Under my leadership, the Humanities and Social Sciences Division at KCC has vigorously sought to enhance student learning and success while providing more flexible scheduling option, including significantly expanded the number of hybrid and online courses we offer. This work has entailed working closely with faculty to develop rigorous new policies and standards for our hybrid and online courses, as well as expanding the professional development, training, and support provided to both students and faculty. This initiative has been part of our broader efforts to modernize and streamline the KCC master schedule.
While individual HSS faculty have developed online and hybrid courses over the past several years, such courses represented a relatively small percentage of our overall schedule, and were not part of any strategic vision or plan. At the same time, student feedback from both the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) routinely indicated that “finding classes that fit with my schedule” has been a barrier to completion. Indeed, a systematic review of scheduling practices at KCC not only revealed that there were significant inconsistencies within the schedule developed by each division, but that there were significant scheduling conflicts among required classes across the institution.
Limitations of the Current Scheduling Template
One major impetus for expanding our hybrid course offerings was to provide students greater flexibility and access to courses. Indeed, mapping the traditional scheduling template revealed a number of serious limitations.
First, KCC’s traditional schedule yields only eight available course slots during “prime time” (between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.), and only 12 slots when expanded to include afternoon sessions. Second, students limited by work or family obligations to taking classes in narrower bands (say, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.) are simply not able to maintain a full-time schedule. Finally, many classes outside of HSS (including Career and Technical Education, Health Careers, and Math, Science and Engineering courses) require additional labs that do not fit within the traditional template rules. As a consequence, many students are prevented from completing general education courses due to conflicts.
Opportunities of a Hybrid Schedule
In contrast, an “all-hybrid” schedule presents a number of clear advantages over the traditional schedule. First, employing a “replacement model” for hybrid courses (in which 50% of the traditional classroom instruction is replaced with active online instruction), the corresponding template provides greater consistency. Because all courses meet face to face for just 1 hour and 15 minutes, start and end times are uniform across all days of the schedule.
Second, whereas the traditional template yields only eight “prime-time” course slots over five days, the hybrid schedule provides 20 slots. If the hybrid schedule is reduced to exclude Fridays (which many faculty and students prefer), this still yields 16 total daytime slots over four days.
Third, for those students only able to enroll in classes during narrower time bands (say, between 8 am. and 10 a.m.), a hybrid schedule enables these students to take between four and six courses, maintaining full-time status. Similarly, students who can devote just one day a week to on-campus instruction can conceivable take four courses during the day–and an additional two courses at night. Finally, because hybrid classes meet in person just once a week, it is far easier for students to fill in any “gaps” created by lab or studio courses offered by other divisions.
For example, students enrolled in a typical section of Earth Science and Astronomy have severely limited options in terms of daytime classes three days of the week: the lab renders the Monday block from 11 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. unusable; and the lecture meetings render the Friday morning block from 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. unusable. They can squeeze in a class between lectures and lab, or take classes in the afternoon.
In contrast, having access to hybrid courses means that students could conceivably take two additional general education courses on Monday afternoons — and with the schedule extended to Friday, four additional courses on Friday mornings. This is a far more efficient use of time and resources for students and the college alike.
Critical to expanding our hybrid course offerings has been the development of new quality standards for hybrid and online course design and instruction. The conundrum of hybrid and online curriculum is well-known: done well, such courses provide an outstanding, highly flexible learning experience for students; done poorly, such courses have markedly worse student outcomes for completion, success, and satisfaction. Yet faculty are often wary of the imposition of potentially ill-informed and onerous standards, particularly when (as happens all too often), such standards are presented in a critical or punitive context.
Thus, in addressing how we might expand our division’s hybrid and online offerings, I made it clear to my faculty from the start that my mission was to create an outstanding teaching and learning experience for students and faculty alike. I also made it clear that moving forward with this initiative would require the full commitment (and consensus) of all faculty in the division–and collaboration with stakeholders across the college.To achieve these end, I organized three faculty work groups (a quality team, a marketing and outreach team, and student support team) that met regularly throughout the spring and summer semesters. Through many conversations and significant collaboration with faculty, faculty association leadership, learning and information technologies staff, other administrators, our student services team, and of course, students themselves, we were able to achieve consensus on several knotty contractual and instructional issues.
I am proud to say that HSS faculty voluntarily and unanimously adopted a set of rigorous Guidelines for Hybrid Course Design and Instruction last year that now serves as a model for such courses college-wide. And what my faculty learned, they have been teaching to others: developing a series of rigorous professional development experiences for their colleagues across the college. We have also significantly expanded our marketing and outreach efforts.
These efforts have already yielded several results. This summer and fall we significantly expanded the number of hybrid courses we offer (such classes now make up 25% of our offerings); and for the first time in several years we are offering a full-slate of general education courses on all three of our campuses as well as in the evenings. What’s more, this fall marks the first semester in seven years where we’ve seen growth in both overall student head count and credit hours.