When plotting a strategy for creating online and/or blended learning at a college or university, a strategic, institutional vision is cricital for success. At this point in time any number of institutions; large and small, first tier research universities and for-profit technical schools; have invested in online and blended courses.
One of the main questions faculty ask, especially those not enamored of the idea of abdicating their lecturn, is; “Is this hybrid stuff as good as traditional methods?” The honest answer is; It depends. It depends on the rigor of the instrucitonal design, the quality of institutional technology infrastructure, the skill of the instructor, and the quality of the courses developed.
This brings us back to the concept of institutional vision. This is important because without vision distance education can easily become the very nightmare Luddite’s fear most.
Good hybrid courses depend on good instructional design, but without institutional support there won’t be instrucitonal designers and technologists to assist faculty with the creation and maintanence of their online and hybrid courses.
Good hybrid courses are dependent on technology infrastructure. Without a clear, vision with regards to infrastructure, incorporating rich media, 24/7 access to course materials and other mainstays of a quality hybrid environment are not possible.
Finally, good hybrid courses are dependent on the skills of the instructor. By skills i mean both pedagogical understanding of hybrid education and technology skills to create and incorporate rich media into course offerings. If faculty are going to be skilled, the institution has to invest in faculty training and development. Which means staff and resources to train faculty who are experts in their field but often have no or only rudimentary backgrounds in pedagogy.
If any of these components are missing, any hope of creating a quality hybrid environment disintegrates rapidly.