Hybrid Courses at Silberman: What’s the Deal?

“The great advantage of online learning is that it makes a permanent record of thinking and therefore offers an opportunity for reflection and increased awareness of the inquiry process.” 

-D. Randy Garrison, Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines

Did you know that a majority of the courses offered at the Silberman School of Social Work are hybrid? Unless you are teaching Practice Lab or a handful of Human Behavior in the Social Environment or Research Methods courses, you are teaching a hybrid course.

What is a hybrid (or blended) course? 

The terms “hybrid” and “blended” are used interchangeably to describe similar models of online learning. So, what is a hybrid course? Hybrid courses typically replace some in-person sessions with online activities (Stein & Graham, 2014). Hunter College defines hybrid as “Between 33% and 80% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings.

The hybrid approach has its benefits. A meta-analysis and review of the online learning studies conducted by the Department of Education found that wholly online or blended courses, on average, produced stronger student learning outcomes than classes that only had face-to-face instruction (Means et. al, 2010 p. Xviii). This might be due to the fact that students can repeatedly access the content online including explanations and instructions.

What does this mean for you? 

At Silberman, our hybrid courses replace one hour of in-person class-time each week with online activities. This model is atypical in that students will meet weekly in the classroom for two hours but that third hour has been replaced with online activities. Essentially, 33% is online which fits Hunter College’s definition of a hybrid course.

If we break it down, a 3 credit graduate classes is 45 hours each semester (3hrs a week X 15 weeks). In a typical semester, you will teach 30 hours in the classroom and 15 hours online. You can design your course to have a weekly one-hour activity (e.g. watching video lectures) or you can chunk the 15 hours and have 4-6 lengthier activities during the semester. 

The best way to think about the online portion of your course is to answer this question, “If you had that additional hour of class, what more could you do?” Engage students in small group activities? Invite a guest speaker?  Give students time to meet about group projects? Cover more content?

How do I actually conduct the online portion of my course? 

The simplest way to conduct the online portion of your course is to use Blackboard, CUNY’s learning management system (LMS). Blackboard allows you to post course content, assignments, and much more and because it is linked to the student registration system, students are automatically enrolled in that course site. Also, our campus has a dedicated resources to help you learn how to use Blackboard and address technical issues.

We also have access to the CUNY Academic Commons. The Commons serves as part teaching platform and part social network for all of us in the CUNY system. Those who teach on the Academic Commons use a combination of WordPress and a private groups feature that allows for discussion and collaborative writing. If you want to use another tool, it’s always best to check in with our Educational Technologist first.

What can I do online? 

Let’s get back to the question posed above, “If you had that additional hour of class, what more could you do?”  If you prefer the one hour weekly route – the following activities are recommended: 

  • Meet virtually with your students in small or large groups to discuss content. 
  • Ask students meet virtually for project/team meetings. Ask one member to submit an outline of their notes.
  • Ask students to post real-world examples of concepts introduced in class. Discuss online.
  • Record and post lectures. Include discussion question in the recording. 

If you prefer fewer, but lengthier, activities, try these activities:  

  • Assign a semester-length group project (e.g. paper, oral presentation, multi-media project). Create online group space to share information and collaborate. 
  • Assign students to lead discussions. Provide guidelines for post lengths and responses to classmates. (Note these discussions can be text-based or video-based.)
  • Assign reflections (public or private) connecting concepts to experiences (field, personal, etc.).

One thing to remember is that online work should fit seamlessly together with your in-class work.  For students, it shouldn’t feel like they are taking two separate courses. Make sure to check-in about the online work in class and the in-class work online. 


Stein, Jared & Graham, Charles R. (2014) Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide. New York, NY: Routledge.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., and Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. US Department of Education. Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Policy and Program Studies Service. Retrieved March 14, 2019.