Face2Face, Online and Hybrid Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning in a face to face, or traditional, classroom presents different benefits and challenges than hybrid and online teaching and learning.

 Face to face learning allows teachers and students the opportunity to get to know one another and allows teachers to “read” students to determine if they are comfortable with content.  Students have the opportunity to ask questions during or after the teacher conducts a lesson. Teachers have the ability to quickly determine if students understand by asking questions and can use the art of questioning to help students discover answers to problems.  This face-to-face time is very beneficial in most circumstances.  The challenge of this method of teaching is that it can be very difficult to get all students, depending on class size among other factors, to participate.  Therefore the teacher may incorrectly gauge the level of understanding in a class.  In addition, depending on the age or maturity of the students, learning can be hampered by classmates, sometimes to a great extent.  Face-to-face teaching requires a huge amount of time, effort and skill to manage behaviors that can arise no matter how engaging the lesson design. The teaching technique from the web site Merlot Pedagogy that seems well suited to face to face learning is active learning.  The web site defines active learning as, “…anything that students do in a classroom other than merely passively listening to an instructor’s lecture” (2013).  With students together in a classroom, it is easy for student to work on activities with one another and to interact with the instructor.  These activities can help to clarify a student’s understanding of a topic both for themselves and for the teacher so that he or she can make adjustments to their lesson in a timely manner. This requires a great amount of flexibility on the part of the teacher, which can also be challenging.  
Online teaching and learning is what most people would consider the opposite of face to face learning.  Because students likely never see one another, nor their teacher, in person, very different benefits and challenges arise.  Teachers must put in extra effort if they are to get to know their students by emailing, tweeting, using traditional or video enhanced chat programs that must be scheduled at a time when learners, who may be in completely different parts of the world, can “meet”.  Instructors may, “…require students to create Student Webpages in which they describe themselves and post pictures…After doing these exercises, online students may actually know more about their classmates than face to face students” (Bates and Watson, 2008, p. 43).  While all of this can go a long way toward developing a report with and between students, it is not the same as meeting face to face where more natural conversation can occur and body language can also be “read” (video chats tend to focus on a person’s face and the person can usually see their own face on the screen.  Not a very natural interaction). One benefit of online learning is that the learner has time to compose his or her response or contribution to a class discussion and may therefore be able to contribute more effectively than if that student were distracted by the comments of his or her classmates or too anxious to contribute in a public forum.  Another challenge that teaching online poses is that teachers cannot “read” a class to determine if a lesson or instruction is “sticking”.   Teachers cannot intervene as quickly when students are headed in the wrong direction. The teaching technique from Merlot Pedagogy that seems best suited to teaching and learning online is discussion.  The web site says that, “Engaging students in discussion deepens their learning and motivation by propelling them to develop their own views and hear their own voices.  A good environment for interaction is the first step in encouraging students to talk” (2013).  

Considering that online discussions are typically written, it very much allows students to “hear their own voice” (figuratively speaking, of course).  Students have time to reflect on material and compose their response to a question or problem carefully and can determine how others react to their particular point of view via responses to their post.  In an online course, not only is every student given the opportunity to contribute, but they are typically required to do so.  Therefore, the conversation is likely not to be dominated by any single student or group of students.  In addition, “…students can no longer hide behind their more vocal peers.  Regular one-on-one interactions and discussions with an adult strengthen…students’ communication abilities.  Other improved student competencies include organizational skills and self-initiative as students take responsibility for their own learning” (Bonk, 2009, p.113).  While the internet is often criticized because it offers the ability to hide behind anonymity,or maybe pseudo-anonymity, this may be beneficial in an academic setting where some students may not feel confident enough to voice ideas or opinions in person.  This effect might vary depending on the age and maturity of the participants.  As one student quoted in The World is Open said, “I find myself writing so much more than you do at traditional universities” (Bonk, 2009, p.120). 
While hybrid teaching and learning may seem to offer the best of both worlds, it may also have challenges that may make it significantly more difficult than the other two forms.  Although the teacher and students physically meet for some portion of the class, this may make drawing boundaries more difficult.  Teachers have to alter the way that they teach the face to face portion, deciding on what lectures, activities or discussions are best suited for the face to face portion of the class.  Although teachers of hybrid classes might be able to develop a report with students, and students with one another, they also have to blend this relationship with an online one which tends to have a different “feel”.  One benefit of learning in a hybrid class is that the online portion may allow for more personal attention than a strictly face to face class, depending on the size of the class among other factors.  “Despite arguments to the contrary, online learning can also offer individualized feedback to students in high-enrollment face-to-face classes where there is a lack of personal connection with other students or the instructor” (Bonk, 2009, p.117).  In this way, blended learning may allow for increased one-on-one time even though it is not face to face.  Students and teachers will need to reconcile what they do or say online with the person that is sitting in front of them.  Would this face to face time reduce the chance that students will treat one another unprofessionally during the online portion of the class or would it increase these chances?  Would the effect be different for each person?  The teaching technique from Merlot Pedagogy that seems best suited to hybrid learning is learner-centered teaching where, “The student assumes the responsibility for learning while the instructor is responsible for facilitating the learning.  Thus, the power in the classroom shifts to the student” (2013).  This method of teaching, puts, “…the responsibility for learning on the students (by assigning) them the readings, projects and homework and hold(ing) them responsible for learning the material” (Bates and Watson, 2008, p.40).  Although this might seem like an obvious choice for strictly online learning, I think that the whole style of teaching needs to change in a hybrid class in order to make the online portion valuable.  Teaching hybrid and online classes “…calls for a shift in the academic role from the intellect-on-stage toward a learning catalyst” (Bates and Watson, 2008, p.38).  The students in a hybrid class must make the mental shift from expecting the teacher to tell them what they need to know to the teacher supporting their own discovery.  The teacher has to be there as a guide rather than a leader.  “In guided discover strategy, students learn on their own by observing the phenomena, asking questions, allowing time for inquiry, or conducting activities and experiments followed by feedback.  All the while, the professors are supplying appropriate levels of guidance” (Bates and Watson, 2008, p.40).  Determining what level of guidance is appropriate may be the biggest challenge of teaching. The article The Hybrid Online Model: Good Practice may be helpful for those transitioning from teaching face to face to hybrid teaching.
I plan on creating my learning activity as a hybrid learning activity mostly because I do not foresee high schools moving to an online only model for some time, if ever.   I think that this is a more difficult model and therefore may choose to change it to an all online version before the end of the course.  I wonder if anyone had an online or hybrid experience as a teenager?  Does this seem like a model that could benefit all students or only the intrinsically motivated?
Bates, Dr. Constance and Watson, Dr. Maida.  (2008).  Re-learning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses. The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 13(1), 38-44. 
Bonk, C. J., (2009). The world is open: How technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 
Martyn, Margle.  (2003).  The hybrid online model: Good practice.  Educause Quarterly.  18-23.
Merlot Pedagogy.  (2013).  Teaching Strategies.  Retrieved from http://pedagogy.merlot.org/TeachingStrategies.html 

2 thoughts on “Face2Face, Online and Hybrid Teaching and Learning

  1. Great post! I unfortunately never experienced a hybird educational setting in my high school career, and I haven’t heard of many in today’s schools either. I did, however, have a hybrid experience during my undergrad, and abosultely loved it!! Its funny because, I just realized this was a hybrid experience during this unit!! All students in the class were responsible for attending online lectures and reading all online materials, but would also be required to participate in a Face to Face discussion. I felt like I learned so much from that class, which says a lot because it was an anthropology class, which does not usually draw my attention. The face to face discussion motivated me to retain as much information as possible and create my own opinions during each week. It was a great transition into online learning for me!!

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