When designing and developing the delivery of hybrid/blended learning, how the discovery and learning of the content is implemented depends upon the subject matter, the teaching style, and the learning style. Learner-centered courses that have decreased seat-time and increased "homework" time must often be re-evaluated regarding whether the content will be delivered initially during the limited face-to-face session or become the responsibility of the student outside of class. Instructors must determine those components that learners struggle more with on their own and benefit from an introduction in a face-to-face setting.
Always starting the course development process by ensuring the student learning outcomes and determining the curriculum to accomplish them, we must then ask, "How will they then be delivered to the student?" Front-loading and back-loading are descriptors identifying the flow of course content in reduced seat-time learning environments. When content is front-loaded, it is assigned to the learner for completion prior to the face-to-face setting. It might exist as reading or research, it might include assessment like a quiz or discussion, it might be a short introduction or a lengthy process. It always includes a technology component, even if only in the form of assignment instructions. When the learner joins the rest of the class in the face-to-face session, that content has already been experienced and is ready to be taken to a new level. The objective is that the learners are mostly in a level space, bringing those with less previous experience or knowledge up to the rest. Front-loading is often more effective with higher-level courses or more advanced students, comfortable with a high-level of independent study and motivated. When content is back-loaded, the students are introduced to the subject matter during a face-to-face session. It may be a short introduction to build camaraderie amongst learners or it may be a longer session covering many aspects of a subject that require detailed explanation and discussion that only real-time, synchronous learning environments. Back-loaded content might be delivered in the form of a lecture, a hands-on lab, a teamwork exercise, and technology may or may not be involved at all. Assessment may take the form of practice after the session or an online quiz or online discussion. The objective is often to assist the learner with a complex concept and circumvent confusion and frustration and failure in tackling the topic by themselves. Back-loading is often effective with 100-level courses or learners who are new to the institution or program of study. It can influence the increase of advanced learning skills and practices.
At Clark College, a number of faculty are developing hybrid/blended courses as research continues to show the value of flexible learning for busy adults. Unlike traditional face-to-face, potentially fully lecture-type course delivery methods, adding technology is newer ground to be discovered by most. Many faculty begin with very unsure footing as they consider what their course will look like in hybrid mode. As the instructional designer on campus, I have encouraged them to implement the pedagogy explained here almost as a road map or systems process for their course development. Through this lens, they easily see how their components can be designed and delivered effectively in light of how their subject is known to be learned.
Specialized equipment is not necessary.