The world has been on the digitization bandwagon for years -- longer than a lot of Miami students have been alive. When the wave of ones and zeroes finally washed over higher education, it was only a matter of time until Miami classrooms were riding the tide.
But between traditional classrooms and the new age of online classes sit hybrids courses. They combine an online aspect and in-person learning. That's where the definition stops.
Typically, a hybrid class consists of online lecture videos, homework and quizzes accompanied by in-class lectures and practices.
Like a lot of things in the new, digital age, hybrid classes have their perks.
They make it easier for professors to teach more sections by automating some of the work. They allow more flexibility for students' schedules. They have resulted in an increase in GPA and a decrease in the drop rate for enrolled students, according to course coordinators.
This semester, Miami University is offering 104 sections of hybrid classes, 37 of which are some kind of statistics course. In fact, STA 261 -- a basic, Miami Plan class required for a range of majors -- is only offered as a hybrid.
But it shouldn't be. No class should.
Because while hybrid classes have their benefits, they come with their own set of dangers.
The potential for cheating and academic dishonesty is higher on online assignments than on in-class quizzes. Yes, Proctorio catches some red flags, but it fails to take into account that a generation raised on computers can easily work around what the program throws at them.
Online learning often results in students being less invested and involved in the material. If they can do it in bed, 10 minutes before the deadline, while Googling the answers, that's exactly what they'll do. And if everything is online, what's the point of showing up to class, anyway?
While hybrid classes help avoid wasting time on material the students already know from polls and online practice, they're detrimental to people who need that person-to-person interaction to truly absorb the knowledge they're there to get in the first place.
Studies have shown that people learn in different ways. For some, the hybrid class may be the pinnacle of learning. They can watch a video and know exactly how to do an equation. For others, an explanation and step-by-step breakdown is more helpful. Interactive questions and one-on-one help are what get them to the final revelation.
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Miami prides itself on its undergraduate teaching. The smaller class sizes and increased interaction with professors is something that draws students from around the country. Robbing those same students of the opportunity to learn how they learn best is counterproductive and contradictory to that commitment.
But, to be cliche, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Hybrid classes clearly offer value. For people who are motivated to do the work on- and offline, who can pick up material virtually without someone there to physically walk them through it, these classes are a phenomenal option.
Simple information is easier to pick up individually, so an introductory class with hundreds of students should fit the hybrid format just fine.
But hybrid classes can't be the only option, like they are for STA 261. Different students have different needs. Some students rely on the guilt of not being in the room to actively attend and participate in class. People who need interaction with their teacher to succeed, or those who have a true passion for statistics that is diluted by the online components, will not thrive in a hybrid class.
Hybrid classes should complement, not replace traditional classes. The university needs to offer the same course with variations in structure to optimize the undergraduate learning experience that it prides itself on.
A liberal arts education promises students differentiation in the the subjects they study. It is only logical to carry that differentiation and diversity into course structure. When students are allowed to choose their structure, they will perform to the best of their abilities. When students perform to the best of their abilities, they will be more successful. When students are more successful, the university, and their commitment to undergraduate teaching, looks good.