Hybrid Course Design and Instruction

Meg Gorzycki, Ed.D.

The Evironment and the Experience

Hybrid teaching is fundamentally concerned with providing an environment in which students assume responsibility for seeing information and completing tasks necessary to understand the material. As students assume such responsibility, the instructor becomes less of a “sage on the stage” and more of a “guide on the side” (Caulfield, J. 2011).

Like the effective face-to-face course, the effective hybrid course sets high expectations for student learning and manifests a strong alignment between student learning outcomes, assessments, and instruction.

This tutorial will explore:

Principles of Exemplary Hybrid Course Design

The principles of exemplary hybrid course design are the same principles of exemplary course design for traditional classes as enumerated by Chickering and Gamson (1987), which emphasize abundant interaction between all members of the class and student-centered instructional strategies (Babb, S., Stewart, C., & Johnson, R. (2010). These principles include:

  1. Promote dialogue between the teacher and students
  2. Encourage and facilitate co-operation between students
  3. Foster active learning and hand-on experience
  4. Provide prompt feedback to student work
  5. Emphasize time on task
  6. Communicate high expectations for learning
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

In addition to these principles, there are several technical principles worth noting (Nash, 2005) :

  1. Place learning objects (such as MERLOT, WIKI, an dother repositories for course materials) in the course site where they can be easily located and accessed
  2. Resolve matters of delivery before the course is launched, such as whether students will need CD-ROM reading capacity or a certain type of software to view films
  3. Ensure the course materials are ADA compliant as to ensure access to students with low vision, low hearing, or other special needs

Technical Considerations of Hybric Course Design

Being successful in a hybrid or on-line course depends in part on the student’s ability to access material and understand procedures for on-line course work. The syllabus should therefore be clear about how students are expected to interact with the teacher and the class in the on-line environment. Here are some suggestions about what students may need to know at the onset of the course:

  1. What kind of programs do they need to access the course content? Should they, for example, have the latest Adobe Reader? Do they need the latest version of QuickTime Player?
  2. Where do they go if they need access to a computer because they lost their own or do not own one?
  3. Who is the contact person when they cannot access the material or have troubles with the software programs? What is the contact information for this person?
  4. What kind of software will best help those who need or prefer to have their text read by the computer?
  5. How often are students expected to check the News Forums in iLearn?
  6. What are the procedures for using CourseStream? Is there a schedule of special CourseStream events?
  7. What are the procedures for taking on-line tests and quizzes?
  8. What are the expectations relative to participating in on-line discussion and contributing to on-line forums? How are grades associated with such participation?
  9. What are the expectations relative to academic integrity? How do students use Turnitin.com?
  10. What are the expectations regarding e-mail? Are there policies regarding the content of communication or the time frames of responses?
  11. Is web conferencing available? How can students schedule and appointment? Do students need special equipment to participate in web conferencing? How does BlackBoard Collaborate work in web conferencing?
  12. Will the course use student generated Wikis, and if so, what are the directions for creating and using them?
  13. Does this hybrid course require students to take individual field trips to local museums, historical sights, parks, public buildings, etc.? Does the syllabus provide clear instructions about how to complete this, how to travel without a car, and how students will demonstrate their learning from the experience? Is the time extended to complete the trip sufficient?
  14. Does the hybrid course require students to meet with others on class days when they are at home? Is this logistically sound or does it limit the flexibility of the course?

Link to San Francisco State Academic Technology Modes of Instruction for more information.

Student Engagement in the Hybrid Course

Student success in the hybrid course depends largely on:

  • The student's motivation
  • The student's ability to complete assigned work in a timely fashion
  •  The student's capacity to learn independently
  • The instructor's ability to facilitate deep thinking about experiences and new knowledge and to orchestrate meaningful articulation of leanring

As the hybric course "flips" the traditional paradigm of instruction by tasking students with acquiring new knowledge outside class and using class time to summarize, appply, synthesize, analyze, reflect upon, and augment new knowledge, instructors are challneged to design learning experiences that immerse students in activity and that reduce the student's dependence upon lectures as an exclusive source of knowledge.

The flexibility of the hybrid course allows instructors to use a variety of environments as a classroom. While some instructors want to students to complete dense course work on-line during "class sessions" off campus, others want students to complete assignments in the community, to conduct interviews, or to take a field trip to an important site.

The key to effective engagement is getting students to reflect upon and articulate the meanig and significance of their experience. In courses that aim to improve students' crtical reading and resarch skills, exercises both in class and off campus might engage students in a guided analysis of text, the comparison of narratives, or proof reading academic essays.

Methods of engaging students in a hybrid course include:




Creative projects



Reflection and composition

Creating graphic organizers of material or concepts

Completing critical reading exercises with guided analysis

Taking formative tests

Conducting interviews

Field work

Field trips (environmental studies, art museums, theatrical performances, historic sites, etc.)

Participating in a community project

Reviewing and summarizing

Identifying and exploring the "muddiest point"

Structuring research questions

Building a reference list

Critiquing a website

Six Key questions Concerning Hybrid Course Design

Q1. Who is likely to be enrolled in the course, and what does this enrollment imply?

Is the course is for undergraduates who may or may not have completed other courses related to the subject and who might not be majoring in the subject? What are the implications for course design and instruction? Will I need to keep a slow pace? Will I need to reserve large amounts of time for review and clarification?

Q2. What is the purpose of the course?

Is the cardinal purpose of the course is to introduce students to a subject? Is the purpose to examine a broad or narrow set of issues? Is the purpose of the course to improve specific skills related to reading, research, composition, technical skills, laboratory procedures, or field work?

Q3. Given the likely enrollment and purpose of the course, what is the appropriate scope and depth of the curriculum?

 Is the scope of the course manageable by those likely to enroll in the course? Is the course designed to distribute inquiry equitably across the subject? Will some topics and activities receive more attention and do I have a clear rationale for the unevenness of attention across topics? Am I obligated in this course to see that students achieve competence with a particular set of skills or body of knowledge as part of their preparation for the next level of study in a given program?

Q4. How can course materials be designed to help student stay organized and be successful?

How can I ensure materials are accessible to all students? What specific material or resources can I provide on-line that will enable students to complete their assignments with relative ease? Do students know where to go for technical assistance? Do I need to establish rule for communication that address reasonable response time for e-mails or content?

Q5. What kind of course materials will help students learn in a hybrid format?

There are a number of options:

  • A glossary of key vocabulary and important people
  • List of academic journals carrying articles on the subject
  • List of community agencies if service or field work is required
  • Links to material on writing styles and citations
  • Description of writing assignments
  • Grading rubrics or grading guidelines
  • Map files
  • PDF files
  • PowerPoint files
  • Video files
  • On-line syllabus with class schedule

Q6. What is the best way to assess the quality of student participation in on-line discussions?

As the presence of the instructor in the on-line forum reinforces the students’ sense that the instructor is committed to student learning and interested in students’ thoughts, how many times a week should the instructor monitor the discussions? Do the following criteria matter?

  • Minimum requirements for posting responses?
  • Level of thinking, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating?
  • Respect for others who had different perspectives?
  • Prompt feedback on student postings that recognizes important insights, redirects muddled thinking, and guides students to materials they may have overlooked?

A Sample Course Syllabus and Class Schedule for a Hybrid Course: Cold War History (pdf.)

A Sample Set of Answers to Six Key Questions Concerning Hybrid Course Design Based on the Sample Hybrid Course: Cold War History (pdf.)


Babb, S., Stewart, C., & Johnson, R. (2010). Constructing communication in blended learning environments: Students perceptions of good practices in hybrid courses. Learning, 6(4): 735-753.
Caulfield, J. (2010). How to design and teach a hybrid course. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Nash, S. (2005). Learning objects, learning object repositories, and learning theory: Preliminary best practices for online courses. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 1(1), 217-228.
Talbert, R. (2006). Homework and time expectations: high school vs. college. The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 26.