Presenting on Hybrid-Flexible Pedagogy

So about a month ago, I got an interesting request.  Some folks from South Carolina Technical Colleges reached out to me to see if I would be interested in presenting at their 2-day institution on my work with hybrid flexible pedagogy.  I was a bit surprised and wondered if they thought I was more local than I was, but upon confirming they wanted me there physically (I even offered virtually), I accepted the opportunity.  

For those that have been reading this blog for years (yes, all three of you), you'll probably recall that this is what I focused on for my Master in Instructional Design and even blogged about running the actual course (Post 1Post 2).  The topic is never far from my mind and I've continued to think about what it means to run a hybrid flexible course and the implications for higher education to attempt to do so.  Even though it's been a few years since presenting or getting to teach it, it still resonates with me.  So I'm glad I've had the opportunity to revisit it and construct a longer workshop on the topic.  

Title Page for Presentation on Hybrid Flexible Pedagogy

The following covers a couple of the important points worth considering about Hybrid  Flexible pedagogy.  

What is hybrid flexible pedagogy?

Here's the working definition:  A course designed to empower students to determine where and how they learn best. Hybrid means mixing face to face (F2F) with online learning.  Flexible means students choose their learning format (online vs. F2F), their content, and their assessments within reasonable limits.

Basically, I see it as leveraging technology to empower students to move online or face-to-face as fits their needs.  But I see it more as that.  As I do in the presentation, the final format of online, face-to-face, or both, really only comes about when one has fundamentally changed their course to make it more flexible.  

Assignments, Activities, & Objectives...Oh My!

Well, how do you do that?  Like any good instructional designer in higher education, I'd look to the objectives and outcomes.  What do you want students to be able to do by the end of week/module/course?  Your objectives & outcomes allow you to rethink what your assignments are and eventually what your content is.  

My belief (not just mine, of course) is that there are numerous ways to assess an objective/outcome. We often only allow for one, but the reality is that most objectives/outcomes can be evaluated in innumerable effective ways.  Therefore, I say, go for it!  Come up with as many useful ways to assess an objective and offer up those different forms to the students.  Rather than everyone having to do one thing (e.g. write a 5 paragraph essay), offer up the 10 ways that you think are great.  

And then, offer up an 11th--the "Pitch" option, where a student can pitch a project to meet the assessment.  The "Pitch" option is often the hardest but most rewarding because I'm not just saying, "do anything."  I'm saying, "Develop a project that can meet this goal AND work with me to create a rubric that can evaluate how close to the mark you get."  That kind of assignment has the student working and thinking about the course content and objective in ways that other students may not get to.  


Once we've realized that we can open up the different kinds of assessments, we can also revisit the content.  The content should be relevant to the course topic but also be relevant and effective in helping the student achieve the objectives. The reality is that for almost any discipline or course, there is an abundance of materials to consider.  In the age of the Internet, we are challenged by so much to choose from and that's a great place to be.  

For me, I've worked to provide more choices around content relying on Open Educational Resources, public domain content, academic library materials, disciplinary & institutional public websites, and the unlimited amount of materials that can be linked to.  Therefore, I'm likely to identify a range of educational materials that are relevant to each and every objective and outcome in my course and have a full menu of options.  Rather than a singular source (particularly the dreaded, dry, and overprice textbook), I have a multitude of resources for my students to use.  

With both the content and the assessments, my pedagogical approach is this: I want to blend my students' interests and abilities with my expectations and standards. I don't want to make it arbitrarily hard for them; I don't want to create artificial barriers if I can avoid it.  I want them to find meaningful and relevant content and to find ways to communicate their learning in ways that meet my expectations and their skillset.  


If I have introduced flexibility to the assignments and to the content, that means that to make the class time flexible becomes much easier because it's not as essential to all be in the same place at the same time on the same proverbial page.  

This doesn't mean that we're all doing our own thing but rather as the instructor, I'm a bit of a DJ, mixing and splicing the different tracks together into something coherent to all participants.  I keep my attention on the online discussion, the classroom activities, and other things to help students understand how it all fits together (or I oversee and guide students to do this to further their learning).  

So that's what I'm presenting on, essentially.  I will inevitably have more to say but here's a good start to the conversation!

How do you conceive of creating a hybrid flexible learning experience?  What challenges do you see and how might you navigate them?

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