UT Tyler proposes five-year hybrid pilot program
The University of Texas at Tyler is proposing a five-year pilot program aimed at expanding hybrid courses and programs on campus to improve student learning and education outcomes and save money.
The system, which ideally will be funded in part by the UT System and in part by the state Legislature, will convert many core curriculum and degree-specific classes to hybrid courses, meaning those that combine online and face-to-face learning.
These courses would take advantage of some of the latest technology and weds it with project-based learning in the classroom.
It would take something that UT Tyler already is doing -- offering hybrid courses -- and expand it in a way that touches more than half of the university population, currently about 6,900 students.
"We know now from the literature that students learn more with hybrid technology," UT Tyler President Rod Mabry said.
The UT System Board of Regents is meeting this week at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.
The board's academic affairs committee unanimously approved the pilot project to increase enrollment at UT Tyler and approved a $4 million allocation from the Permanent University Fund bond proceeds for the program.
The full board is scheduled to vote on the recommendation today. An additional request asking the state for $4.8 million for the program will be submitted to the Texas Legislature pending approval by the full board today.
Mabry said the funds, which would total more than $8 million and be spread throughout five years, would go toward technology infrastructure upgrades, professional development for faculty and staff and the costs associated with converting regular courses to hybrid.How it will work
Hybrid courses and programs are by no means a novel idea in higher education. But, the extent to which UT Tyler is planning to invest in them is, said Dr. Alisa White, UT Tyler provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
"It truly will transform the culture so that students have the opportunities to hone their critical thinking skills in class," she said.
The pilot will start with the university's general core curriculum courses plus courses in 10 degree programs.
These degree programs are nursing, health and kinesiology, psychology, accounting, finance, management, marketing, construction management and criminal justice.
In addition, one graduate program, the master's of business administration, also will be included.
Faculty members in the selected classes will be trained and tasked with converting certain face-to-face courses to hybrid.
Mabry said it's not simply a matter of posting class notes online. It is taking advantage of the available technology with online lectures and materials combining for a true multimedia, interactive experience for the students.
Students will spend their time outside of class acquiring the knowledge for the course through various means.
In class, they will apply the knowledge, interacting with their peers and professors in discussion, projects and more.
Mabry said he expects students to spend more time studying rather than less because they get to do it in a way that mirrors their life.
"And the new students coming along ... they really are much faster and they expect this," he said. "And that's why we say student satisfaction goes up. They get to do it their way, on their own terms, their own time ..."
Dr. Steven Mintz, executive director of the Institute for Transformational Learning, an office of the UT System, echoed these sentiments.
Mintz said today's students don't want to sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture that they could hear or read about online.
They want to problem solve and participate in hands-on learning activities in the classroom or a lab, learning from faculty members.
Evidence supports that hybrid education is the most effective in terms of education outcomes, he said.
In addition, he said, it's one of many models available for students, with more in the works for the future.
"This isn't meant to be cheaper or second-rate," Mintz said. "We really believe we can make it better."Effects of the project
Mabry said the idea for this program started in 2010. UT Tyler sought state funding during the 2011 legislative session, but it wasn't granted.
However, with a vision for making this a research and demonstration site for hybrid learning, the university is trying again.
The project includes an assessment piece. Through this, someone or multiple people would assess the effectiveness and benefits of this type of education.
The results not only would help UT Tyler determine if it should expand the program, but also could help other institutions around the state or nation.
"We hope to answer the question for Texas, 'Should we go this way? Does it work?'" Mabry said.
Mabry sees this project as one that can improve the student experience and provide financial savings.
If enough of the class work is online, the professor can have fewer face-to-face classes, which means the university can schedule more classes per room and build fewer classrooms over time, which would be a financial savings.
Mabry said the hybrid program ultimately could eliminate a substantial amount of face-to-face class time.
"I fully expect this to be a wonderful breakthrough for faculty members and good for them in that they will begin to do what they do best, work with students and manage others who work with students," he said.
Mabry said through online means - be it chat tools, message boards or other programs - students can interact in a way that mirrors their lifestyle even without as many face-to-face classes.
He said some faculty members may be concerned about the future of their jobs with an expected decrease in class time. But Mabry said that should not be a concern.
"This isn't about reducing faculty resources in that way, but making their jobs easier in the long haul, where they do the important things for students and working with other people around them," he said.