What Is a Hybrid Program?

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Hybrid programs offer the best of both worlds: in-person instruction when needed and online coursework where possible.

Hybrid or blended degree programs are academic programs that divide time between online and in-person instruction. According to Educationdata.org, roughly 38% of college faculty reported teaching a hybrid course in 2019, and 67% of faculty received professional development for designing such courses.

Read on to learn how hybrid degree programs incorporate the advantages of both traditional and online programs within one unique package.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Hybrid Degree?

Advantages

  • If you work full time, scheduling the few in-person requirements of a hybrid program will be easier than attending a traditional on-campus program.
  • A hybrid program requires fewer trips to campus than a traditional one, so you will save on transportation costs.
  • Hybrid programs give you the freedom to rewatch lectures and re-read class discussions at your leisure.

Disadvantages

  • If you live far from campus, it may be difficult to make a weekly or even quarterly commute to fulfill in-person requirements.
  • Hybrid degree programs require self-discipline and excellent time management skills.
  • You will get less time to network and collaborate with peers in a hybrid program than you would with an on-campus program.

Comparing Hybrid vs. Online Programs

While they share many similarities, hybrid and online programs have key differences, too. An online program comes in a completely online format with no in-person requirements, such as on-campus labs or residencies. In online programs, students log into the learning management system at their school to access course materials, participate in online discussions, and complete exams.

A hybrid program also uses online learning as its main instructional format, but it requires students to participate in in-person learning, too. This is usually for practical courses, like labs, or for in-person meetings with the instructor. Having these in-person requirements is less convenient, but provides more opportunity to network with peers and instructors.

What Kinds of Hybrid Programs Are There?

Certifications and degree programs in business, law, and nursing often utilize hybrid learning. In these programs, presentations, labs, and internships are a key part of the education process, and they are usually handled in person. Meanwhile, students can complete other academic requirements — like readings, weekly discussions, and individual assignments — online, often asynchronously.

Certification Programs That Offer Hybrid Study

Many certification programs use hybrid learning models — especially those pursued by working learners, who don't have much scheduling flexibility. Common certification programs that offer hybrid study include:

  • Accounting certifications
  • Business certifications
  • Career advising certifications
  • Certified Financial Planning (CFP) certifications
  • Computer programming certifications
  • Finance certifications
  • Medical office administration certifications
  • Paralegal certifications

Degree Programs That Offer Hybrid Study

Many degree programs offer hybrid study, especially in fields where online study cannot replace learning experiences in a clinical environment. The following degree programs generally offer hybrid study options.

  • Bachelor of nursing
  • Master of nursing
  • Master of arts in English
  • MBA
  • Master of laws
  • Doctor of laws
  • Doctor of psychology

What Is a Typical Schedule in a Hybrid Program?

Hybrid programs typically organize in-person learning components during weekly campus visits or quarterly week-long residencies. In the former, students spend Monday through Thursday studying online and then attend in-person elements over the weekend. In the latter format, students spend 10 weeks learning online and then finish the quarter with a week-long, on-campus residency.

Sample Schedule 1 - Weekly Campus Visits
Monday - Thursday
  • Complete reading assignments.
  • Turn in individual and team-based projects through online learning system.
  • Watch instructor-prepared lectures and videos.
  • Contribute to online discussion forum.
  • Attend weekly online discussion group with classmates.
  • Attend virtual instructor office hours as needed.
Friday - Saturday
  • Attend in-person instruction.
  • Conduct lab work.
  • Meet with instructor.
Sample Schedule 2 - Quarterly Week-Long Residency
Week 1-10
  • Complete reading assignments.
  • Turn in individual and team-based projects through online learning system.
  • Watch instructor-prepared lectures and videos.
  • Contribute to online discussion forum.
  • Attend weekly online discussion group with classmates.
  • Attend virtual instructor office hours as needed.
Week 11
  • Complete week-long, on-campus residency.
  • Attend in-person instruction.
  • Conduct lab work.
  • Network with classmates.
  • Listen to guest speakers.
  • Meet with instructor.

Why Hybrid and Not Fully Online?

Many flexible certification or degree programs come in a hybrid rather than fully online format because an online workaround is not possible for some subjects in the curriculum. For instance, many science-based majors, such as biology and organic chemistry, require lab work, which students must complete in order to understand certain course materials.

Other programs follow the hybrid learning format simply because the in-person element of the experience aligns better with their learning philosophies. Getting the opportunity to meet with your instructor or peers in person can make the learning experience less isolating and lead to networking opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Find a Hybrid Program Near Me?

Research nearby colleges and universities and look at the online learning landing page for schools that interest you. Schools usually separate hybrid programs from fully online programs on the online learning landing page. You can also search the school's online catalog for hybrid programs.

Are Hybrid Classes Hard?

Hybrid classes are challenging for some learners because they require self-discipline and have less in-person interaction than a traditional program. However, in-person meetings also give students the opportunity to ask peers and instructors for help, so students may find them easier than purely online courses.

What Is a Hybrid Classroom Like?

Hybrid courses usually have smaller class sizes than online courses in order to make the in-person learning component more manageable. A hybrid classroom typically gives students opportunities to work on projects, review material with their peers, and communicate with instructors about issues with course materials.

Are Hybrid Courses Accredited?

Hybrid courses from regionally accredited colleges and universities hold the same level of academic rigor and prestige as traditional courses from regionally accredited schools.

What Do You Do in a Hybrid Program?

The typical hybrid degree program schedule includes asynchronous learning for the bulk of the week, followed by recap and review during synchronous, in-person classroom time. Many hybrid programs also use in-person components for course elements like lab work.

Does the Hybrid Model of Learning Work?

The hybrid model of learning typically works best for working learners who want the benefits of a traditional degree program but cannot manage consistent in-person class meetings during the week. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 92% of higher education institutions moved to hybrid education models in autumn of 2020.

Header Image Credit: Maskot | Getty Images

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