanted to offer it – just like my hybrid class which was my idea rather than an institutional request.

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