Instructional Technology

University of Houston Study: Hybrid Courses More Effective for Students

A technical report from a University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance researcher finds that students in a hybrid class that incorporated instructional technology with in-class lectures scored a letter grade higher on average than their counterparts who took the same class in a more traditional format.

Brian McFarlin, a researcher and assistant professor, created e-learning courses using Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio Pro and integrated this with classroom lectures. The software provides tools to create e-learning courses from PowerPoint and to develop interactive content, quizzes, assessments and surveys.

McFarlin's traditional Kinesiology class met twice a week for a 90-minute lecture in a large auditorium. The first class each week would provide general information; the second lecture would cover advanced topics. Alternatively, the hybrid class met once a week for traditional 90-minute lectures augmented with in-class response after doing 90 minutes of online work, which included a quiz that could be taken twice. The online courses were accessed by students through the school's WebCT (now BlackBoard) Vista learning management system.

Each online lecture took between 16 and 20 hours to create, McFarlin estimated.

His research examined 658 final grades from six semesters. Students who attended the hybrid course received final grades that were 10% higher than those who attended the traditional class, which translated to a full letter grade increase.

"Presumably, this increase is due to the fact that students were able to increase their exposure to course content via access to material on WebCT," McFarlin writes in his report, which was published in Advances in Physiology Education.

"The main reasons I chose Articulate were for its ease-of-use and the quality of the output," said McFarlin. "If you can use PowerPoint, then your learning curve is minimal and the results are really engaging. I also like how easily Articulate produces SCORM output that lets me publish my courses to our university LMS for student access and tracking."

McFarlin said he was surprised by the dramatic increase in student grades "I personally think that the hybrid format is the wave of the future," he said.

Additional information about the research is available at the university's Web site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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