Instructor considerations in delivering hybrid courses
Important issues to address
The following advice builds on the research by Zane Berge on instructor roles in online courses.
- Express empathy, and consider having a way for students to briefly connect with you and one another to lessen social isolation.
- Have a plan for facilitating and promoting the kinds of student interactions you need to facilitate learning. Equally important, have a plan for how you will address interactions that do not meet your expectations or that are disruptive to student learning.
- Remind students that they will need to have patience. They will experience problems and obstacles, which will help them to know that you understand and expect that, too.
- Ask students whether they have an appropriate physical location in which to work.
- Campus-supported learning technology vendors have expressed confidence in handling the volume of learners, but these are unprecedented times. Have a backup plan of what you will do if the technologies you use are overwhelmed by demand and use.
- Communicate with students the tools you are using in your course and how students interact with the course content, with you, and with each other.
- Ask students whether they have the technology and infrastructure to complete the tasks.
- If you are planning synchronous activities, identify whether students in different time zones need accommodations. Consider recording interactive sessions for those who cannot meet at scheduled times.
- If you are using Zoom, ensure students’ computers are configured appropriately before their first session.
- Keep activities as simple as possible if you use technology for the first time. Consider creating a no-stakes activity first to get students comfortable using new tools and solutions.
- Continue focusing on your identified course learning outcomes as a guide for everything you do. As you plan and facilitate activities, think about different feedback you could provide to support these outcomes.
- Consider students and instructor workload. What’s the best use of time — producing/viewing online lectures or other ways of presenting content (e.g., text with graphics, existing videos, etc.)
- Communicate new course timelines and expectations.
- Let students know when and how you are available and your response rate to questions.
- As necessary, communicate expectations on online behaviors, academic integrity, and other netiquette.
- Discuss any changes to grading that have been made.
- Repeat important messages and directions in video, text, email, and announcement. Students will focus on different communication tools, so they won’t notice your duplicative communication approaches.
As course delivery models and expectations have changed dramatically, it is important to recognize signs that might reveal student problems in your course. Let your students know that you are watching for the following behaviors and provide guidance for what they can do if they find themselves in these situations:
Students are not contributing to conversations or activities.
With all that is going on, it might be hard to track every student's contribution levels. In this first week, however, let students know that you are checking participation levels as a sign that students can participate, complete, and succeed in activities you have planned.
Student participation drops off.
You might find that students start the week at acceptable levels, but participation starts to drop off as the week progresses. This could indicate that students are experiencing pedagogical/technical challenges they don’t know how to address. Consider quickly checking in with students periodically (Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down).
Student performance drops off.
You have had to alter how you support students learning. As you ask students to demonstrate learning in this new environment, you may find students performing at different levels than expected. Let students know that you will monitor activities for overall performance and make changes if necessary.
Student support resources
- Contact the DoIT Help Desk to address any technical configuration issues
608 264-HELP – https://kb.wisc.edu/helpdesk/
- Send students to the Getting Started with Zoom resource before your first class.
- Ask students to contact the DoIT Help Desk to address technical issues before your first class.
608 264-HELP – https://kb.wisc.edu/helpdesk/
- Remind students of when and how they should communicate course-related problems.
- Remind students of the variety of student-facing resources on the COVID-19 student site.
- If students have larger concerns about the course, they can contact the Dean of Students Office.
- If students are experiencing accessibility issues, they should contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center.
Health and Well-Being
- If they feel overwhelmed, they should review the resources on the COVID-19 Student Site.
Berge, Zane. (1995). “The Role of the Online Instructor/Facilitator: Recommendations from the Field.”Educational Technology,35(1): 22-30.