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Incoming college students no longer on the whole represent their recent predecessors, who move from home to a dorm room and dedicate their time solely to learning – and so, educators say, learning structures no longer should be catering exclusively to that model.
“A lot of our students work for pay off campus and spend more time [than their peers] caring for dependents and spend a lot of time commuting to class,” said Joe Zornado, director of the faculty center for teaching and learning at Rhode Island College in Providence. “[But] they [also] want to be college students. So, we can strive for quality and allow our students [to be] set up for success.”
This line of thinking is part of the reason for RIC’s new certificate in hybrid teaching and learning, a professional-development program aimed to help teachers cross the threshold into this modernized learning environment.
Hybrid teaching, said Zornado and his co-worker Marie Beardwood, the center’s academic technologist, involves dividing course instruction in a 50-50 split between online and in-classroom activity.
For as long as the Internet and email have been around, academic institutions have been utilizing them in various ways – to communicate with students more speedily, to keep them up to speed with developing technologies that one day will factor into their professional lives, and, more recently, to accommodate a new generation that grew up and went through their secondary schooling with those tools.
As generational shifts also have resulted in students who have delayed college or are working part-time toward degrees while already in the workforce, many colleges and universities have offered online-only courses.
Hybrid learning is not that.
“[Students] still need those classic skills that college provides … [and] the most significant piece is [problem-solving],” said Zornado. “This is a lot of what higher education is about – critical thinking. I think hybrid teaching and learning needs to maintain that level of quality.”