Course Design Strategies for Hybrid and Asynchronous Learning

Faculty can integrate instructional practices from face-to-face instruction into hybrid and asynchronous courses to build student connection, engagement, and differentiation.

Students have shown clear preferences for flexible courses since the pandemic. They want choices in how they participate in classes: face-to-face, hybrid, and asynchronous courses all have their place in their schedules. Even though much instruction has returned to campus, hybrid and asynchronous courses are here to stay and faculties must adjust. As with anything to do with technology, some faculty have embraced new types of learning opportunities, and others are looking for tips and best practices to incorporate into their teaching.

Higher education leaders gathered recently for a virtual event hosted by Fierce Education to discuss how faculties can be intentional in how they structure their courses to build community and engagement with blended learning. The event, Helping Faculty Navigate Top Challenges in This New Blended Learning Environment, featured a session on personalizing hybrid and asynchronous courses to create the same type of student engagement teachers have in face-to-face classes.

Three higher education leaders spoke with Fierce Education Head of Content Elliot Markowitz on the topic:

  • Dr. Joanne Ricevuto, Assistant Vice President of Instructional Success at Harcum College
  • Sean Michael Morris, VP, Academics, Course Hero and educator
  • Amanda Lynne Smith, PhD, Chief Academic Officer, Academic Partnerships

The focus of their conversation was how to best help faculty choose the best digital tools and strategies to engage students in a blended learning environment. All three panelists contributed strategies and techniques that have proven effective in hybrid and asynchronous environments.

Dr. Ricevuto led off by sharing ways faculty can engage with students in a virtual environment and increase teaching presence beginning with an initial social-emotional check-in with students. Using anonymous polling software is a good way to do this. It builds community and shows students that their instructors care about them, which is a terrific place to begin building engagement. Once they are engaged, students feel a sense of belonging that contributes to their ability to learn. She shared five ways to build teaching presence in a virtual environment:

  1. Personalize your course so students get to know you
  2. Do consistent check-ins on their social-emotional health as well as their state of engagement with course assignments
  3. Encourage one-on-on meetings by phone or video chat
  4. Provide immediate feedback
  5. Send video responses

New Expectations

Dr. Smith said the 86% of GenZ are looking for interaction, engagement, and flexibility in their courses. “The challenges faculty face include how to design courses that ensure opportunities for student interaction,” she said. Some faculties are bringing in course designers to help instructors pair engagement strategies with good pedagogy to personalize the course experience with student interaction. “We want to empower faculty professional learning and implementation,” she said. “Taking time to foster relationships with students and being intentional about online learning allows instructors to create a differentiated response with each student.”

“We want to connect with our students on more than just an academic level,” added Course Hero's Morris. “Apps and platforms are tempting, but technology is a small slice of what we’re doing, and we have to be conscious to reach through the screen to the person on the other side. Human to human.” He continued by saying that we need to continually monitor that we are moving forward and cautioned that faculty cannot shut down devices in the classroom. “Post-pandemic does not mean a slingshot back to 2012,” he said. “Students are different now.”

Practical Tips

Both Dr. Ricevuto and Dr. Smith agreed that one of the most effective and practical tactics to lead with is for instructors to share something about themselves and provide their contact information and open office hours in the very first class. Letting students know that you’re interested in being available to them invites students into relationship and that builds community and a sense of belonging.

“Being accessible to students is what they want,” said Dr. Ricevuto. “If you are trying out new technology, be transparent and tell your students that’s new. Seeing their teacher be open and vulnerable also invests in the relationship between teacher and student.”

For more articles from Fierce Education's virtual event, see:

Top Gun Instructor: Engaging Students On All Learning Platforms

Schools Develop Programs to Raise Student Preparedness Levels