Another Angle on Hybrid

What do we think of when we think of hybrid (learning and teaching)? Some face-to-face teaching plus some online teaching? Some synchronous + some asynchronous? Flipping the classroom? Drosos and Guo (2021)* offer another perspective on a kind of teaching that can be included in the category. They show how what streamers teaching do can be seen as a form of cognitive apprenticeship. The authors do not explicitly talk about “hybrid,” but the practices they identify – real time problem solving, improvised examples, insightful tangents, and high level advice – are relevant to hybrid for two reasons. First, they are the kinds of things often cited as why remote or asynchronous instruction is necessarily inferior (the claim being they are absent). Second, they are useful challenges: how can these virtues be built into various hybrid scenarios?

*2021 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC)

Entrance vs Exit Exams

My students often care about the grade they earn in my course because they believe it will influence subsequent opportunities. And so they care about the final exam because it has a big influence on that grade for the course. And so they want to know which of the things we are learning in the course will be on that final exam. And, all too often, that’s a pretty big part of our relationship.

Sometime I feel like I’m a coach of a team – perhaps a swimming team or a track team. Now and again we have time trials as a part of our training. But of course the time trials are a means to an end not an end in themselves. The trophies and the medals are not earned in the time trials we do at practice. It’s the races in the meets that matter.

Exams feel to me more like time trials than meets.

What if, instead of final exams for courses we had preliminary exams for courses? What if we thought about curriculum in terms of what each course wanted to build on and what it wanted to leave you with. And what if you didn’t get into the next course based on a previous grade but rather on what you still had in your knowledge and skill set when you wanted to do that next course?

Maybe we could see “next” courses as building on multiple prior courses – effectively taking the idea of pre-requisites seriously and forcing ourselves to say why something is a pre-req – what knowledge am I planning to build upon in this course. Maybe each course could come with a list of “what you should already know and be able to do” goals that we could match up with the “outcomes” of other courses.

In this scenario my students are not asking me whether something will be on the exam at the end of our class; instead they are concerned about using this class to get in shape to be ready for the entrance exam for the next courses they want to take. That would likely up their game and mine too.

And the records can start to reflect how well my course contributed to their success at getting into the next course (or, eventually, passing some sort of final milestone for a degree or credential).

Hack Your Organizational Problems

“Hackathons” are cool. But who knows what they really are and how they work? ┬áThis makes them ideal things for clueless managers to do poorly. But if we take a little time to understand their “why” and “how” they do represent a potentially useful organizational form that could have a positive impact on sclerotic, inertia bound institutions. For higher educational organizations they have special potential for moving beyond “we tried that 5 years ago” and “not invented here” and for making actual interdisciplinary teams actually effective and the experience of working on institutional problems inspiring instead of demoralizing.
This post from is a good starting point because of how it manages to convey the essence of hackathoning outside the context of coding.
That essence is group process bound in space and time that focuses effort on well defined challenges in a short, structured design sprint.  The elements are important:
  • space/time
  • defined chalenge
  • structured process.
Especially the last.