Hybrid or “Blended” Education – After Week One

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    Think about the impression each word makes in a different context. Hybrid corn is one thing, hybrid people another. Blend is a pretty unoffensive word; in fact, it makes one think of harmony.

    “Why is that, do you think,” I ask my students, “we say blended instead of hybrid here?

    Usually the first thing a teacher, an instructor, a professor or a trainer does is write the class a welcome letter. I have just had my second class with two classes in different locations. One class is urban and the other is suburban. Differences in audiences. Sure. We’re all different and every audience for those who don’t teach school is always different; that’s why we analyze our audience.

    I am teaching a “blended” class. I asked my students why they thought it was called that and mentioned that in educational and training circles it was often referred to as “hybrid.”

    It’s early yet, so I explained. Think about the impression each word makes in a different context. Hybrid corn is one thing, hybrid people another. Blend is a pretty unoffensive word; in fact, it makes one think of harmony. We like the idea of blended families–more a reality today than in years past, and a good thing. Would we call them a hybrid family? Again, it strikes a negative cord. You see, my class is about communication and I want to start it off right. I had never heard of “blended” courses–those that combined in classroom and online work; I had heard the courses referred to as “hybrid,” which it is by literal definition. Now, I can tell you it is much more to me personally.

    I teach one night a week in a classroom filled with students, and spend the rest of the week online with them. We don’t spend as much physical time in a classroom, but we spend more quality one-on-one time even if it is online. It’s a different dynamic and I’m loving it for the ability to reach out personally to every student. Well, at least the opportunity is there, and I’m not jaded yet. It’s a different kind of teaching. You have make maximum use of the classroom and there is little room for the student who misses classes and only wants to take a final and pass the class. I don’t know many students in this environment that can work that way; manipulating the system is risky at best and you can easily be booted for missing two sessions. We are talking the equivalent of several classes in one session. So, it’s not one or two classes, it’s more like eight or ten. We grade our time spent online as well, and it is required. The classes will be eight weeks in my case and classroom time runs roughly three and half to four hours. I have heard other institutions that do ten weeks and shorten class time or six weeks and add to it and intensify the online. I don’t know what’s better, but it means teachers and trainers who will use this technique need to see the differences. My letter to my students below tells you why I’m a fan.

    We will meet our objectives and at anytime you feel we are not, please come to me and we will see what we can do. It may be you don’t see the connection or in our adjusting the schedule to fit we may have left something out. I won’t short-change you.

    “First, I want to tell you all that you’re terrific and I think we are going to get along fine–if last night’s class was any indication. We had latecomers, and that is understandable. I realize we also had people who were signed in late. No one loses for last night. You learned and gave of yourself; you braved giving a short speech and did fine.In the future, I would like your indulgence in making the best attempt to be on time–as I will. I understand life happens, but we need to be especially careful when it costs us money or worse, that simple disregard costs more in opportunity. It will kill you in a job. That is a reality. Believe it or not, school will have a bigger impact on anything you do, but your job is only an entry on your resume. Now, it you learn all the tools to make that resume entry gain attention, well, that’s another story.

    “As I told you in class, you may ignore the activity entries that call for papers to be written and placed in the drop box. We will do some of those entries in class that are modified to fit. You will be organizing and doing much of what is there, and the result will be the same. As I told you in class, participation and attitude is everything. I want to see quality thought and substantive remarks in the threads. This is the trade off. I take for full responsibility for modifying the course accordingly. We will meet our objectives and at anytime you feel we are not, please come to me and we will see what we can do. It may be you don’t see the connection or in our adjusting the schedule to fit we may have left something out. I won’t short-change you.

    “You have an opportunity to help yourself become a ‘master communicator.’ I know that sounded like I was joking, but if you say it enough, it begins to sink in. I want you to have control of this fantastic tool that will help you in life. Some of you may be farther along already, or you way of hiding unconsciously your nervousness makes you seem advanced. I see everyone as an individual and we will do all we can to be the best we can be. We may not all become confident speakers, but we will become better at organizing, knowing what we need to do to communicate effectively and knowing what makes it effective.

    “I want everyone to make strides. And, I am there to help, every step of the way. If you are naturally shy, I want to help you become less shy. You will still be able to put on paper what you still have trouble putting in words in front of an audience. Your lack of skill will balance with what you know about the “how.” On the other hand, those of you who are more comfortable and need work on the organizing and the details, you’ll balance out, too. We all lack some skill; it’s important we always seek to be more than we are. I want to die having people remember who I was by that time, not my super single moment in high school or some where else a long time ago.

    “I had a boss I absolutely could not seem to get to like me. I know it’s hard. She taught me a lot; she forced me to do things I hated because I had to do them for the job and because she was the boss–it had to be her way. In the end, I learned. Life is sometimes like that. It’s a balance toward who you want to be, and what you want to do and what you have to do. I know some of you made hard choices to be here. I did. I wish I had the choice to do it when it was most convenient and pleasant. I did not. Did I like it? No. Did I appreciate it? Yes. I still don’t care for her, but she did as she asked me to do. She stayed her course. She said, “Work with me,” and I had no choice, but I wish I had worked harder at it. There you have a mini-version or the start of a personal speech. We’ll talk more.

    “I see challenges, but I have also seen the results. To me, a once very shy guy, I owe how I turned out–less shy to say the least–to a speech teacher who made me mad, who made me see the world’s reality beyond mine, who made me focus on what was important. Apply what you learn to your goals and your achieve–not always exactly what we set out to do, but you’ll have tools to change gears. That is the reality of this economy and who we are today. It may sound silly, but I’d love to be you. You are younger, enthusiastic, fearless in many ways, and you have time to deal with your baggage. Some people carry that baggage around for years, while you had the foresight to enroll in college and stick with it.

    “Be sure to check out my second announcement and I will e-mail it to as well. Here I will explain the assignments I have modified, and my logic in leaving some things in for you to read or respond to.

    “For now, I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you for being a part of my class.’ I sincerely hope you are not sorry already. Cheers.”

    Here above is proof that students want to learn, that students see the importance of education and training, and that students matter. Some times in training we worry about the material we want to transmit; it is after all why we scheduled the training. There is an old saying in education: we don’t train subjects; we train students. It’s really no different in training.

    I wanted to share with you, not the welcome letter, but the one I wrote after the first day (long day counts as a week). However, before I did that I needed to clue you in if you are not among those who have experienced this first hand. I’ve discovered a lot of institutions of higher education are doing classes this way, recognizing the need for some students to work, and that this is a fast-paced world we live in. And, things change like how life impacts how we get our education, and how the economy changes so we may have to work two jobs to support our family.

    As a society we have grown technologically and we still have all the same wants and needs we always had. Change affected early education and training just as it’s doing now. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have Corporate Universities, we didn’t have online universities certainly. Our students weren’t engaged in social media or had access to knowledge in the same way we do now. With the advent of audio books, CDs, DVDs and e-books, libraries have had to change. Businesses change, marketing has changed. Universities and colleges change. The old prestigious ones are still there with more endowments, but they, too, have changed with times.

    There are a lot of new majors no one ever thought of before. Some sound very exciting. I remember when computer science was what you had to take if you weren’t going to grad school. For grad school you took a foreign language, but to be practical, computer science was the way to go.

    Today, computer science is an umbrella major for so many specialties (necessities to some that we need desperately). There seemed a time when we had too many computer programmers and analysts; I suppose that could be technically true, but we have replaced and added many related disciplines. So exciting to be a student today, but I’m sure my parents and grandparents would have thought the same when I went to school. Oh, the focus was on the way we dressed, talked and acted as another generation, but the basics stay the same. Learning.

    That’s it for the murmurings of an instructor of public speaking, in this case. And believe it or not, all will be well and the students well educated. I do want it to be applicable in this life and career, and that is our job as teachers; just as it is the trainer’s job to make sure company training fits the person and the person is able to apply it to his or her work for the company. In my opinion, it all works best if we care to make it so.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.

    Check out my website for more murmurings under What I Say. My approach to life and work–like a Cave Man looking to survive and thrive in an evolving world. Check out my book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development, and you’ll see my basic and unique approach. I hope you like it. Happy training.