There are three primary modes of instruction available for LSA instructors: On-site, Blended, and Online. To assist instructors in choosing which mode will suit their courses best, this page briefly describes each mode, offers some guidelines for using that mode, and suggests some of the reasons why an instructor might choose that mode.
As many instructors have learned from prior teaching experience, all courses, regardless of mode, are most successful when they include substantive interaction between instructors and students, as well as interactions between students. Not only is this important to a quality learning experience, student comments from pandemic semesters lamented the loss of connection with each other and felt this diminished their engagement with the course. In addition, accounting for substantive interaction is an important aspect of the accreditation process. You will find examples of substantive interaction appropriate to the different modes of instruction below.
As you are defining the learning goals for your courses, it’s good to reflect on assessment and consider options for high-impact learning practices where students can demonstrate that they have achieved the learning goals in a meaningful way. The instructional consultants of LTC and LRC can assist you in creating learning activities for the course that will scaffold and facilitate students developing those skills to achieve the learning goals.
In all courses, instructors should also communicate frequently throughout the term to help orient students conceptually in the course by giving them information about the context and explaining the reason and purpose behind for course activities, content, and structure.
Some additional resources and reading on the topic of teaching modes and terminology to describe them:
Students are in classrooms, classlabs, studio spaces, or engaging in experiential learning on location. This mode also includes Semester in Detroit, BioStation, Camp Davis, NELP, and other off-campus experiential learning programs.
While on-site courses are synchronous (all students meet together, at the same time), the synchronous nature of the course only applies to the in-class component. Homework activities often work best using ‘online’ tools (e.g. an online discussion to brainstorm for or follow-up on class, pre-reading and annotation activities, preparation for an active learning activity that will happen during the next class meeting). This could also include flipped classes, online activities, eTextbooks, back-channel chats, and tools typically associated with other modes of instruction.
Instructors may want to consider what aspects of their remote classroom experience would be beneficial to transfer, adapt, and incorporate into the on-site instruction environment.
While it is often desirable to “flip” an on-site course, moving lecture material out to homework time and moving erstwhile homework activities into class time where they can be more collaborative and active, this does call for creation of new video. Lecture videos for a flipped class should be created to meet the new format (and preferably created in a high quality environment, such as a studio or home-studio). Recycled Lecture Capture videos of a previous term’s course are typically not suitable or sufficient for the purpose.
On-Site (in-person) instruction typically assigns 3 hours of homework for each credit hour of class, though this may vary from class to class based on the complexity of the homework and workload expectations. For a resource that may assist in estimating the workload, see Wake Forest University’s Workload Estimator.
On-site courses are, of course, a significant part of a residential experience for undergraduate students and, therefore, the default mode for LSA. Beyond that, however, on-site courses have both community-building and pedagogical advantages. Choosing the in-person format allows faculty to highlight many of the learning experiences instructors and students missed during the pandemic. This is an opportunity to reshape in-person courses to increase community building and to create student sense of belonging and classroom engagement.
Pedagogically, on-site courses are well suited to hands-on work, team-based classes, and discussion-centered learning. Students who are interacting in person have access to the full range of non-verbal expression and understanding, and this is valuable for both team-based activities and courses with a high level of discussion or group analysis work. And, of course, any experiential learning that requires hands-on activities or in-person sensory experiences will work best in an on-site environment.
While many on-site courses have substantial interaction between students and instructors built into the course activities, it’s a good idea for teachers of larger courses, in particular, to consider how best to connect with students. Interactive polls or a forum for Q&A are useful ways to increase engagement with students.
In order to gain the most benefits of in-person experience for larger courses, faculty might also consider creative combinations of in-person and online instruction covered by Blended and Hybrid Learning (see below).
All course interactions are online, with no on-site component or requirement for the course.
Online courses may be completely synchronous, completely asynchronous, or may involve a mix of both modalities: synchronous elements such as live discussions on Zoom) and asynchronous activities such as collaborative annotation of course texts.
The instructor may be teaching from campus or remotely, and the students may likewise be on campus or remote. Course activities do not require students to be in the same location, but the instructor may, if it seems helpful, arrange student groups to enable on campus meetings for group assignments and projects.
Substantive and Regular Interaction
The course must include substantive and regular interaction between instructors and students, even if fully asynchronous. Opportunities for substantive and regular interaction may include feedback on assignments, Q&A boards, instructor participation in discussion activities, and weekly announcements by the instructor to introduce, highlight, or sum-up course content, discussion, and activities. Without interaction with instructors and peers, students in fully asynchronous courses may feel isolated and disconnected. It is part of the instructor’s responsibility to ameliorate this.
Small Group Work
While online courses can certainly include small group work, it can be harder to connect interpersonally, than it is in on-site or blended courses. For this reason, online courses may lend themselves better to student pairs or trios that are stable the whole term, allowing students to invest in their partner(s) and build trust and a working relationship over time.
Authenticating Student Work
Instructors should state in the syllabus and discuss with students how they will confirm that work turned in is the work of the student in question. This may be as simple as “by monitoring student progress for consistency” or “by learning each student’s writing voice over the course of several drafts,” but it needs to be articulated. Not only is this essential for students, in a post-pandemic world it is also required to document this process for curriculum committees and accrediting bodies.
While well-made online course materials such as lecture videos, practice activities, and assessments may be durable for several years, ad hoc materials like the Lecture Capture video of a previous term’s course are not suitable or sufficient for an online course. Lecture videos should be created for the online mode -- for example, shorter 15 minute chunks with accompanying exercises and preferably video recorded in a higher quality environment, such as a studio or home-studio. Recycled Lecture Capture videos of a previous term’s course are typically not suitable or sufficient for the purpose. See Quality Matters for research on optimal length of video.
Contact Hours and Calculating Student Effort
While online, asynchronous courses will not have contact hours in the same way an on-site course does, instructors can still calculate what the total activity-time of the course should be based on credit hours. Four hours of activity time for each credit hour is a reasonable standard. For a resource that may assist in estimating the workload, see Wake Forest University’s Workload Estimator.
Online courses, especially ones with a strong asynchronous element, are the most flexible course mode. They permit students who may be distant from each other spatially and temporally to still interact and learn together. This is useful both for courses that wish to welcome remote learners (e.g. international students in other countries), and for courses that take place while most residential students are dispersed (i.e. during summer).
Pedagogically, the online asynchronous mode is well suited to activities that require significant time and forethought. Courses with a strong analytical or reflective element may do especially well in the online mode. Courses that are focused on independent study, or advanced research, may also benefit from the self-paced and independent learning of the online mode.
The blended course is designed to have both on-site and remote class sessions and will include synchronous and asynchronous activities. All students will participate together in one mode at a time (i.e. all on-site, or all online). Blended learning can apply to a wide variety of course types. [The term is often confused with Hybrid Learning (see below).] Blended courses may involve some days each week on-site and some days online, or may involve one week on-site and the next week online. There are multiple ways of combining these elements and we offer a few examples below:
Example 1: Lecture is online (synchronous) and Discussion Sections are on-site in-person.
Example 2: 4-day/week course meets two days on-site in-person and two days online (synchronous over zoom).
Example 3: 3-day/week course meets two days on-site in-person and one day is asynchronous online learning activities (group annotation of articles, online discussion).
Example 4: 2-day/week course -- Cohort split into two groups of students with 1 day on-site in-person and 1 day asynchronous activities; each cohort switches when they are on site and when they are asynchronous.
Communicate clearly to students at the start of the course, informing them of what the on-site/online schedule will be. Be sure to include which specific days are on-site in-person and which days are remote. Plan to have this information in the course guide and reflected in your room reservation.
The online element of a blended course can be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on your goals. For courses with an asynchronous component, be careful not to overload the online element and calibrate the asynchronous activities with homework activities. Be sure to communicate the course workload to the students, making clear what activities are asynchronous class activities as part of the blended course format and what is homework.
The on-site and online elements should take advantage of the pedagogical affordances of each mode. For example, online, asynchronous discussions permit more time for fore-thought and in-depth responses, and may be more suitable for analysis or for placing a course text in dialog with additional, researched sources. On-site elements, such as a synchronous discussion, should take advantage of experiential learning or the greater use and understanding of non-verbal, body language communication available in person. This may be an especially suitable mode for a discussion of difficult topics.
Blended courses can take advantage of the strengths of both on-site and online courses--both easier interpersonal relations and hands-on learning opportunities, and also deeper reflective opportunities. The schedule of blended courses should be planned with this in mind, putting team activities, hands-on work, or lively discussions in the on-site portion, and more slow-paced analytical reflection in the online portion.
Partnering with another instructor and/or program extends access to popular classrooms, particularly if they can occupy the same classroom on different days. For example one class meets in person T 10-11:00 and in person on Th 10-11:00 online. The second class meets online on T 10-11:00 and in person on Th 10-11:00. This allows for efficient classroom utilization.
If you want to have students do Team Based Learning but are unable to have the class assigned to a Team Based Learning classroom. Group work can be done successfully and comfortably in an online format. The groups could meet during a scheduled class time (synchronously) or at their own convenience (asynchronously). Faculty can watch the group work develop in the collaborative online tools and/or participate in the small group discussions online.
In hybrid instruction, courses meet synchronously, with some students on-site and some remote. Both segments of the class should be able to interact with the instructor and with each other. Hybrid instruction requires facility with skill at teaching a remote group and in-person group at the same time, devoting equitable attention to and inclusion of students in each location.
Most LSA classrooms have technology which can facilitate basic hybrid instruction (see definitions below).
Under some circumstances the remote hybrid experience may feel more like watching a live-streamed event. Faculty who want to make the experience more engaging will need to work to include and connect students and create community among students in both locations. Inclusive activities could include anything from providing a chat channel to having full two way videoconferencing interaction.
Basic Hybrid: Livestream of class over Zoom; remote students may ask questions or provide comments over audio connection or in chat, and hear what is said in the on-site classroom. Faculty may choose to see remote students on the podium monitor, but they are not visible to students in the room unless the instructor projects the monitor view. Remote students may have a wide-angle view of the on-site classroom, but not a face-to-face view of on-site students.
Students choose at the beginning of the semester whether they will attend in person in the classroom or whether they will attend online. In some cases students may need to register either for the in-person section or for the online section. Interaction between the on-site and online students is limited by the lack of two-way videoconference.
Hyflex: Livestream of class over Zoom; remote students may ask questions or provide comments over audio connection, although typically questions and comments are made through a back-channel chat tool, in this class model.
Students can choose on any given day to join either the in-person or remote class session. Faculty might have a classroom that can accommodate the entire enrollment or might have a classroom suited only for a subset. In the later situation, the faculty member may manage in-person attendance with sign-up sheets or other tools.
Videoconference Based Instruction in a Distance Learning Classroom: Carts or installed videoconferencing equipment enable a two-way videoconference connection between on-site and remote students. Everybody can see and hear, and speak directly to, everybody.
Faculty will want their hybrid course scheduled in the correct type of classroom, and should investigate what technologies are available for the particular mode they are interested in. Talk to LSA Technology Services about what’s available and which classroom technologies are best suited for the type of hybrid instruction they are considering.
There are many possible approaches to hybrid instruction. Faculty will want to work with an LTC or LRC consultant when deciding how to structure and prepare the course.
Faculty will need to actively connect people in two separate locations to make the remote students feel engaged and connected to in-person instruction. This can be quite challenging. Again, your instructional consultants can help you figure out how you will address this issue.
It may complicate group work activities if some members of the group are in-person and others are remote. Faculty may need to re-design group-work activities to ensure students are grouped according to location.
Hybrid instruction increases the element of student choice, in the course, as students can decide what mode they wish to engage in. This can result in greater student comfort and/or greater student engagement with course material and concepts.
Some LSA faculty may want to provide options to students who are unable to come to campus (short-term or long-term). Different forms of hybrid may address unique student needs and situations, including:
Students with disabilities or medical conditions
Students on internships, study abroad, or other off-campus programs that need to take an on-campus course
Students in other situations which prevent them from being on-campus
Dr. Jack Miller, Statistics Education Specialist at U-M since 2013 teaches with the hyflex approach. See this page of collected articles and presentations.
LTC 2019 Universal Design Workshop includes Dr. Jack Miller speaking on their experience of teaching with increased student choice.
Hybrid Teaching Technology Guides. Step-by-step instructions on using LSA classroom technology for basic hybrid teaching.