Research Shows That Hybrid Courses Are a Great Way to Learn

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In several of our blog posts over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the fact that hybrid MBAs provide students with a convenient, flexible option for attaining their MBA. Hybrid MBAs give students the flexibility they need to attain an MBA while working full-time, but still provide them with the in-person networking opportunities that are necessary to a well-rounded graduate business degree.

Anecdotes and personal accounts are one thing—but what about the data? Are there any studies out there that show the effectiveness of hybrid learning programs? 

As it turns out, there's no shortage of data out there which shows that hybrid programs are a highly effective way to learn. Two recent studies recognized that many universities are starting to offer hybrid programs, and sought to address concerns by students and faculty about how hybrid learning compares to traditional learning in-person. Both studies looked at the issue of hybrid versus traditional learning in different ways, and you can see the thought process and findings of each below: 

Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials

Ithaka Strategic Consulting + Research to Transform Scholarship, a well-known research and consulting service helping academic and publishing communities make the transition into the digital age, published a study in 2012 which measured the effect of learning outcomes on a statistics course by assigning students on six public university campuses to take the course in either a hybrid format or a traditional, in-person format. 

The study, which surveyed over 600 students, found that learning outcomes are “essentially the same.” Students in the hybrid courses in the study suffered from no significant difference in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy. When hybrid programs first started becoming popular, students and faculty were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to uphold the high standards set by in-person programs—fearing that ‘online’ courses could not be as rigorous or impactful as courses in the classroom. This study showed that those concerns were unfounded, and played a heavy role in our initial structuring and organization of the Midland MBA.

Testing the Effect of Hybrid Lecture Delivery on Learning Outcomes

This ‘Working Paper’ from the University of Connecticut set out to look into the issue of hybrid courses for education from a different perspective. As noted in the study, many other studies about hybrid learning look into observable student characteristics—but none look into the many subtle student characteristics that influence learning outcomes and are hard to measure, such as motivation, maturity, and independent learning skills.

By measuring the effects of these so-called ‘unobservable’ characteristics, this study hoped to make a distinction between hybrid courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, noting that because of scheduling constraints among the latter, hybrid learning could “significantly [expand] their higher education opportunities.” What they found was (we think) unsurprising—at the graduate level, there is no significant difference between online hybrid and face-to-face instruction formats.

While scheduling constraints do make traditional programs more difficult for many graduate-level students, hybrid programs open up the opportunity for learning even with a tight schedule. What’s more, because hybrid programs include an online element that can be digested at the student’s own pace (within a pre-established schedule, of course), they’re very conducive to taking classes on a busy schedule. We know that many professionals these days have a lot to balance, from work, to family, to school, and studies like this show objectively that in graduate programs like Midland’s MBA, the hybrid format is as effective as the traditional format—and maybe even more effective for students on a tight schedule.

It’s important to compare in-person to hybrid learning because the in-person experiences are at the heart of networked learning like you see within the Midland MBA. While students and faculty around the country were initially worried that hybrid programs—and especially their online element—could not compare in effectiveness to all in-person courses, studies like these have shown that this is clearly not the case. Combining the value of an in-person meeting with the flexibility of online scheduling is the value of a hybrid program, and what makes it so accessible to professionals who would otherwise not have the option to attain their MBA.

For everyone in between who wants structure, but also needs the flexibility that normal programs don’t offer, hybrid programs are the logical choice. Here at Midland, we’ve arranged our curriculum and schedule to help recreate the learning outcomes displayed in these studies. Everything about our program, from the admission process, to the curriculum, to our excellent, professionally-experienced faculty, is meant to give busy professionals the opportunity to succeed within a highly effective learning structure—the hybrid learning model.

Our program here at Midland aims to be the best it can be, and we’ve based the Midland MBA’s structure and design on research across disciplines. The Midland MBA is rooted in academic and professional experience, and in the growing educational research on the best learning models. Findings like these have helped shape and design the Midland MBA so that it’s as effective and impactful as possible.

Interested in learning more? Contact Midland University today. Our Admissions Staff would love to speak more with you about the Midland MBA.

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Photo credit: Lamenta3 via photopin cc 

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