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CC- Southern California rolls out pilot hybrid course

Cambridge College Faculty George L. Hicks, MBA
Cambridge College Faculty George L. Hicks, MBA

Cambridge College offered its first hybrid course in California during the fall 2014 term. The course used for this pilot hybrid offering was “EED 622 Ethical Dilemmas for the Twenty-first Century.” It began on Saturday, October 4, 2014. This hybrid course was offered in two stages. The first stage consisted of a 15 hour face-to-face module offered on Saturday, October 4th and Sunday, October 5th. The face-to-face module was followed by the second stage of this course, which consisted of five weekly 4.5 hour modules. These five modules were offered entirely online. This hybrid class ended after the total 37.5 class hours had been completed on November 9, 2014.

Several colleges/universities have offered online and/or hybrid classes for many years. Students have commented that they benefit from such courses because of the flexibility that they bring. Online courses can provide asynchronous formats, in which students may view the site, obtain their lessons, participate in discussions, and upload work on their own time. The need to meet in a specific place at a specific time is completely eliminated. This format is very beneficial for busy working adults.

Other students have complained about the online format, expressing that having face-to-face contact is very important. Such students value having an instructor in the classroom with them, and being able to communicate with other students face-to-face. Comments have been made that online classes are impersonal and do not allow for in-person communication. Some expressed that they do not do well in such environments.

Cambridge College made a great choice in offering classes in the hybrid format. This format allows for both face-to-face and online communication. According to Rebecca Heimel, Cambridge College’s Coordinator of Extended Learning, “The College has been offering online, hybrid, and blended learning for several years through our own internal platform on MyCC. The Spring 2014 term was the first that these courses were offered through Moodle and fall 2014 was the first hybrid offering in California.” Moodle is the online platform that Cambridge adopted for the new hybrid classes. These courses were offered in California and Puerto Rico during the fall 2014 term.

During the first Southern California hybrid course face-to-face meetings, the instructor and students got to know each other and communicate with each other in person. Standard and expected in-class assignments, lectures, and activities were given. Online expectations and fears were discussed, and agreements as to how to deal with problems, should they occur, were made.

After the 15 hour face-to-face weekend module ended, the online modules began. There were some challenges at first. The most significant challenge involved the inability for students to upload documents to the site. Initially this challenge was managed by allowing emailed assignments. With a minor change to settings at the site this problem was resolved and students were able to upload their papers. The upside was the ability for the instructor to view and grade papers at the site, providing timely feedback to the students.

The online discussions made up for some of the missed face-to-face contact. The students seemed very responsive to this component of the online modules. The discussions were very productive, as students commented on the weekly topics and each other’s posts. The professional life and work experience of the students made the online discussions very beneficial to the class. After a short while, it seemed as though no one missed the face-to-face component.

This hybrid class format seems to be the best of both worlds: It provided the face-to-face contact that many students and professors desire. It provided an online asynchronous component that allowed total flexibility in terms of when students could complete their work, where they could complete their work, and how much time they spent during any one given session. This pilot hybrid course offering was a true success. Cambridge plans to continue/increase the use of such courses in the future. Future courses of this type should prove to be an important asset for students, the college, and professors. The author is proud to have been part of this process.

George Hicks is an adjunct professor teaching at the Southern California campus on its management programs.