A traditional college course follows a regular schedule of in-person meetings in an on campus classroom. An online course is held primarily online, with students using an online learning platform as a virtual classroom where they can access course materials, complete and submit assignments, and participating in class discussions and projects. As the name implies, a hybrid college class is a compromise between these two opposite methods of learning in which students enjoy flexibility similar to that of an online class and some of the face-to-face interaction common in traditional courses.

Blending the Virtual Classroom with the Real Classroom

How hybrid courses work may vary from one college or university to the next. Often but not always, classes take place 50 percent through on-campus meetings and 50 percent through online assignments. For example, a hybrid class might have a similar class schedule to a traditional course, with a set meeting time that lasts for an hour or two to be held a couple days a week. Instead of meeting both days, though, hybrid classes will usually have students meet in class just one day a week and supplement that meeting with online “classwork.”

Some hybrid programs may operate differently. Bloomberg Businessweek urges colleges to experiment with various schedules for hybrid courses. Instead of the standard 50 percent of class meetings spread out evenly over the semester, the publication suggests that students may benefit from more face-to-face interaction at key points in the semester, like the beginning, midterm, and end, while relying more heavily on online learning during the gaps.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Courses

Just as online classes are not easier than classes taken in the classroom, hybrid classes are at least as much work, and sometimes more work, than traditional courses. However, they provide more flexibility in terms of scheduling, which may make them more manageable for students who have job or family obligations that limit their time to attend on-campus classes. Because hybrid classes still include face-to-face interaction on a regular basis, they are less likely to result in students feeling isolated and falling behind in their studies. In fact, research indicates that academic performance among students in hybrid courses is as good as it is among students in traditional courses, a claim which cannot be made for complete online courses, The New York Times reported.

Though hybrid courses are not yet as common as online courses, research suggests this model of learning is becoming more popular, especially with community college students. In 2011, 21 percent of community colleges surveyed reported offering hybrid courses, and the institutions that hosted such courses intended to increase course offerings in future years, according to Community College Daily. A hybrid course might be the right choice for you if you are looking for a way to smoothly transition from traditional classes on online classes, or if you want the flexibility of an online education as well as the in-person interaction that makes traditional learning so valuable.