Online and Hybrid Classes Emerged

RYAN LOVELACE | Managing Editor

Butler University has approximately doubled the amount of online and hybrid classes it offers since summer 2013.

Online courses are offered strictly online, whereas hybrid courses involve some amount of in-class or in-person meetings.

Julianne Miranda, senior director of the Center for Academic Technology, said student and faculty enthusiasm spurred the expansion.

“I don’t envision that we would potentially double or triple next year. I don’t know that that’s sustainable,” Miranda said. “I think we’re going to capitalize on that interest, continue to grow the number of courses that we have for students, and then be prudent in which ones we actually offer at any given time.”

The nearly 40 professors who will be teaching online courses this summer have recently completed a six-week orientation to teaching online through the Center for Academic Technology.

Juan Pablo Rodriguez Prieto, assistant professor of Spanish, completed the Center for Academic Technology training and will teach his first online course, a Spanish pronunciation course, this summer.

Rodriguez said students would be uploading videos to YouTube and listening to videos he uploads to YouTube.

“In this class, what I like is that most of the submissions they will do, or most of the work they will do, it’s going to be themselves; it’s their face talking to the cameras,” Rodriguez said. “There is no way a Hispanic friend or someone at home will help them.”

Students could take the course from anywhere, Rodriguez said. He added he would be in either Spain or El Salvador for the last few weeks of the course.

He said he thought this course worked well because it was an upper-level class.

“For lower-level courses, I don’t think it (an online course) would fit that nicely because they will need much more help with grammar—with, why is this wrong, why is this fine,” Rodriguez said.

Amanda Gingerich, assistant professor of psychology, will teach Careers in Psychology as hybrid course. She said some lower-level psychology courses that are lecture based lend themselves to being taught online better than upper level classes.

Gingerich also said there are several good reasons to expand online learning, but a heavy emphasis on online education would impact the psychology department’s close-knit nature.

“I think, especially at a small school like Butler, we really pride ourselves on getting to know our students and having that face recognition and especially in this department in particular, we have a pretty strong community. Students come and go all the time,” Gingerich said. “I definitely think we would lose that if we moved to very heavily online teaching.”

Careers in Psychology is a hybrid course, which Gingerich said meets on the first and last days of class. She said there are a couple of reasons why she teaches the course as a hybrid course.

“One is that I’m not yet confident enough in my online teaching abilities to take the plunge into fully online,” Gingerich said. “And the other reason is that we do guest speakers a lot.”

Gingerich said she was a part of Butler’s pilot group that tested and recommended Adobe Connect for the university, which would later become Butler’s synchronous software. She described Adobe Connect as a cross between Skype, a conference call and a classroom.

Assistant professor of education Kelli Esteves uses Butler’s learning management system Moodle, and WordPress, web software used to create blogs and websites, to teach Children’s Literature and Special Education Law.

Children’s Literature is a three-credit-hour elective hybrid course, and Special Education Law is a required one-credit-hour online-only course.

“I like the fact that our College of Education students have to take a one-credit hour online class because it’s a good first exposure in this limited sense to what it means to be a self-directed learner,” Esteves said.

Esteves said her personal teaching philosophy does not align with multiple choice tests, so she has had to stretch her thinking about teaching online classes and evaluating students differently in online courses.

“Assessing student engagement is different (than in a classroom setting),” Esteves said. “I wouldn’t say that one is more difficult than the other, it just takes a different skill set from the teacher to know what you’re observing and then how to prompt students thinking and their expression.”

Esteves said her children have had to make up snow days with electronic days of online-only learning, and that she thinks Butler students may one day have to design such courses.

Esteves said she is still working through how to teach and assign group projects in a virtual environment.

Miranda said she thought many institutions struggle with online learning.

“I still think we have that little bit of uncertainty that online is just as high quality as the face-to-face instruction,” Miranda said. “And I really think that’s where Butler will excel, because I think we’re doing this in a small enough pilot. We’re advancing quality at a reasonable pace.”