Most GW students use Blackboard to check grades and maybe even download occasional files posted by teachers. But with the emergence of GW’s “hybrid” courses – taught half in the classroom, half on Blackboard – students can now go to class by logging onto Blackboard in their bedrooms.
In the past two years, GW has started to offer hybrid courses in the School of Business and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Elliott School of International Affairs administrators said they are considering offering hybrid courses. The University offers nine hybrid courses total.
Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, said the use of Blackboard is expanding at GW, and that it can only add to the classroom experience.
“Are these classes on the increase? Yes, on some level,” he said. “Are they permeating everything about the classroom? No. I believe one-on-one interaction is a very, very important part of the learning experience. I feel that Blackboard is not so much a replacement, but more of a positive complement to learning.”
Implemented at GW in 2004, Blackboard has taken off in its four years of use. Blackboard itself is an 11-year-old program serving more than 2,200 education institutions in more than 60 countries.
“There are higher levels to Blackboard than we even know how to operate yet,” Lehman said. “Blackboard offers streaming video where you can actually see the professors lecturing from your computer or professors can hold virtual office hours via Blackboard. It is even possible to have the entire lecture delivery and student interaction done via Blackboard.”
Heather Schell, deputy director of the University Writing Program, Schell said some students are less tech savvy and register for hybrid classes without knowing what they involve.
“Some students are really afraid of technology and they have to get over being afraid of tech to succeed in these classes,” Schell said. “I had a class in which a couple students were afraid of basic word processing. It took a while, but they ended up being really good.”
She said these courses also test students’ time management skills.
“Sometimes actually being in the classroom makes it easier for students to stay organized and be prepared,” she said.
Hannah Cary, a junior and former student of Schell’s, said her hybrid course was somewhat daunting at first, but ended up being easy and convenient. The class, a UW-20 course called “Pets and Meat” required students to work on segments of an Internet radio show on Blackboard.
“Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about the hybrid thing at first because I didn’t know what type of work we would be doing,” Cary said. “But because we did recordings for a radio show as part of our assignments, it was great; we could just upload them whenever we wanted to and not have to worry about anything.”
She also took a hybrid poetry class, and she said she liked the privacy of Blackboard when students had to share their poetry.
She said, “It’s somewhat easier to have someone’s screen name critique your work than a student critiquing you to your face.”