Chapter Two: Challenges


Since distance and online education is a hot topic, there is no lack of information about ways postsecondary institutions are developing online courses. Different authors advocate a variety of approaches from grass roots by the faculty themselves (Estler, 2003), through large, systemic changes of the entire learning institution led by the administration (Hitt and Hartman, 2002). Organizations such as Maryland Online and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Learning Technology Center have extensive and evolving Web sites devoted to skill development for online teaching.

There is also a range of types of online learning to consider. A relative newcomer to the list of choices is the hybrid course (Riffee, 2003; Garnham and Kaleta, 2002) which has joined the more commonly known Web-based individualized instruction and completely online class approaches. The various types of online learning are explained later in this section under "Representing Full Range of Teaching Options Without Overwhelming Participants."

As we review the literature, there are some common preconceptions that need to be addressed. One is some administrators and faculty believe online courses will be more efficient because they take less instructor time and/or simply move current instruction materials to the Web for any number of students to access (Draves, 2000). This notion is challenged by authors such as Sevilla and Wells (2000) and McLean (n.d.) who point out online education can be far more time-consuming than expected. In addition, organizations such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee note moving to an online delivery mode requires new faculty skills, and online courses are not just lecture notes moved to the Web.

In addition, we have observed that many faculty do not understand some changes they will need to make in the use of images, audio recordings and video recordings in their instruction. They assume that they will simply use the same materials in digital form, but Levine and Sun (2003) point out the need to educate faculty about the issues around using copyrighted material in distance education courses as the laws that apply in the classroom do not apply to the Internet.

Internal and external challenges are a part of developing and teaching this workshop. Some of the following challenges relate more to our teaching while others relate more to the participants' learning.

Time Allotted for Workshop

As mentioned in the section Curriculum, the time frame for the workshop had to fit after the end of the academic year, but before the faculty went off contract for the summer. This allowed a two-week period surrounding the Memorial Day holiday weekend to be used for conducting the workshop. A maximum of nine days was available, so the curriculum needed to fit within this constraint. In addition, previous experience with Tech Camp workshops proved seven days to be very exhausting for all involved. We needed to be sensitive to just how many days we could hold the camp without burning out the participants.

To address the issues we identified with online teaching, in consultation with the Director of Information Technology Systems and Services, we arrived at a workshop length of eight days by looking at the teaching techniques to be utilized in the workshop and the amount of time these techniques require. An example would be fostering discussion in an online world. We met face-to-face during the workshop hours, and we had discussion questions in the online hours. We brought the comments and issues from the online discussion back to the workshop. This means we utilized parts of at least two days for this teaching technique (preparing participants for the discussion post and the subsequent follow-up). Referring to the workshop schedule, five online posting assignments were part of the workshop. This technique required significant time.

The faculty experienced how students would participate in an online course with various technology tools. This first-hand experience as a learner was important in developing an understanding of the potential issues a student may face. This empathy helped shape course designs.

Managing online components or entire courses requires an understanding of the tools available, so the faculty spent half of the workshop working with the tools much as they would when teaching a course. We knew eight days would be tiring, yet we wanted to offer a good enough experience for our faculty to make sound pedagogical decisions for their courses.

Included in the eight days was time allocated for the faculty to work on their proposed projects. Work time normally amounted to half of the morning session and half of the afternoon session. In total, three of the eight days of the workshop were dedicated to work time. These work time periods allowed the faculty to focus on their chosen projects with immediate support available. These periods also allowed individualized instruction that was not practical in the larger context of the group. The trade-off came at the expense of a longer workshop. Balancing the amount of work time versus instructional time proved to be challenging as not all of the faculty appreciated the amount of work time built into the workshop.

Faculty Development, Compensation, and Workload

Before addressing any issues related to online learning, universities needed to start by answering the question of why an online distributed learning (ODL) program was even wanted. (Levy, 2003) Answering this question laid the foundation for addressing questions such as:

In order to facilitate the faculty's development, we modified our proven Tech Camp methods of mixed instruction, individual support, and work time with small group to large group interaction. This avoided the situation where the "faculty feel alienated and lack proper confidence when 'trained' by Information Technology (IT) staff in a large group," (Coppola, 2000, Partnerships and Training section, para. 1) and made use of the the observation that "small group instruction by a joint staff/faculty member proved successful" (Coppola, 2000, Partnerships and Training section, para. 1).

One of the more compelling reasons to deliver our curriculum came from the successes at the University of Central Florida Virtual Campus. Sorg and Darling (2000) observed "the benefits of institutionalizing faculty development for on-line learning are:

In practice, these were our experiences with Tech Camp, and the modeling of delivery techniques were expanded in the Web Course Delivery Workshop by basing the workshop on a hybrid model of instruction.

Kidney (2004) and colleagues at the University of Houston's CampusNet focused on a professional development program named "COW" (CampusNet Online Workshop) when preparing the faculty for online teaching. University of Houston's approach was similar to ours in the types of topics covered although they chose a three-day format whereas ours ran for eight days. Please do not infer any evaluation of quality in these two approaches based upon length. We built in time for the faculty to work on their courses, and Kidney acknowledged this desire by the faculty in the section on improving COW, "faculty members want to work on the development of their course during the workshop as much as possible." (Kidney, 2004, p. 4)

Levy (2003) included faculty development as one of the six factors to consider when developing ODL. "Though the principles of instructional design are not altogether different in ODL than they are for the traditional classroom, instructors need training and support to be willing to adopt this new teaching paradigm." (Levy, 2003, Staff Training and Support section, para. 1) Our experience supported this statement as the online teaching environment was an unfamiliar one for many of the faculty.

Compensation and workload issues were intertwined, but needed separate consideration from faculty development as Allison and Scott (1998) stated that although faculty development was needed and often rewarding, it was not considered to be compensation for this new role of online teacher. Allison and Scott also noted the calculation for teaching loads needed modification as the calculation was done on a primarily lecture-based model with defined meeting times whereas the online world usually lacked defined meeting times.

Our campus had not developed a policy on distributed learning at the time of our workshop; and, as a result, there was no definitive answer to the compensation and workload questions. Several administrators addressed this as best they could at the time. In the workshop section on costs presented by the Director of ITSS, only a small section named "Sources of Funding" attempted to answer the question on faculty compensation. This section was small not because of lack of desire to answer the question, but as a result of the lack of a campus policy on distributed learning. Continuing Education discussed their current model for online delivery of courses which included development money for the course, and overload compensation for the faculty as CE's courses were not part of the faculty's inload. An Associate Vice Chancellor from Academic Administration gave an initial indication that compensation would not change for inload credits; however, this was subject to a campus policy on distributed learning and negotiations with the faculty union, the University Education Association (UEA).

Preconceptions About Time Commitment When Teaching Online

Takes Less Time

Murmurs among those on our campus who had not taught online generally upheld the belief that teaching online took less time. We did not find anything in the literature to explain why this belief existed, and we had no good explanation for this belief.

Takes More Time

Murmurs among those on our campus who have taught online generally uphold the belief that teaching online takes more time. "Online classes take more faculty time than do live classrooms" (Lee and Wilner, 2002, p.2). Thompson (2004) explains why online teaching may feel like it takes more time than a similar face-to-face offering:

"Researchers who directly compared their online to their face-to-face teaching experiences reported that while the time spent teaching online was not actually greater, the 'chunking' or flow of tasks online was quite different, often resulting in a sense of less productive time available for other professional responsibilities." (p. 86)

Brown (1998) estimates online teaching to take approximately 40% to 50% more time than a similar face-to-face course. (Brown, 1998, The Efficiency Myth section, para. 3)

No Difference in Time

Lazarus (2003) noted the amount of time to teach online was roughly comparable to the amount of time to teach face-to-face. (p. 53) Scheuermann (2005) added the classroom environment and the online environment were not that different from each other, and "over time that workload diminishes, especially when you're talking about delivering the same course" (p. 4).

Why did some report online teaching took more time while others reported essentially no time difference when compared to the classroom? Perhaps this discrepancy may be explained by the shift in teaching pedagogy the online world often requires.

The Shift in Teaching Pedagogy for the Online World

Making the shift from the classroom environment to the online environment often required "... learning how to go from the teacher-centered environment of the classroom to the learner-centered environment of the virtual classroom ..." (Gibson, 1999, The Decision to go Online section, para. 13). Benbunan-Fich and Hiltz (2003) noted the outcomes for an online course improved with the growth and support of an online learning community. To foster this growth, strategies were used to place the students more at the center of learning rather than as the receivers of knowledge. Brown (1998) suggested the economics of this shift was a change from the cost per hour of instruction per student in the classroom model to the cost per unit of learning per student in the online model. An hour of instruction (seat time) did not equal an hour of learning. The online world required an hour of learning.

How We Addressed Time Issues

We addressed the preconceptions about time by getting the issue out in the open. The faculty had the opportunity to consider and decide for themselves how to handle the time issue as this was what happened with face-to-face classes. Those faculty members who already taught in a learner-centered classroom may not have seen a great difference in their time commitment, while the faculty moving from a teacher-centered classroom may have seen a substantial increase in their time commitment.

Modeling of Teaching Methods

Our guiding principle for this workshop was to use synchronous time for its strengths, and to use asynchronous time for its strengths. This required starting with the student learning desired and working backwards to arrive at an appropriate synchronous or asynchronous methodology. We felt the face-to-face classroom was best used for real-time interaction, and the online classroom was best used for non-real-time interaction. The online classroom did not have to be asynchronous, but the face-to-face classroom was synchronous by its very nature. Given this constraint, the online classroom was asynchronous in its use. Modeling the methods was essential in helping the faculty understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies and it also allowed the faculty to experience a blending of methods. The latter was important to us as we had often noticed faculty members on our campus choosing a methodology and clinging to it whether the methodology was appropriate for the intended student learning or not. Blocher, Echols, and Sujo de Montes (2003) observed one subject came to the realization that teaching involved blending methods to use where appropriate as opposed to picking a particular methodology for its own sake.

As an example, we could have used workshop time for the participants to complete a learning preference analysis and to reflect upon its results. We chose to do the learning preference analysis during the asynchronous time of the workshop because the learning outcome would not have been enhanced by using face-to-face time. Instead, we used the face-to-face time to hold a group discussion about the impact of learning preferences on teaching online and what the faculty realized as a result of this exercise. This modeling reinforced our guiding principle of using synchronous time for its strengths and using asynchronous time for its strengths. The faculty experienced first-hand the use of the technology and the application of pedagogy.

Some examples of synchronous methodologies that we used in our instruction:

Some examples of asynchronous methodologies used outside of the workshop setting:

Use of Technology Tools in Workshop Pedagogically Appropriate

Of paramount importance is avoiding the gratuitous use of technology. We see uses of technology in face-to-face classrooms that seem to be a disconnect from the intentions of the professor.This disconnect often is the result of a lack of knowledge on the best pedagogical uses of a technological tool, or alternative tools and their best uses that are available.

"Even in the hands of fully qualified and experienced professionals, technology can be unpredictable and produce results impossible to control. This is not fresh news but a realization which each generation rediscovers: 'The intentions are positive, but the consequences may be negative, i.e., degrading and harmful to students, parents, and the public at large' (Hoban, 1977, 239)" (Yeaman, 2004, p. 14).

We used various technology tools in our workshop based on the learning outcome we desired and the strength of a particular technology tool to help produce the learning outcome. Each technology tool's use included a brief overview of its strengths and weaknesses. This guided the faculty as they developed an understanding of the tool's pedagogical use.

Table 2.1. Statistical Results Example of the Test Pilot Program (submit button inactive)
Question #70 Statistics:
gave me enough time to practice

Offered 9 times

Unanswered 0 times or 0%

Frequency Choice Percent
0 1. Strongly disagree
1 2. Disagree
5 3. Agree
3 4. Strongly agree
Minimum Value Chosen: 2
Maximum Value Chosen: 4
Median Value Chosen: 3.0
Mean of applicable choices: 3.222
Std. Dev. of applicable choices: 0.6666

As mentioned in the section "Modeling of Teaching Methods," the choice of tools and their use provided the faculty with first-hand experience in these tools and their application. In other words, the link between the pedagogical theory and the practice was immediate.

An example of a technology tool and its use was a program called "Test Pilot" used to conduct the online workshop evaluations. Certainly, evaluations could have been done with paper, but paper would have required physically collecting and collating the results. This was not a big task with our workshop group due to the small size, but we would not have had access to the results until the participants were present. With the online evaluations, we were able to access the collated results before walking into the workshop which was vital to our mid-workshop evaluation. This allowed us to make adjustments as needed before entering the workshop lab. In addition, no workshop time was taken for the distribution or collection of the evaluations although the technology would have allowed us to do this. See Table 2.1 for an example of the Test Pilot statistical view. Please note that Test Pilot numbered questions internally in factors of ten. We did not ask 70 questions!

Another example of a technology tool and its use was a comparison/contrast done with a PowerPoint presentation—using only text to describe the capturing of video to a computer—and a movie of the same task. Although we did not do any official study of the difference in learning by our faculty participants, all agreed the video was more engaging. We certainly noticed less yawning and blank stares. To be fair to PowerPoint, as we believe technology is pedagogically agnostic, a really good use would have been the combination of the text slides in PowerPoint with clips of the video interspersed throughout the PowerPoint to reinforce the bullet points. Our purpose was to provide a stark comparison to help generate discussion on how the tools could be used effectively.

Copyright Issues in the Online Environment

Copyright issues abound in higher education. These issues are only exacerbated by the online environment and the resulting difference in application of copyright law and how universities move forward in deciding ownership of copyrights. Whether in the classroom or online, a faculty member often has as many as three simultaneous copyright personalities:

  1. creator
  2. owner
  3. user

This multiple personality leads to many interesting behaviors, not unlike an individual in conflict with her or himself. The faculty have an interest in the works they create (creator), but may or may not have all rights to these works depending upon the contractual status with the university or publisher (owner). The extent to which the faculty are the owners determines what rights the faculty may exercise over the works themselves. Authorship always resides with the faculty, but how the work may be used and distributed is not necessarily their choice. This is further complicated when the faculty use (user) works created by others.

Creator and Owner

Fortunately, the first of these three personalities, the creator, usually is easy to determine along with the initial copyright owner. "Initial Ownership. — Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work. The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work" (U.S.C., Title 17, Chapter 2, section 201(a)). Authorship is determined by the name on the document. Please see Table 2.2 for an example.

Table 2.2. Example of Copyright Ownership by Number of Names on the Application
Number of Names on Copyright Application
Number of Authors
Number of Owners
Percent of Ownership Rights
One One One 100%
Two Two Two 50%
Three Three Three 33.33%

Unless stated explicitly to the contrary on the copyright application, or in some other contractual form, the authorship and initial ownership rights are split equally among the authors.

One of the exceptions to the initial ownership has been higher education where Levy (2003) notes the work-for-hire relationship many full-time faculty members have with their institutions. The United States Code defines this relationship as:

"Works Made for Hire. — In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright." (U.S.C., Title 17, Chapter 2, section 201(b))

Work-for-hire under copyright law gives the authorship and ownership to the employer although "full-time instructors ... have operated under an academic exception to the copyright act in which faculty members own their own intellectual property. This is based on tradition, or practice, and is not a legal requirement" (Levy, 2003, Copyright and Intellectual Property section, para. 3).

At UMD, we consider two different policies regarding ownership:

  1. the University of Minnesota Board of Regents' Policy on Intellectual Property
  2. the UEA contract

The Board of Regents policy makes a "regular academic work product" solely owned by the creator unless assigned contractually, and defines a "regular academic work product" as:

"... any copyrightable work product which is an artistic creation or which constitutes, or is intended to disseminate the results of, academic research or scholarly study. Regular academic work product includes, but is not limited to, books, class notes, theses, and dissertations, course materials designed for the Web, distance education and other technology-oriented educational materials, articles, poems, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, or other works of artistic imagination. Software specifically needed to support a regular academic work product or which is designed to disseminate the results of academic research and scholarly study is also considered a regular academic work product" (University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 1999, p. 2).

This is different than what Levy notes about general university practice, and makes our work somewhat easier as far as ownership is concerned. The UEA contract which governs our faculty members on the Duluth campus parallels the Regents' policy also making our job easier as sometimes there are differences between the two that we must take into account. Given the time of adoption of this Regents' policy (1999, effective May, 2001), the University of Minnesota would be in a small minority of universities with a policy affecting Web delivery of courses that leaves the ownership solely with the faculty as Ubell (2001) noted in his late 2000 study. Ubell also notes that half of the universities in his study either did not have a policy regarding ownership of online materials or were in the process of developing one. Ulius (2003) suggests no one policy will fit all institutions, and the process of developing a policy can help avoid future problems which will make the messy process worthwhile.

A growing concern in online course delivery is the necessity for a development team to help create the course. Many times, the course would not make it online without this group, but the copyright often remains with the faculty member only. A concern is the drain to private industry of these support staff as these development team duties are often in addition to their current work. To help mitigate this drain, Stein (2001) describes a model based on motion picture film team production where the compensation is not just financial and varies from project to project based upon the contributions.


The user is the one personality with the largest number of issues when it comes to copyright. Many faculty members are not completely sure how copyright applies to the classroom, and are even less knowledgeable when it comes to copyright and the online delivery of courses. The term "fair use" is often thrown around without many knowing how to apply it. Both Levy (2003) and Waterhouse and Rodgers (2004) cite other authors on the acceptable amounts of material that may be used and still be considered fair use, but the fair use section of copyright law says nothing about this. Many of these rules may come from the Conference on Fair Use or CONFU, but "none of the fair-use guidelines has the force of law; only statutes and court rulings have that authority" (Crews, 1997, The Force of Law: Flexibility, Protection, and Balance section, para. 1). This dichotomy of views leads to some of the confusion on part of the faculty.

The TEACH Act (section 110(2)) is a new arrival on the scene which does hold some promise for faculty members and online learning, but this is another addition to a set of laws that many faculty members are not certain how to apply. Given this backdrop, the confusion many of the faculty feel is understandable and is a leading reason we do a fair amount of work on copyright in our workshop.

Addressing the issues surrounding copyright is crucial regardless of the arena in which the class is delivered: face-to-face or online. Clearly, the issues get more convoluted when going online, so devoting the amount of time we do to copyright is justified in our minds. As ownership of materials and attitudes toward fair use vary from campus to campus, a check on current practices is warranted before tackling this topic.

The case studies we use in the workshop are drawn from examples on campus, but we remove any identifying information in the cases to protect anonymity. This gives the participants in our workshop real, concrete issues to consider. Real copyright case studies often involve all the hats a person may wear when dealing with copyright (i.e., creator, owner, user), so the faculty have to sort through all the pieces. A contrived case study that reduces the number of hats involved may be appropriate when the participants are having difficulty sorting through the pieces. We have these case studies ready to go should the need arise.

Students' Suitability for Online Learning

One of the concerns in going to an online delivery of courses is the ability of underclassmates to handle the online environment. The "student study habits formed in secondary school persist to the end of the first semester of university life. Such a conclusion indicates that students are not bridging the gap between school and university quickly and effectively" (Lowe and Cook, 2003, p. 53). As the transition to college life may prove problematic to underclassmates, moving these students to a purely online environment would indicate a decrease in student success until high schools utilize online learning as a common method in teaching courses. A hybrid approach may mitigate some of the issues surrounding the secondary to post-secondary transition.

In addition, administration and the faculty often "did not discuss the academic factors which influence retention" (Braunstein and McGrath, 1997, Results: Reasons Why Freshmen Leave the College section, para. 3). We feel putting the emphasis on the student will help address academic factors without preaching on the topic.

"Students who participate in study groups, speak with faculty members outside class, and participate in school clubs are more likely to complete their programs of study at both two- and four-year colleges" (Schmid and Abell, 2003, Summary section, para. 3). Because of this, even more care must be used when choosing a model for Web based delivery of teaching. An INI (Individualized Instruction) course may not be the best choice for a new student on campus, while it may be more appropriate for upperclassmates.

Teaching Pedagogy may Pose a Political Issue for Information Technology

As information technology professionals, we often are looked to for our technology prowess. While this is desirable in many situations, we have found this to be limiting in other instances. Many times the teaching of a technology tool cannot be separated from the pedagogy required to use the tool effectively. Morgan (2003) maintains that effective training has pedagogy woven into the fabric of teaching the technology; and Cagle and Hornik (2001) state as a result of their work in preparing the faculty for using educational technology that "faculty development programs associated with educational technology should include educational theory along with demonstrations of technological applications" (Summary section, para. 1).

We maintain technology is teaching—and learning—agnostic as the faculty's use of a technology tool determines its effectiveness for teaching and learning. Many can relate to seeing both good and bad examples of PowerPoint use in a classroom or meeting. The tool (e.g., PowerPoint) does not create the good or bad teaching and learning experience. The human using the tool creates the experience. Yet, in both the good and bad examples, the presenter may have known the ins and outs of PowerPoint. Clearly, teaching just how to use the tool addresses only half of the learning actually needed. Because we need to include the pedagogical use of the tool in our teaching, we sometimes find ourselves in an awkward position. To handle this situation we often ask the following questions of ourselves:

Recognizing that one of the strengths of a university is the diverse expertise on campus, we try to include many of the active stakeholders during development and presentation of the workshop. For the Web Course Delivery Workshop, some of the campus groups include:

In order to be mindful of the work of others, we seek input from these other groups, and include guest lecturers from these groups. We do not view our teaching pedagogy along with the tool to be in competition with these other groups; rather we look for ways to be complimentary as our working relationships transcend just this one workshop. Our inclusion of these other groups actually serves two purposes:

  1. keeping an atmosphere of inclusiveness in our workshop
  2. building on the strengths of others

Research about teaching online is not limited to published articles. The faculty on campus who are teaching online are often valuable for both the positive and negative aspects of the topic as seen from their perspectives. In addition, many of these faculty are publishing on the topic of online teaching.

Giving Voice to Leading-edge Teachers

What about the faculty who already have taught some form of an online course? How should their efforts be acknowledged, or should their efforts be acknowledged at all? We believed these faculty members were critical to the workshop not just to recognize their work, but to have a peer coach a peer on the promises and pitfalls of this different teaching environment. These faculty members also broadened the knowledge and experience base available during the workshop while informing our planning of the workshop.

The faculty members identified as leading-edge were chosen by talking with college and department heads in addition to our first-hand knowledge. We routinely worked with faculty members from all departments and colleges across campus which also gave us access to the campus grapevine—a very powerful network. Many of the faculty contacted came from the same campus groups identified in the section "Teaching Pedagogy may Pose a Political Issue for Information Technology." Some informed our work while others both informed our work and participated in the workshop. Their participation in the workshop ranged from leading presentations to leading small group discussions around their area of expertise.

Bringing all these groups together helped to create a critical mass that was missing due to the insular nature of many campus disciplines. We did not expect a groundswell to occur after the workshop because of this, but there was a heightened awareness of the work being done on campus. As of this writing, more formal guidance on the campus' direction on distributed learning was underway. We did not attribute this solely to our workshop, but the workshop did provide another piece in the effort to move forward with a shared vision.

Participants Need to Experience Both Student and Teacher Perspectives

Due to many participants' lack of experience teaching and learning in an online environment, we created both a student perspective and a teacher perspective in the workshop. Experiencing both sides of the fence was important in order for the faculty to manage their online courses effectively. Understanding the demands created by a particular pedagogy and its use of technology helped the faculty gauge how many hours of work to expect from the students and themselves.

In addition to the teacher and student perspective, we asked the faculty to scale the various activities to their courses. "Scale" as used in Information Technology had to do with the ability to handle larger loads on a system. Ten emails a day for any email server posed no problem, but as email grew in popularity the loads went up. Did the email server scale up to handle the higher loads? An example of scaling in teaching was the use of an online discussion forum. Many of the faculty were intrigued by its potential to explore topics in a deeper manner across a broader range of students than was often achieved in classroom discussions, but the faculty needed to consider reading in-depth responses from nearly all of the students in the class. Reading 20, 30, or 40 students' posts was dramatically different than reading 200, 300, or 400 students' posts. Sheer number was not the only determining factor as the faculty member's individual philosophy of grading impacted the time spent on managing the posts.

At the time of our research we were unable to find anything in the literature addressing this, but we believed this was absolutely necessary to address in this type of a workshop.

What Support Exists on Campus for Hybrid Models?

Suggesting a hybrid, or blended learning, model was walking into uncharted territory on our campus. A hybrid course was one that occupied the continuum between an all face-to-face course and an all online course. The notion that a face-to-face class would have less seat time may seem like we were trying to cheat on the credit hours of the course. In reality, this model allowed for greater learning opportunities as methods were matched to the desired learning while freeing classroom space. This model offered more flexibility for the student scheduling as time commitments were spread over a wider portion of the day or week.

Academic Administration was not aware of any faculty member utilizing the hybrid model in undergraduate classes. This did not mean someone was not already conducting a hybrid class at the undergraduate level. This meant none were officially on the record. Academic Administration did show some interest in the hybrid format. The baseline for measurement was the hybrid course had to be as good, or preferably better, than the all face-to-face equivalent. If the hybrid course met this baseline, then the freeing of physical classroom space was viewed as a bonus.

One example of the structuring of a hybrid course in the literature is detailed in the Table 2.3. (Martyn, 2003, p. 22) Please note in this example that only the first and last meeting of the course is actually face-to-face. Many of our Master of Education cohorts follow a model similar to this one.

Table 2.3. Matrix for the Seven Principles of Good Practice
First Class Face-to-Face E-mail Chat Online Quizzes Online Threaded Discussion Last Class Face-to-Face
Student-faculty contact
Student-student collaboration
Active learning
Prompt feedback
Emphasize task on time
Communicates high expectations
Respects diverse talents

One of our workshop participants planned an undergraduate hybrid course where one face-to-face meeting out of three per week was replaced with online learning. The decision was based upon the material typically covered in that one meeting per week. The faculty member determined the material was better handled using reading outside of class with an online threaded discussion about the topic. An adaptation of Martyn's table as applied to this professor's structuring of his hybrid course is detailed in Table 2.4, and the faculty member's course schedule detailed his hybrid model. Please note the face-to-face meetings occurred twice a week throughout the semester.

Table 2.4. Adapted Matrix for the Seven Principles of Good Practice: Two Face-to-Face Meetings per Semester Week
Monday Class Face-to-Face Wednesday Class Face-to-Face E-mail Online Threaded Discussion (in lieu of Friday Face-to-Face)
Student-faculty contact
Student-student collaboration
Active learning
Prompt feedback
Emphasize task on time
Communicates high expectations
Respects diverse talents

At the time of this writing, the professor has completed two semesters of teaching his course in this model. He has presented the results on campus as they have been very positive both from his perspective and his students' perspective. We did not have any feedback from our administration on this hybrid course.

Representing Full Range of Teaching Options Without Overwhelming Participants

We wanted the faculty to be exposed to a wide range of teaching options for their courses. Finding a balance between proper exposure and information overload proved problematic. As with many workshops, deciding what was absolutely necessary and what may be learned later required tough decisions. As a result we offered four different models for the faculty to consider applying to their courses:

  1. Cohort Individualized Instruction
  2. Hybrid
  3. Individualized Instruction
  4. Online Learning Community

These four models represented a wide range of teaching options, and allowed the faculty to blend and stretch the boundaries of these teaching options to create a nearly infinite variety of options. Our goal was not to develop faculty expertise in all of these teaching options. Instead, we introduced participants to these options, and followed up with individual consultation during the workshop and after the workshop to help them in their choice.

Cohort Individualized Instruction

"Cohort Individualized Instruction" is somewhat of an oxymoron as it juxtaposes group interaction with individual learning. In practice it means the students never meet each other face-to-face, and the bulk of instruction is the utilization of reading done by the students on their own; however, the cohort moves through the material in the same time frame and members may engage one another in asynchronous discussions.


Our definition of the "Hybrid" model is the continuum between face-to-face and online learning. As an example of our view of the hybrid model, a class that meets three times a week in a traditional setting may reduce the face-to-face component to perhaps two times a week with the balance being handled in the online environment. The key is to reorganize the course to utilize the two components for their strengths. The face-to-face time gravitates toward active learning by the students while the online time tends to be for the intake of material and its reflection.

Individualized Instruction

"Individualized Instruction" (INI) is student learning completed individually with interaction only between the student and teacher. The technology varies as an INI may be done with video tapes and instructional packets mailed to the student as in a traditional correspondence course. The online version simply moves these materials to the online environment.

Online Learning Community

"Online Learning Community" is a form of the "Hybrid" model. This model may only meet face-to-face twice for the class. Typically the meetings are at the beginning and the end of the course. The balance of the course is conducted online with interaction among the students being paramount.

Positivist Versus Constructivist


Our view of a "positivist" approach goes beyond the Webster definition of "a theory that theology and metaphysics are earlier imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations as verified by the empirical sciences" (Merriam-Webster Online, March 2005, from to the actual methodologies associated with a positivist philosophy. These methodologies are based upon the assumption that knowledge flows from the teacher to the student in largely a passive manner.


"What the various interpretations of constructivism have in common is the proposition that the child is an active participant in constructing reality and not just a passive recorder of it" (Elkind, 2004, p. 306). Even though this quote is directed toward the younger learner, it represents our current view of constructivism at any age level. Once again this speaks to the methodologies associated with the philosophy. Here the assumption is one of the learner constructing the knowledge with the teacher as a guide. This approach to teaching becomes more common place as Barr and Tagg (1995) note the shift from an "Instruction Paradigm" to a "Learning Paradigm." (p. 13)

A Nice Summation of the Two Philosophies

"Currently, nursing education teaches undergraduate nursing courses almost exclusively using positivist methods. This traditional scientific model is predominantly data-driven, reductionistic, hierarchical, and objective-based. Nursing knowledge is transmitted via passive learning with standards of professional instruction and supervised practice (Pitts, 1985). Nursing students are socialized using mechanistic, rigid standards and faculty demand that they meet the minimum standards of objective-based learning. In this model, students are evaluated using objective methods which predominantly measure lower level cognitive skills. This is not so much wrong as limited (Dzurec, 1989; Hare-Mustin and Marecek, 1990). Yet nurse graduates must learn to think critically and independently and bring creative techniques to bear on complex health care problems and care delivery situations. In the traditional, almost exclusive positivist educational model are students being adequately prepared for the work world now and into the future? By combining the positivist with a constructivist education model, opportunity will be provided for greatly enhancing students' active participation in their own learning as well as an opportunity to help students bring greater meaning to their developing nursing knowledge base. The value of experiential knowledge, active participation, and greater meaning brought to the developing knowledge base are ways to foster graduates who are better able to think critically and independently" (Walton, 1996, p. 400).

Even though this quote is from the nursing field, the idea that positivist teaching "is not so much wrong as limited" may be applied to all learners.

Our Approach

Although the heading of this section indicates a contest between these two philosophies, the reality in our teaching is one of appropriate use. We often ask the following questions to help guide us:

Our ultimate goal is to enable a transformation in the teaching practices of the faculty participants. Mezirow (1997) defines transformative learning as "... the process of effecting change in a frame of reference" (p. 5). We enable this transformation by creating a safe atmosphere for the faculty to examine their beliefs and practices about teaching and learning, and by developing workshop components using Cranton's "A Taxonomy of Processes for Working Toward Transformative Learning" (see Table 2.5). Please note Cranton's inclusion of instrumental (positivist) learning in this process. Table 2.5 represents processes instead of goals as Cranton asserts, "From a constructivist perspective, educational aims are not end states but criteria for the process of education" (Cranton, 1994, p. 67).

Table 2.5. A Taxonomy of Processes for Working Toward Transformative Learning
Domain of Learning
Instrumental Communicative Emancipatory
Least complex learning (complexity increases down column) More complex learning (complexity increases down column) Most complex learning (complexity increases down column)
Positivism Constructivism Constructivism
Content reflection on epistemic meaning schemes Content reflection on epistemic, psychological, and sociolinguistic meaning schemes Content and process reflection on epistemic, psychological, and sociolinguistic meaning schemes leading to transformed meaning schemes
Process reflection on epistemic meaning schemes Process reflection on epistemic, psychological, and sociolinguistic meaning schemes
Premise reflection on epistemic meaning perspectives Premise reflection on epistemic, psychological, and sociolinguistic meaning perspectives Premise reflection on epistemic, psychological, and sociolinguistic meaning perspectives leading to transformed meaning perspectives

Beyond enabling a process for transformative learning, we normally do not create every last detail as is seen in our curriculum for this book. We look at the process, and within this process determine what methods create a learning atmosphere. We have workshop materials and methods ready, but we are willing to adapt based upon the learners present in the workshop. We filled in the detail for this book as we want others to understand our process and rationale, but please be flexible in your adaptation of our work. Ultimately, this workshop needs to reflect the goals, abilities, and culture of your campus.

Copyright 2005 Barbara Z. Johnson and Bruce D. Reeves