What is the “flow” of an online or hybrid course?

Two students work with a faculty memberDesigning a hybrid or online course is different than developing a face-to-face course, but there are also major differences in teaching. This page provides information about these teaching phases.

In “The Online Teaching Survival Guide,” Bottcher and Conrad (2010) provide a model that describes how an online course evolves over one term by outlining four “phases.” While this phases model was proposed for fully online courses, the ideas can also be applied to hybrid courses. The model includes learner responsibilities and behavior, instructor responsibility and behavior, how content knowledge and resources interact with the learner, and use of tools in the learning environment:

I think there is a natural tendency to try and change too much and do too much but the best approach is to keep things simple in the beginning and then add elements with each iteration.Drew Halfmann, Sociology


Phase One: Course Beginnings

Posting background and pictures; getting to know fellow learners Familiarizing self with course goals and setting personal and customized objectives Testing and using the course tools and ensuring access to course resources Understanding the syllabus and course requirements
Establishing quick trust, promoting social presence Getting acquainted with learners’ backgrounds, learning readiness, amp;amp; personal learning goals Ensuring that all learners are present and engaged Making course expectations clear and explicit
Access to supplemental content resources in place Learners have acquired core required resources
Tools are in place, and learners know how to use them

Phase Two: Early Middle – Keep the Ball Rolling

Settles into a weekly rhythm of readings, postings, collaborating with at least a few learners in the course community Developing a sense of the problem space of the content Engaging with core concepts
Continuing strong teaching presence Guiding the learning of core concepts and connecting ideas and content Supporting community and work in small teams Supporting learners’ exploration and testing of ideas Balancing the need to cover content with the need for understanding
Learners are intensely exploring, engaging, and identifying more content resources and bringing them to the community
Community in a routine of using a set number of tools for collaboration, teaming, and learning

Phase Three: Late Middle – Letting Go of the Power

Engaging well with course concepts and applying core concepts in scenarios, identifying patterns and relationships Supporting and challenging others’ ideas and proposals as an accepted member of the community
Faculty shifts time from large group teaching presence to more personalized and small group teaching presence Supporting more learners-as-leaders experiences Reviewing, mentoring projects, and providing feedback on assignments
Learners are creating content as they learn and share with others in wikis, blogs, and projects
Learners are actively using course tools and may be expanding beyond and personalizing tools and bringing results back to the community

Phase Four: Closing Weeks – Pruning, Reflecting, and Wrapping Up

Digging deeply into core concepts and resources to support complex project work and complete assignments Learners are actively reviewing, supporting other learners, and may be leading some of the learning experiences Reflecting on and identifying their personal outcomes from the course
Continues a strong teaching presence, supporting learners’ projects and the course community Supporting and clarifying course wrap-up activities and requirements Managing wrap-up experiences Providing feedback and assessment
Content resources used by learners go beyond the basics to support their personalized and customized learning goals and projects
Learners are using whatever tools make the most sense for the work and their projects

Phases model from: Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. John Wiley & Sons.


References & Resources

Aragon, S. R. (2010). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2003), 57-68.

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. John Wiley & Sons.

Picciano, A. G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 21-40.

Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. John Wiley & Sons.