New hybrid language classes frustrate instructors, students

The Spanish department has combined online and in-class components to courses, but reviews are mixed.

Jenna Wilcox


 After a move to include more online components in language classes, students and instructors in the Spanish department said the new model creates more work for both groups.

For the past six years, SPAN 1022 has been offered only as a hybrid course with a mix of online and in-class instruction. Last semester some 1003 sections turned hybrid as well, but many students and instructors say itâÄôs inefficient.

Pablo Viedma, associate education specialist for the Spanish and Portuguese department, said that after the College of Liberal Arts 2015 Committee Final Report was released in the summer, there has been a big push for more hybrid courses.

The report, which outlines where CLA would like to be by 2015, stated the college will âÄúembrace and extend technology enhanced learning, incorporating it however and wherever it effectively and affordably improves student outcomes.âÄù

Though itâÄôs different in every department, other language programs, like French, have hybrid courses in place.

As a result, some SPAN 1003 sections went hybrid last semester, and theyâÄôve started offering hybrid classes for 1004, but the change was met with mixed reviews and has caused a rift in the Spanish department.

Lindsay Drake was one of the two instructors to teach the hybrid version last semester and said she ran into many problems throughout the term.

âÄúThere was significantly more work in the 1003 hybrid than the 1022 version,âÄù she said. âÄúMore of my students failed last semester than in any other semester IâÄôve ever taught.âÄù

Drake said her workload drastically increased because she was spending so much extra time grading the online assignments.

She said she spends more than 30 hours a week reviewing the online work alone, which leaves little time to focus on her actual teaching.

âÄúIâÄôve had to use old lesson plans because I donâÄôt have time to update them, which means I canâÄôt innovate and make the lessons more contemporary,âÄù she said.

This spring, the Spanish department expanded the hybrid program to include SPAN 1004 as well.

Drake said she was under the impression the department was going to improve the hybrid class before continuing but when the new semester started, it seemed like the student workload actually increased.

âÄúWhen people approached me and asked about the program, I told them the workload would be lessened, but I donâÄôt think that happened,âÄù she said. âÄúI think some of the instructors might feel a little misled.âÄù

Drake is not alone. Several professors have been discussing the new course format in private and are worried that itâÄôs harming students because it wasnâÄôt thought through.

Still moving hybrid courses forward

This semester a total of four 1003 classes and six 1004 classes are hybrid.

Sean Stavast took the hybrid course last semester and said he was disappointed with the class for many reasons.

He said students in the class were confused when online activities were due, there was little feedback and the in-class time felt rushed.

âÄúTo be honest I donâÄôt even know if some of my work has been looked at,âÄù he said. âÄúI just wish the class could have been clearer.âÄù

Some instructors still support the hybrid course.

Frances Matos-Schultz teaches the 1022 course and has been a strong advocate for the added online component. She said a big motivation for the change is to allow students to work at their own pace.

âÄúWe noticed that students were better prepared for discussions and more involved in learning,âÄù she said.

Several professors, including Drake, agree in that regard.

She said students are getting extra experience outside of class that they wouldnâÄôt otherwise do if it wasnâÄôt required.

Dora Dias teaches one of the hybrid 1004 classes and said she likes the new version.

âÄúIâÄôm very open with my students so usually if they have issues they tell me,âÄù she said.

The confusion extends to how the language department will proceed in the future.

Viedma said there is about a 50 percent chance the University will eventually force an all-hybrid curriculum. But Nanette Hanks, an assistant dean in CLA, said they would never make that change.

If the hybrid isnâÄôt changed in the future, Drake said she wouldnâÄôt continue to teach that version of the class.

âÄúItâÄôs just frustrating for me to spend so much time doing something that might not be benefitting the students,âÄù she said. âÄúI donâÄôt even know if itâÄôs improving their language abilities.âÄù