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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adventures with a hybrid class, Part I

This is the first of a series of three guest posts from Mary McGlasson of Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

PART I: What possessed me to undertake this video project?
Let me introduce myself – I am Dr. Mary McGlasson, Economics faculty (and faculty developer for emerging technologies) at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, one of ten sister colleges in the Maricopa District. Our college serves about 14,000 students annually, and student learning is at the heart of all that we do. One strategy that we have taken with our Economics courses is to offer a wide variety of modalities – traditional (16 week, face-to-face), compressed (8 week, face-to-face), online, and hybrid (a mix of face-to-face and online) – for students to choose from.

Seven years ago, I agreed to offer our college’s first hybrid Economics class. How hard could it be? After all, my face-to-face classes were already web-enhanced, heavily using the features of the Learning Management System (Blackboard, at the time). I would just lecture as usual, and direct them in online discussions and research in between our face-to-face sessions. To make a long story short, there was one word to sum up that first semester’s attempt: disaster. It was an utter, absolute, unmitigated disaster. The class just never gelled – I was unable to get the students to participate, interact, and collaborate in either the face-to-face sessions or the online arena. Half of the students dropped the class. I decided that maybe hybrid and I simply weren’t cut out for one another, and the following semester I went back to the traditional fully face-to-face delivery mode.

A couple of years later, my colleagues and I were still interested in offering hybrid courses, especially for the added scheduling flexibility it offered our students. Reflecting on my earlier failure, it was clear that many of the students who had taken the hybrid course didn’t know what they were getting into; from the schedule, they clearly thought that all they had to do was show up to class once a week instead of twice a week – doing work between sessions hadn’t occurred to many of them. That was the point at which I realized that with half the usual face time, I needed them to digest the lecture basics on their own, and use our precious face time for the active/collaborative learning components (yes, a year or two later the term "flipped classroom" became all the rage -- too bad I didn't realize it was going to be such a hot trend!).

How was I going to make the hybrid class model work for me and for my students? I needed to be sure that my students worked through the content on their own, or the face-to-face portion would be a total loss. Having them watch video content seemed ideal, but there just wasn’t much available. And so I started creating a series of my own Macro/Micro principles videos (which I now have posted on YouTube at http://youtube.com/mjmfoodie). I did NOT want to post any "talking head" videos of me standing in front of a camera lecturing about Economics, so I created the artwork — lots of stick people and the occasional sock monkey -- and used Windows Movie Maker (because it's free!) to create the series.  

This time, the hybrid model worked, and I have been teaching both Micro and Macro principles in this format for the last few years. In my end-of-semester evaluations, two of the questions I ask are:
  • “Would you take another hybrid class?” – the majority say highly likely/likely (on the last evaluation, out of 100 students, 3 students said “definitely not”).
  • “WHAT TYPE of class activity contributed most to your success and understanding of economics this semester?” – the majority of students say that the videos are the most useful.
While my intent was to use these videos for my own classes, much to my surprise, I have gotten correspondence from instructors and students from all over the world (163 countries, last time I checked…?) telling me how helpful these have been to them. The YouTube channel currently has close to 14,000 subscribers and 3,000,000 views. Who knew?

1 comment:

  1. I teach at a community college where attendance can be spotty for all sorts of reasons. I link to your videos each week for students who miss or need to see graphs done again. They love them as do I. Thanks for making them available.


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