Paula Green talks about Hybrid Learning

Paula Green, the manager of the Academic Upgrading Program, School of Social and Life Sciences, talks about the Hybrid model of Teaching and Learning within Academic Upgrading

  Bio: Paula has a MA in Sociology from the University of Windsor, MEd. from the University of Toronto and currently pursuing her PhD in Education at the University of Toronto- OISE.

Paula has extensive teaching and working experience within non-profit organizations, the board of education and college sectors. Her research interest is in the regionalization and internationalization of higher education systems.Paula Green

The Academic Upgrading program at Sheridan College: Funded by the Ministry of Colleges Training and Universities, the Academic Upgrading Program at Sheridan College, operates out of the Davis and STC campuses. The program is designed for adults who did not complete their high school diploma or require credits to transition into post-secondary programs. For many years the Academic Upgrading Program has offered a non-traditional self-paced delivery, with one-on-one support, in a classroom setting, to assist our learners with obtaining the necessary academic credits to enter into postsecondary studies or the workplace. While we are continuing to offer a self-paced option, we have recently introduced hybrid delivery within the program.

The advantage of using technology: Using the SLATE platform, we have combined in-person-in-class teaching with an online augmentation for our course delivery. In each of our courses, math, biology, computers, chemistry and communications, there have been different approaches to the distribution of online to in-class teaching. The advantage to using this approach is that it has provided our students with varied exposure to the SLATE technology, as they prepare to pathway into postsecondary. For example, in biology and chemistry, students participate in group work and build their assignments in Wikis and conduct virtual labs online. Whereas in the communications and math courses, students write journals and do quizzes on-line as part of the course assessments. While this approach to learning is not new, within the Academic Upgrading Program, this delivery structure has certainly pushed the boundaries of the self-paced teaching and learning pedagogies.

 The hybrid model of teaching and learning as an alternative within the Academic Upgrading Program: One of the reasons for offering the hybrid model of delivery as an alternative within the Academic Upgrading Program was to improve the rates of course completion and student retention.  During the pilot phase of the implementation, the hybrid model was used as an intervention strategy for those students who seemed to become demotivated by the length of their program stay, within the self-paced classes.  Then, instead of a premature exit, the students were given the option of participating in the new hybrid programming, with clearly defined academic goals and a finish date.  When asked what they liked most about the program, some learners commented that it “challenged” them to “develop time management skills” and kept them ”focused on studying,” which are some of the skills needed for postsecondary success. Access to online materials and consistent use of computers will also facilitate postsecondary transition in a long term, by alleviating technology anxiety and developing a habit of completing academic requirements within a Learning Management System (i.e. SLATE).  Overall, we believe that AU graduates will not only excel in subject areas, as they have thus far, but will also become SLATE champions in postsecondary classrooms.

The introduction of the hybrid model was not without challenges. Many of our students had been out of school for some time, and had limited access to computers. Although email and texting may have been familiar to some, using technology for learning within an academic environment was new to most. We learned, therefore, that a good orientation to the technology; a self-assessment of one’s learning style; and ability to commit to a more intensified course structure, were necessary preparation for those learners who were interested in the hybrid courses.

We can report that more than 80% of the learners who signed-up for the hybrid courses will successfully complete, with grades of over 75%. Some will complete their required credits and will graduate on April 30, 2014, in a ceremony to be held, at the Davis Campus, in room B310 at 10AM.  All are invited.  The event is going to be documented by a photographer and a videographer; so, you can look forward to AU Graduation coverage in May 2014. Finally, if you know of anyone interested in Sheridan’s Academic Upgrading Program, they can attend our information session held every Tuesday at 1pm in B132 (Davis) or 12 Noon in B20 (STC) or come to B219 (Davis) or A23 (STC) and chat with our friendly staff.