An article published earlier this week by the Chronicle, “Tomorrow’s College,” prompted me to think more about how I am teaching my hybrid academic writing class this semester and the impact that the format has on students. Until now, I’ve really only been thinking about how my teaching has to change and how I’m trying to take advantage of technology to teach a blended course successfully. My thoughts are that the students in my hybrid classroom are learning new and different skills from the students in the traditional ENG 101 classroom
I’m confident that my students are learning to use different technologies, software platforms, and website tools to accomplish tasks in our hybrid class. In August, they had no idea that you could use Google for more than searching or email, and now they are adept at using Google docs and sites for classroom purposes. I’ve introduced them to Mendeley for organizing their files for the literature review, though I didn’t make it required for them to get it (more on this soon, with an update on grading with Mendeley). Obviously, they’ve mastered Moodle, the learning management system that our school uses. Next semester, I’d like to show the students even more ways to use technology to help them accomplish their school work. Some possibilities: blogs (either reading or writing them, or both), Twitter, and Reddit or Diigo. Any other suggestions of useful technologies/software/websites that I should consider for the spring?
This is not to say that students in the traditional classroom don’t use these tools (because I know that they do), but that the tools are embedded into the format of the course. I’d like to think that this benefits them – they are learning that the Internet is useful for things other than Facebook. I think that’s a win!
I’d also really like to think that being in a hybrid class for their first semester of college encourages them to develop the self-motivation necessary to succeed in future courses. Again, that’s not to say that traditional class formats don’t – but a hybrid class forces it on the students from the get-go. If they don’t do the work online and turn it in, twice a week for every week of the semester, they’re “absent” and would eventually fail (due to the First Year Writing program’s attendance policy, which holds all students equally accountable for attendance). It’s painfully obvious when students leave work to the last minute, but I’ve noticed that many of the students turn in the work up to a full day before it’s due. Those assignments are less likely to be rushed and are unequivocally stronger responses than those that are posted the minute before the deadline. I’m not a social scientist, but that’s correlation, people.
So, is hybrid (or blended) format the future of college teaching? I don’t know. But, it’s here, and I’ve been asked to continue teaching in that format for the spring, so I’m going to embrace it and use the opportunity not only to diversify my teaching portfolio and technology repertoire, but also to show my students how to use technology and Internet tools to help them succeed while they’re here.