I had a feedback loop last week in class. A number of students are not actively participating in the hybrid portions of the course. In some cases, these are also the students who are not submitting assignments in other classes too (yes, I checked), which indicates that there is a larger problem here than just the course being online.
For the most part, students are coming to class and engaging in the discussion. You can do that with short stories because the discussion often revolves around Universal Themes that are of interest even if you have not read the story in question. One of the challenges I have set myself is to make the face to face (F2F) element of the course lively and interactive and discussion/activity based, but I need to make sure that our assignments cover elements that are learned from both the hybrid AND the classroom environment. So far, I think they do, but it is something to continue working on.
Taking advantage of a full class, I asked some questions: Is the Hybrid section easy to follow? Is it too hard? Too easy? Do students have any difficulty accessing it? Understanding what is required of them? Is there too much to do? Too little? Does it follow on or lead into F2F classroom activities effectively? And then the zinger: For those of you not completing it regularly, why not? And the answers were very raw, very honest…Leaving it too late, procrastination, couldn’t be bothered going online. In short they felt it was easy enough to access, thought the material was relevant, but ultimately there is something external to the course that is stopping them from completion of hybrid classes.
This feedback is essential. I have been reflecting on it all week, and thinking about ways to encourage and motivate students. I’ve been reflecting on it in a broader sense too: Is it too much too soon? Is it the student demographic at our college? Do we need more time for modeling how to complete online material successfully? Would that help? Can the course be structured in a different way that would encourage more hybrid participation? What does this experience tell me – and our college – about student expectations, preferences, abilities? And what are the implications of this lack of participation as we go in the direction of more hybrid courses and some fully online courses?