Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning
Teach Hybrid

Course and Assignment Design

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Rigorous instructional design is key to creating effective hybrid courses, which often require more intensive initial planning than traditional classes. Since faculty will have fewer opportunities to gauge student comprehension in-person, creating an organized and well-structured course and communicating expectations effectively in digital spaces is of heightened importance. The following sections offer suggestions about how to strengthen course and assignment design to increase the likelihood of a successful, engaging, and rewarding hybrid course. 

Note: While evaluations of teaching are the providence of departments, departments may choose to incorporate some of the suggestions outlined below to evaluate online and hybrid courses. The CTL is happy to advise.

Building Your Course Around Learning Goals 

When clear learning goals are communicated to students, not only is assessment easier, but students have a demonstrable map of their learning. Careful planning of hybrid courses from the end to the beginning allows for innovation and improvisation within a structure.

Baruch requires all courses to have appropriate learning goals. For more about those expectations and some guidance on generating effective course learning goals by discipline, review the Guidelines for Writing Learning Goals from the Baruch College Faculty Handbook.

For All Courses. . .

Learning goals are more than just teaching goals. A few general guidelines can help create strong learning goals (but also be sure to check with your department for discipline-specific goals):

  • In formulating learning goals, the members of the Joint Committee suggest using language that indicates what skills students, upon completion of the course, will be able to demonstrate (“Students will be able to…”). 
  • Try to reformulate vague goals into specific, demonstrable learning with an emphasis on active verbs, avoiding the words “know” and “understand.”
  • Be sure that your learning goals do not combine many learning goals into one. Listing learning goals separately helps to connect assignments with individual goals and helps you better communicate with students about their development in the course. 

For Hybrid Courses Specifically. . .

Consider incorporating goals specific to the uses of technology in the course, such as course platforms or online research, as well as the additional emphasis on technology afforded by the hybrid mode. How will students in your course use technology to complete course tasks, interact with information and people, and respond to intellectual inquiries? What skills will students gain using the technology you’ve chosen to teach through? 

Articulate what skills you would like students to have already mastered when they enter your class, including technological skills, by defining what a student needs in terms of both access and knowledge in order to succeed in your class. Create a plan for how students who do not have those skills can access and acquire them..

Here’s an example of a hybrid-specific learning goal: After completing this course, students will be able to change their writing style when writing in different rhetorical modes and social contexts, including online environments, and take audience and occasion into account when writing.

The Syllabus

The syllabus lays out the schedule, clarifies the contract of expectation between faculty and student, offers assessment criteria, establishes policy, and provides a map to the class. Certain details need to be on hybrid syllabuses:

Time, Place(s), and Contact Information

  • When and where your hybrid class will meet for its face-to-face and/or online synchronous sessions
  • How the course will be structured, as well as how online time will be structured
  • Contact information that includes at least one way for students to communicate with you asynchronously and digitally
  • A course schedule with meeting information, assignment due dates

Course Technology

  • Technical requirements of the course are clearly stated (including hardware, network, and software requirements)
  • Expectations are for students in terms of participation and technology
  • Tutorials, instructions, or links help explain to students how to use required technology are made readily available
  • Where to submit course assignments, as well as a policy for alternative submission in the event of tech errors, crashes, or interruptions
  • If you are using a course website, we suggest that:
    • Information on the course website is laid out in a clear, organized way that makes it easy for students to access and navigate course materials.
    • Students are given a clear sense of the course website’s arrangement, including the location of course handouts, readings, and assignment submission portals.

Minimum Course Technology Requirements:

All online, hybrid, partially online, and web-enhanced classes at Baruch College assume that students have:

  • A reliable Internet connection.
  • Regular access to a laptop or desktop computer with an updated operating system.
  • Working knowledge of how to use word processing software and web browsers.
  • An active Baruch College webmail account that is checked daily (or forwarded to an email that is checked daily).
  • A CUNY Portal account.
  • Access to Blackboard.
  • A Blogs@Baruch account.
  • A CUNYFirst account.
  • Off-campus access to the library’s online databases.

What You Expect from Students, and What They Can Expect from You

  • Describe and discuss specific ways that students can participate in the course 
  • Offer guidelines and etiquette for interacting with peers
  • Accessibility statement, including a statement about reasonable accommodation, with particular emphasis upon accommodations for online and digital spaces for learners who may have visual or auditory challenges.
  • How academic integrity and plagiarism are defined and clarified in terms of the online and hybrid environment. For example, syllabuses may contain a statement on fair use and copyright issues, and specific instructions for citation that are relevant to online and digital work (i.e., citation guidelines for blog posts, multimedia resources, course lectures, classmate’s contributions, and collaborative or group projects).

Also consider including on your syllabus the skills and knowledge that you expect students to have mastered previously in order to succeed in your class. 

Scaffolding Your Assignments 

Often students are confused about what faculty expect of them. In traditional classes, this confusion becomes readily apparent in the classroom but can be harder to detect online. Careful assignment design clarifies the expectations and effort you expect of students in your online or hybrid course. Scaffolding refers to the pedagogical practice of interconnecting teaching materials so that they build upon each other in a logical manner and incrementally raise the stakes of coursework.

  • Construct tasks that give students practice before they are more formally assessed.
  • Scaffold low-stakes and high-stakes assignments to build upon each other in a logical and meaningful progression.
  • Consider workflow: ask yourself what assignments from traditional classes would be better accomplished online. For hybrid classes, design online assignments that prepare students to take full advantage of synchronous (face-to-face or web-conferencing) time.
  • Articulate for students the reasons for assignments, the method of assessment, and the grading process.

Assessing Assignments

Students succeed best when working with clearly written assignment instructions that include how they will be assessed and graded. To those ends, it’s important to employ a clear and formative assessment model that helps students understand course expectations and gauge their own learning and development. And sometimes brief feedback on low-stakes assignments helps encourage student engagement and draw out the interconnections between course material.

  • In your prompts, connect your assignments to course learning goals.
  • Articulate your methods and rationale for how course assignments will be assessed.
  • Detail how students will submit assignments, quizzes, and tests in offline or online learning environments. 
  • Offer assessments frequently enough to provide formative low- and high-stakes feedback.
  • Offer asynchronous and/or synchronous course activities that are purposeful and capitalize on the learning opportunities unique to each environment.

Maintaining Engagement 

It is important to be mindful of the personality and usability of the online spaces you deploy. To that end, here are some suggestions for keeping your students engaged in the online tasks of your course:

In Course Design. . .

  • Pay attention to information architecture in your online spaces. Consider building a site map before developing your course site to get a bird’s eye view of how the content flows.
  • Lay out the content of your course in a progression that makes sense and doesn’t attempt to do too much at once.
  • Prioritize using online platforms deeply over using an extensive number of them.
  • Student work in the site is easily trackable and recoverable by both the faculty member and the student.

In Communication. . . 

  • Clarify what kinds of communication will happen where and how.
  • Give students varied opportunities to be heard, seen, and/or read.
  • Invite students to use the chat function on Zoom to contribute to discussions and activities
  • Construct opportunities for students to create communities in the online environment, such as using a course Discord or Slack group.

In Your Assignments. . .

  • Consider having a consistent deliverable due the same time every week. Predictability helps students establish a routine.
  • Model examples of the intellectual work you expect, through comments on blog or discussion board posts, and by promptly responding to student inquiries.
  • Be involved in the online environment. Faculty presence in online and hybrid courses helps students succeed. 
  • Offer constructive, relevant, and frequent feedback in a timely way to promote clarification, elaboration, and transfer of skills or knowledge.

This site contains several examples of syllabuses and other teaching materials from online and hybrid classes at Baruch. Additional samples are available on the Center for Teaching and Learning site.