Hybrid Classes: What Are They, and Pros and Cons

| Genevieve Carlton


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Are you ready to discover your college program?

The coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on hybrid learning.

Recently, Spelman College announced its plan to return to campus in a hybrid format for Spring 2021, while Harvard Business School rolled back its hybrid classrooms to shift to remote-only learning.

But what is a hybrid class, and how is it different from an in-person or online class?

What Is a Hybrid Class?

In a hybrid class, students complete part of their coursework in person and use a virtual learning platform for other parts of the class.

Unlike a fully online class, hybrid classes require on-campus sessions. At most schools, hybrid classes offer about 25-50% of their instruction on campus, with the rest taking place in a distance learning format.

Hybrid college classes look different for every school and program. In some hybrid classes, students meet once per week for live lessons while completing the rest of their course requirements in a distance format. Other hybrid classes meet less frequently, with only a handful of in-person sessions per term.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid College Classes

In many ways, hybrid classes offer the best of both worlds. Students meet with their instructors and classmates for in-person discussions and lectures, but they can also complete coursework online. But hybrid college classes aren't a great fit for every student. Here are the pros and cons of hybrid classes.

☑ Pro: Hybrid Means Flexibility

Hybrid classes offer more schedule flexibility than in-person classes. Rather than attending multiple on-campus class sessions each week, students complete more than half of their work online, allowing them to arrange coursework around their other responsibilities.

☒ Con: Requires Strong Organizational Skills

Some students struggle with the organizational skills required for online study. For example, online courses often require greater time management skills and the ability to prioritize assignments. Taking a hybrid course can help learners strengthen their organizational abilities, but it can also be challenging for students who struggle in this area.

☑ Pro: Works for Diverse Learning Styles

A hybrid class adapts better to student learning styles than an exclusively online or in-person class can. For example, auditory learners may benefit from the ability to rewind recorded lectures, while visual learners can study slides at their own pace. Meanwhile, students who benefit from in-person meetings can still connect with their instructors and fellow students.

☒ Con: Technology Requirements

Hybrid classes usually come with technology requirements, like a computer that meets the college's specifications and reliable internet access. For some students, taking a hybrid class might require buying a new computer or upgrading their current technology. Depending on the program, hybrid learners may also need to buy software programs.

☑ Pro: Provides an Intro to Online Classes

A growing number of college students are taking online classes as part of their degree. A hybrid class can be the perfect introduction to online classes. Students learn how to use distance learning technologies, interact with instructors, and stay on top of their coursework while still having the familiarity of in-person sessions.

Hybrid Classes vs. Hybrid Degrees

If you're considering hybrid classes, it's also worth researching hybrid degrees. Many colleges and universities offer hybrid degree programs, where students complete certain graduation requirements in person while also taking classes online.

During a hybrid degree, some classes may meet fully on campus while others use a fully online format. For example, in disciplines that require labs, practicums, or clinical training, a hybrid degree lets students take those courses in person, while leaving more academic or theoretical courses to be completed online.

Hybrid classes appeal to students with busy schedules who want the flexibility of completing coursework online while still having the accountability of meeting in person. They also help learners develop skills they can use when taking fully online classes later.

The pandemic's impact on higher education has highlighted the advantages of hybrid and online classes — especially those that were available online before the lockdown. Rather than forcing students into a brand-new learning format based on outbreaks or spiking case numbers, these flexible courses provide stability and flexibility.

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

Header Image Credits: David Zach, FG Trade, Eva-Katalin, artpartner-images | Getty Images

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