South Texas College’s Research and Analytical Services Department set out to study student success rates in a variety of settings and the results where surprising.
The team reviewed grades from students during the spring 2009 semester, pulling marks for students in traditional, distance learning and hybrid courses, which provides a mix of distance learning and traditional instruction. They found that overwhelmingly, students across all levels, in all kinds of classes, performed better in hybrid courses.
“At the heart of the study was to determine the effectiveness of hybrid instruction to determine its validity as a way to manage a booming student population,” said Dr. Brenda Cole, director of STC’s RAS Department. “We do not have the funds to build more buildings immediately and with a more than 20 percent increase in enrollment this fall, we need to find a way to better maximize our resources. We may have very well hit a gold mine in hybrid courses.”
STC’s Distance Learning Program began offering hybrid courses in fall 2006. The college’s hybrid course structure requires that a minimum of 30 percent and a maximum of 49 percent of instruction take place at one of the college’s five campuses. The rest of the instruction takes place online via Blackboard, making it a popular option for instructors who want to provide students more freedom in their studies.
“Hybrid classes are an innovative approach to learning, coupled with enthusiastic professors,” said Cynthia Garcia, STC 2009 graduate. “They are now becoming increasingly popular among working students because of their flexibility. In my own experience, hybrid classes have been my favorite because of the online tools made available through such as, PowerPoint, e-books, textbook videos, professor videos, tutorials, practice exams, and exam reviews. All of these great tools are available at your fingertips anywhere in the world you have access to a computer. However, flexibility and accessibility are not the only benefits; submitting assignments, quizzes, and tests online reduces the amount of paper used per student. Another benefit of hybrid classes is the fact that they offer the e-book online, reduces the book load that we have to carry around campus.”
Many researchers in the field, such as The University of Houston have theorized that hybrid courses are beneficial in that they are flexible, reduce class time, keep face to face interactions and allow a broader range of teaching methods to reach and engage students with various learning styles.
“Not all students learn the same way,” said Bryant Morrison, STC history instructor and veteran hybrid teaching instructor. “Students have different learning styles and the hybrid classes seem to address the issues that arise from this. When face-to-face, the instructor can alter his delivery to reach any students that are having difficulty, while the online component allows students to have control over their own time. Jobs, family, travel, and other scheduling conflicts can be better managed with the reduced seat time hybrid classes offer, but still allow for instructor-student interaction to ensure satisfactory completion of the course requirements.
“Also, the hybrids allow an easy solution to some of the concerns instructors speak of for online courses,” added Morrison, “namely identity of students performing the work, source of materials for student work, and verification that a student’s work is genuine. An added benefit is that hybrids can demand face-to-face exams whenever the instructor deems it appropriate.”
Based on its initial research, the college intends to further expand its studies of course presentation. In spring 2009, the college offered 43 hybrid courses, as opposed to 295 distance learning courses and 2,340 traditional courses. It hopes to increase hybrid instruction by 40 percent in five years, simultaneously recruiting and training a new wave of instructors for this budding teaching concept.
For more information about the research contact Dr. Brenda S. Cole, director of STC’s Research and Analytical Services Department at 956-872-5584.