Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Benefits of Hybrid Programs

By Sean Scarpiello

To many education professionals, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) appear to be overbearing as they make their way into the education spotlight. For those who do not know, MOOCs are essentially online classes taught by university professors and taken by thousands of students from all over the world. While there remains some apprehension around MOOCs, many critics further put down MOOCs due to fact that these courses are 100% online. For both students and teachers, this can be a bit scary as well. Students fear that they will not receive individualized attention and must complete all of the assignments on their own without any help or guidance. Teachers feel that students are missing out on the social and collaborative aspects of learning if MOOCs take over education. In light of all of this, many education professionals are coming up with a middle ground between traditional classes and MOOCs called hybrid programs.

From what I have read about hybrid programs, they sound great. While the majority of the class is taught online from any place with an internet connection, students still have the option of meeting up with other students and teachers during their classes. This student-student or student-teacher interaction can either take place at a formal location, such as a college campus, or take place online in a sort of open chat room set up like Skype or an online video conference. While designing courses for the future of education, it is often easy to forget about many of the latent functions of traditional education. The main objective of any school is to get students to learn material in a textbook. However, while learning in a traditional classroom, students are also learning how to discuss these course topics with others, communicate, collaborate, and debate with each other. These sorts of hidden objectives of traditional education would easy become lost in MOOCs. Fortunately, hybrid programs still afford student the opportunities to learn these skills which are essential in the workforce.

Beyond these latent objectives, hybrid programs also maintain the benefits that make MOOCs so appealing. Online course work significantly reduces the cost of education for students and teachers. By being in a class full of thousands of other students, institutions can decrease the amount they charge per student. For example, if a school $50,000 to offer a class, then 50 students would pay $1,000 each for the class. However, being in the same $50,000 class with 10,000 other students means that the school can charge each student $5 to take the class. Therefore, both the students and schools benefit from these retained aspects of MOOCs in hybrid programs. Plus, all coursework for students would be available online for much lower costs than traditional classes. For students, eBooks and other online resources are already significantly cheaper than buying heavy and bulky textbooks. Since hybrid program support this technology for many students, students can get more bang for their buck.

Overall, while many educators fear MOOCs, it is nice to have hybrid programs as another option. These hybrid programs are perfect because they keep the benefits of both MOOCs and traditional courses. They can even offer a good transition for today’s students and educators from the side of traditional schooling to MOOCs. Most of all, they are great because they offer a quality education to a large group of students at a low cost while utilizing technology.

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