University to offer more hybrid classes

As class sizes grow, more departments look to expand coursework online.

Anne Millerbernd

At the University of Minnesota, more courses are moving partially online as hybrid classes.

More than a decade after their introduction, more University departments are switching to the hybrid class format in an effort to take on more students and diversify how courses are taught.

The University defines hybrid classes as courses in which students receive content both online and in a classroom. Typically, hybrid classes are scheduled like normal classes, but class isn’t held one day to provide time for the online work.

Hybrid classes have been offered at the University for about 10 years, starting with only Spanish and psychology programs. Now, more departments are taking interest in the format.

Beth Kautz, an education specialist in the language department, said instructors in her program have been showing interest in hybrid classes over the past few years, which prompted the department to open more sections as hybrids.

“Last fall we piloted hybrid sections in [Spanish] 1003, and French was already doing 1004, and then last spring in German we piloted 1004,” Kautz said.

Hybrid classes have also expanded into chemistry, horticulture and retail merchandising courses in recent years.

While hybrid classes are expanding at the University, student opinion varies on this new mode of instruction.

Some students, like freshman Hannah Rikkers, enjoy the hybrid format because it offers scheduling flexibility. She takes a hybrid introductory psychology class.

“When I took it, I was a little disappointed because I thought that I would rather have a set time for a class,” Rikkers said. “Then I realized that it’s nicer … because I can budget my schedule a little more.”

But others, including biology, society and environment junior Amber Wasley, said the hybrid class format is more difficult.

She’s taking an introductory Spanish course as a hybrid class and said there’s more work than she expected.

“I just knew that this one meets up less during the week — I didn’t realize there’d be this much online homework,” she said. “There’s just so much to keep track of, and I don’t think people really like that.”

Psychology 1001 was among the first classes to add the hybrid option.

Associate education specialist and psychology instructor Kathleen Briggs said her introductory class became available as a hybrid because more students enrolled than the course could accommodate in-person. She said the class suffered because of this.

“In our introductory class, we couldn’t say we were doing a standardized class at all,” she said. “This became a way of delivering a higher class that is consistent across all sections.”

Briggs said she’s part of a task force that’s pushing for more hybrid classes in psychology. Abnormal psychology is piloting a hybrid class this semester.

Briggs and Kautz both said they’ve seen improvement in student performance, if any change at all, since the switch to hybrid classes.

Dan Philippon, director of undergraduate studies in the English department, said the department is also exploring hybrid classes for some of its courses, though some English classes already parallel the hybrid format.

He said the English department is considering the shift because the College of Liberal Arts is changing how it offers certain online classes. Philippon said the department will discuss adding hybrid classes at a meeting this fall.

“We’re always re-evaluating the effectiveness of how we deliver our courses,” he said.