Professor Talbot holding flask

Do Hybrid Classes Offer the Best of Both Worlds?

September 18, 2020

Hybrid classes includes both in-person pre-scheduled meetings on campus and flexible-schedule online learning. For students who want to explore what works best, hybrid classes let them experience both on-campus and off-campus learning, as well as scheduled and self-paced classwork. Hybrid is one of four course formats chosen by CU Denver for the 2020 – 21 academic year, to ensure the campus community’s safety during the pandemic (see chart below for course format descriptions).

For traditional hybrid classes that combine on-campus and online learning, everyone involved reduces their amount of time on campus and in transit, because overall class time is cut in half. For example, a hybrid class might meet on campus one week and online the following week. Alternatively, some hybrid classes meet once a week on campus and once a week online.

There is also the option for professors to make their hybrid class completely remote: in this case, the hybrid class would involve pre-scheduled meeting times in which students meet off campus and online components with no scheduled meeting times (synchronous/asynchronous remote classes). See stories on online and remote course formats as well.

four class formats for 2020 – 21 academic year
The four class formats for CU Denver’s 2020 – 2021 academic year.

Professors and students alike also get the flexibility of teaching and learning from home. Associate Professor Bud Talbot, PhD, who teaches science education and co-directs the CU Denver STEM Learning Assistant Program, thinks that hybrid is ideal—for certain classes.

This fall, Talbot has chosen to teach his Elementary Science Methods class using a hybrid format that’s completely remote. The class, whose students are future elementary teachers, benefitted from Talbot’s willingness to embrace change. “I saw the change in format as an opportunity to revise and reinvent the course, which I hadn’t taught in some time,” he said.

collage of photos from Talbot's Shed of Science
Talbot created the Shed of Science in his backyard, in which he conducts experiments and makes videos.

Science Identity & The Shed of Science

The way Talbot teaches the course is just as important as its content, because his teaching serves as a model for what his students might do once they become teachers. “One of the main goals of the course is to help pre-service elementary teachers develop a science identity and increase their science self-efficacy,” Talbot explains. In other words, students should be developing how they plan to teach science. As a professor who admits to being “seriously geeky,” he is trying to pass along his passion for science.

Talbot got creative—really creative. He transformed an outbuilding on his property into a Shed of Science. “In this course, I’ve developed weekly Backyard Science videos to teach some of these science concepts and ways of thinking,” he said. “After my students watch the video, they post thoughts on the science content and related teaching ideas in our Slack team,” he added.  (Slack is a business communication platform with chat rooms, private groups, and direct messaging.)

Backyard Science video titled “Beat the Heat”

Hybrid Format Led to Creative Technology

How are the students reacting to Talbot’s Shed of Science? Rachel Knoche, who is currently pursuing a Master’s in Teaching/Elementary Education License, finds it incredibly valuable. “I love the Shed of Science … Being able to actually see the science being taught, even if we can’t be there in person, is so helpful. I’m able to connect the weekly videos to other science concepts and real-world experiences,” she said.

Shed of Science
Prof. Talbot’s Shed of Science

Mia Rodriguez, who is majoring in elementary education, agrees: “Talbot really goes above and beyond to make all his students still feel like we are doing real science. In this climate right now it has been hard to really connect to professors this semester, but I believe that he is going the extra mile to make things feel more personal and efficient.” 

And what about the hybrid model? Knoche, who is currently enrolled in four hybrid-remote classes, finds it helpful. “I’m very introverted and don’t often speak up in in-person classes (or classes over zoom for that matter), but being able to respond in a discussion board or in Slack makes me feel like I’m contributing to the learning community and fully developing my own ideas,” she said. The hybrid-remote format is especially helpful for her, because she is able to continue living with her parents, which saves her money. She also likes the lack of a commute. More importantly, she is keeping everyone safe: “I also feel like I’m protecting my family in this format by limiting my exposure during the pandemic.”

The hybrid class format is a great fit for his Elementary Science Methods class. Scheduled meetings give his students the opportunity to witness face-to-face teaching methods, and online learning gives them the flexibility to communicate with one another on their own time.

Additionally, the hybrid format gives him the opportunity to be creative, and it has inspired his students to think creatively as well. “So far the conversations have been great!” Talbot said. “And they’ve given rise to new teaching ideas, like the use of video-based reflections and responses using platforms such as Flipgrid,” he added.