Five Things You Should Know About… Hybrid Learning at UW Bothell

By Sara Frizelle and Ian Porter


Dr. Singh teaches Computer Science at a local public university. She is a passionate teacher who values the time with her students in class. She is able to respond to questions in ways that are just not possible online. She is able to help them work through problems in the Coding required for in her introductory programming course. When the chair of her department asked her to transform her introductory programming class into a hybrid course, she had serious concerns. “How will I keep the students engaged and show my passion for the topic with Web-based tools?” she asked. “Won’t this take a lot more time than my normal class?” With strong reservations, she decided to give it a try.

She worked with an educational technologist and staff from the Center for Learning and Teaching on her campus to design the class. For the first class, the design process took significantly more time than if she would have taught the traditional course. However, there were aspects of the hybrid course format that she hadn’t considered before. She realized that she could have students submit their programming assignments online and give them feedback using the video comment function in the course management system. She could have the students post their code in a discussion board and get debugging advice from fellow students. Most importantly, she still had a significant amount of time with them in her classroom, which she used for high impact teaching practices that are best done face-to-face with students. It wasn’t a perfect class the first time she taught it; there were hiccups and sometimes she had to focus on the technologies more than she would have liked. But, she realized that hybrid classes still allowed her to engage her students interpersonally, while allowing her to take advantage of web-based tools that expand learning opportunities for her students. She plans to give it another try.

What is Hybrid Learning? How does it work?

The term “hybrid”, a term used interchangeably with “blended learning”, is a model of course design that combines face-to-face class time with online and/or out-of-class course work. For UW Bothell specifically, hybrid courses are defined as those where 25% to 50% of the traditional face-to-face class time is replaced with online and/or out-of-class work.

For example, a course that traditionally meets twice a week face-to-face would instead meet once a week face-to-face, with the rest of the course activities online. UWB faculty can replace up to 50% of face-to-face class time with online activities and work without needing to go through the curriculum review process.

Who’s doing it?

Nineteen faculty from six different departments across campus have completed the Hybrid Course Development Institute offered by UWB. To date, more than twenty courses have been redesigned into the hybrid course format.

What are the benefits?

Hybrid courses provide new avenues for student expression (in written or multimedia forms) and also allow for sustained collaboration among students and faculty. There are a number of other factors that make hybrid learning attractive to UW Bothell students & faculty.
Students benefit by:

  • More opportunities to interact with course materials and resources, leading to greater engagement and enhanced opportunities for success
  • Greater flexibility in course scheduling, a boon to UW Bothell’s high percentage of working and commuting students

Faculty benefit by:

  • Enhanced pedagogical practices as a result of redesigning the learning experience
  • Better online pedagogical and technology skills while still retaining the valued face-to-face interaction with students
  • More flexible schedule and better ability to work from different locations (even more beneficial to those faculty who share an office or don’t have an office)

What are the downsides?

A successful hybrid necessitates a full course redesign; requiring faculty to re-examine their entire course, including the course goals and objectives. In addition, faculty need to redesign learning activities in order to effectively integrate the face-to face meetings with the online activities; and they may need to learn how to facilitate online activities, such as discussions and small group activities.

Hybrids also require the faculty member to work with their students to ensure they understand what a hybrid is, how the course time will be divided and prepare them to use the online tools.

Where is it going?

In addition, a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article highlighted a survey conducted by Eduventures of 20,000 current and prospective students. Survey results indicated that nationally, students have indicated a strong desire for more hybrid courses and that colleges aren’t keeping up with student demand.

Here at UWB, our students have mirrored these results. In a recent survey (Winter, 2011) of UWB Nursing students taking hybrid courses, over 81% agreed or strongly agreed that they would be interested in taking another hybrid course.