Friday, April 10, 2020

Hybrid for Fall 2020

Matt Dean wrote about his concerns for institutions of higher ed starting the Fall term of 2020. He suggested that a hybrid model might be something to consider. The experience of Augsburg University may be useful. I led the team of academic and tech support staff that implemented a move of all of Augsburg's weekend college and graduate courses to a hybrid format from a previously face to face format. That work is described in this paper  which was named a Best Paper at the 2014 HLC Conference and in this book chapter which I don't think is available electronically.

A couple of points from Augsburg's experience that are worth noting are:

Faculty consensus is critical. It took Augsburg the better part of a couple of years to come to a consensus that moving to a hybrid format for the weekend and graduate courses was the way to go. It would be possible to do it more quickly, but the effort will be difficult without a strong consensus of faculty and staff.

Leadership is also important. A move like this won't succeed without a firm commitment to support it from all levels of the highest leadership. And, leadership needs to be in it for the long term; not as a short-term fix. There be will a powerful pull even after consensus is reached by faculty to revert to 'the way we've always done it, "the right way" ' when difficulties arise. And, they will arise.

Technological infrastructure needs to be firmly in place. This mostly just costs money, but it's also an issue of the will to get it done. This includes, WiFi, devices, and all of the necessary software.

And, maybe most importantly, a plan to provide significant levels of faculty professional development and support for the transition will be crucial. One of the biggest hurdles will be getting consensus about the software and platforms to use. Initially, it will be better to have everyone do it the same way and use the same platform. Learning management systems work when they are properly supported with professional development. Because an institution of higher ed is comprised of a lot of people with PhDs, there will be lots of opinions about how to do it differently and plenty of people exerting 'academic freedom' in all kinds of ways. That's why the first point about consensus is so critical.

It will be useful to keep an open mind about the specific model of hybrid. Augsburg used a biweekly model for most classes, but the low residency model used for the graduate creative writing program could be a useful model for lots of courses. That model consisted of a week on campus at the beginning of the term and a week at the end of the term. Variations of that should be strongly considered for as many courses as possible.  Lab intensive courses will be the most logistically tricky. An attitude of adventure and experimentation will come in handy.

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