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The New College Norm? Welcome to Hybrid Classes

Hybrid classes offer students the opportunity to interact with faculty and students while still facilitating the flexibility that online learning provides. Discover what you need to know to make the most out of your blended college program.

A male student and a female student sitting on a bench looking at work on a laptop.

The benefits of online learning are obvious. Between cutting cost, saving time, and learning more conveniently, there are a lot of solid reasons to consider a virtual college education. On the other hand, however, traditional, in-person college also offers a number of important advantages that just can’t work over the internet. If you want all the benefits of an online education without sacrificing the interpersonal relationships and face-to-face peer collaboration, hybrid learning could be a perfect fit.

Also called blended learning, the hybrid method combines the flexibility of an online college program with the in-person component that can be so key to a quality education. It can make earning a college degree more feasible for students with busy schedules without completely cutting out the traditional aspects of enrolling in college. If you’re interested in whether hybrid classes could work for you, there’s a lot to learn beforehand. Discover how hybrid classes work, find out how hybrid stacks up to other learning methods, and get expert advice for making blended learning work for you.

How Do Hybrid Classes Work?

Every college and university defines hybrid classes differently. The amount of time spent in the classroom face-to-face with the instructor versus online will vary from college to college. At one university, a sociology professor may meet face-to-face with her students two hours a week and schedule virtual times with them for another hour each week. At other campuses, instructors may meet with students a few times a semester, and the rest of their class meetings are strictly online. The students and their instructor communicate regularly, but most of the time it’s done virtually. 

To take the online portion of your class, you will need to log into a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) or a virtual portal. Through this portal, you will be able to view the course syllabus and your grades and contact your professors, classmates, and support staff. You also will be able to access course materials and monitor your progress as the semester unfolds. Check with your college whether its LMS is accessible on mobile devices so that you can connect from anywhere and at any hour. 

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each portion of your hybrid program.

Hybrid Class Lectures

Hybrid lectures can be synchronous (in real-time) or asynchronous. Asynchronous means that the lecture is available online for you to access when it’s best for you. You may access the lecture via videoconferencing. For synchronous learning, your professor may send a Zoom link for you to join while it’s happening. You may choose to listen to the lecture in real time and then go back and re-watch parts after it’s been posted on the LMS for your clarification.

Tests in Hybrid Courses

Hybrid or blended learning may require you to come to the campus at a specific time to take an exam.  If you’re far from campus, you may need to make arrangements to have someone at another school or location act as your proctor. Another option: You can be watched taking your test via webcams or special software like ProctorU. An even more flexible option: Your college may use technology similar to that of a mobile phone that can keep track of whether you’re looking at the test on the screen or not. A webcam and microphone can tell if you’re likely sneaking a peek at your notes or books. 

Hybrid Class Papers

Whether you’re an in-person or online student, your professor likely wants you to turn in your papers online. Your professors could ask that you email papers, but more than likely, they will require students to upload and submit papers to an LMS such as Canvas or via Google Docs or Dropbox. There are web-based plagiarism detection and prevention services such as turnitin.com that many colleges and universities use. You may be required to submit your papers to the service separately. 

Class Meetings & Discussions

Having classes meet over Zoom or other similar apps is a lot like having a class meet in person. You can ask questions and engage in discussions with the professor and your classmates if you’re joining the lecture in real time. During your virtual class, you may be asked to discuss readings or work problems. You also may engage in case studies, role play or work in break-out groups. The more interactive the meeting, the more engaging it will be. That’s true whether it’s in-person or online. 

Hybrid Class Meeting & Discussion Tips

  1. A headset with a built-in microphone works better than your laptop’s speakers and microphone. You may want to invest in this equipment.
  2. Be prepared to use your video camera during synchronous sessions. Photos can be substituted if your bandwidth is too low to use video. 
  3. Ask your professor to record the session and how you can get it afterward. Go back and over material where your notes may not be as good as you had hoped. 
  4. Remember to unmute yourself when you want to speak. In some cases, your professor may have to unmute you. 
  5. Know the rules for the class discussion before you begin so you know how to get the professor’s attention when you want to say something. 

Labs & Other Learning Activities

Labs may be conducted in person or shown over Zoom. This will depend on the class topic. Companies such as Hands On Labs and eScience Labs offer at-home lab kits for use by online college classes. The kits cost between $30 to $200, and that expense can be a drawback for some. Some programs may allow virtual simulation, but others require in-person instruction and supervision. You may want to take most classes online and save the in-person learning for the courses with labs. 

Your professors also may schedule group projects that you can complete online. Group projects are great preparation for jobs after graduation — what job today doesn’t require teamwork? A Linkedin survey in 2020 found that the soft skills employers need most can be honed and developed in online group projects including creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. 

Tips for Online Group Project Success

  • Understand the assignment. Always read your professor’s instructions and expectations for the project before you begin.
  • Manage your time. The group should start with planning and determining who should do what and by when. Having a group outline and calendar is a must. 
  • Communicate. The group needs to decide not only when to meet but how you will meet whether on Zoom or by chat somewhere else. Be clear with everyone’s assignments. And, if you’re not sure, speak up before it’s too late and you’ve wasted time on things you didn’t need to do. 

“I teach freshmen to master’s students and have found that my students are actually more engaged with the content in virtual settings than when we were in the classroom,” says Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, of the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business, where she is a university career coach and lecturer teaching students how to get hired and be successful in the professional workplace.

Comparing Hybrid Learning to Other Learning Modes

Still debating whether hybrid learning is best for you? The chart below shows some of the similarities and differences of hybrid and blended learning vs online vs campus learning. 

Partially virtualPartially virtual100% virtual0% virtual
Works well for students who can be flexible in how they learn and enjoy a variety of learning methods.Good for students who can pivot easily between learning methods and thrive off variety.Good for students who need lots of flexibility and who are able to learn completely independently.Good for students who learn best in person and have time to devote to traveling to campus and can be available at set times.
Good technology skills requiredGood technology skills requiredExcellent technology skills required
Some technology skills may be required, but less so than hybrid or online classes.

Online class time may be flexible, but in-person class meetings will be at a set time.Online class time may be flexible, but in-person learning will not.
Class scheduling is almost always flexible.
Classes meet at specific times and dates; no flexibility.

Advantages of Hybrid Learning

If you crave face-to-face time with other people but also enjoy learning on your own, hybrid learning may be ideal for you. You’ll spend some time with your instructors and your peers and some time exploring and learning by yourself.

Here are some advantages of hybrid learning over traditional in-person learning and totally online learning. 



With hybrid learning, you can choose the learning method that works best for you, your schedule, and the delivery model that you find most helpful. You may find you learn some topics best in-person and others are just fine online. With hybrid learning, one semester you may wish to take more of your classes online and fewer in person, and the next semester, depending on the topics to be covered, you can schedule classes the other way around. Hybrid learning can give you that flexibility. 



Some colleges and universities may be more flexible with tuition when it comes to hybrid learning. Depending on the school and class, hybrid courses can be more affordable than traditional classes taken on campus. If cost is an issue, you may be able to schedule a mix of less costly online courses and higher cost in-person learning. It may be a better solution than having to pause your education or take a year off to earn tuition money. With online classes you also can save big time on some related costs such as transportation to and from campus and eating away from home. You also might be able to save on books and other references by using digital resources for both types of classes. 



With traditional in-person learning, you must be in the lecture hall at the designated time or stop by the professor’s office during his designated office hours. Hybrid learning allows you to watch lectures online at your convenience and contact your professor electronically with ease. You can take advantage of this flexibility to set your schedule and plan the required activities for the times you’ll be the most efficient. For example, you might want to schedule that lecture after breakfast and your morning run, when you’re most invigorated and can pay the most attention. You can sign up for the in-person classes at times that best fit your schedule, too. It helps you to accomplish what you need with the least waste of time and effort.



Everyone learns best at different speeds and in different ways. In a traditional classroom, you don’t get much opportunity for self-pacing. You must follow along and complete your work at the same as everyone else. With hybrid and some blended learning, you can watch lectures online and stop and go back if you feel you’ve missed something important. You can pause and search for additional resources to explain the material in a different way. If you find some material easy to comprehend, you can go faster through that, too. Self-pacing also can promote deeper learning, reduce stress, and increase your satisfaction with your studies. If the class you attended in person is online too, you still can go back over it if you want or need. 



You can take classes online that aren’t necessarily within commuting distance of your home. One college may offer a course for your major that your school doesn’t, but it’s hundreds of miles from home. If it’s offered online, you may be able to register and transfer the credits to your “home” school. Or maybe there’s a professor who’s particularly well known in your field. You’d like to take his course. With online or hybrid learning, you may have access to prominent professors in your field.

What to Expect From Hybrid Classes

How does this really work? Consider these hybrid learning components from the associate degree nursing program at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama: 

  • You must view lectures online. The lectures include high-volume and graphic content. That’s a lot of material to load, so you must have access to fast DSL. 
  • You must complete quizzes online by assigned deadlines. However, they do not impact your course grade. 
  • You must schedule tests on campus during morning or evening hours. You may be able to schedule tests on different days or nights each week.
  • Labs are scheduled in person during the day. You must complete the required labs hours before beginning your clinical assignments.
  • Clinical assignments also require that you be available during the day and they must be completed in person. You may be able to schedule some clinical assignments in the evening or on the weekend, but those time slots are not guaranteed. 

Here’s another example of a hybrid vs an in-person lesson from Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, lecturer and career coach at the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business:

“I teach a module on elevator speeches and did an in-person activity where students were paired with a partner and asked to practice and critique each other’s speech content and delivery. I was able to very easily move this onto our school’s LMS Canvas and create a discussion board for a written version of the assignment or a board where students could record themselves delivering their elevator speech and have student feedback on each other’s submissions.”

Hybrid Classes: What to Know

Whenever you enroll in a degree program, whether online, in-person, hybrid, or blended, you will face challenges as you work your way to that degree. Hybrid or blended learning may require some extra skills. Here’s some of what you might face:

Technology is crucial

For the online portion of your studies, you need access to the internet that includes enough bandwidth, so you don’t lose the connection and are able to download as well as upload large files. Depending on where you live, storms can knock out power when you’re supposed to be online. Once you get set up, you should be good to go. Ask if your college or university has IT support if you ever need it

You need self-discipline

If you don’t have to be in class at a specific time, it could be easier to procrastinate and be late for class for some students. You need more self-discipline when it comes to assignment deadlines than when your schedule is set pretty much in stone by in-person classes. Also, you can find yourself taking too much time to complete tasks because you’re lingering on certain points in the lecture or getting distracted by email notices or texts that pop up on your mobile phone when you’re online. 

It can be harder to make friends

Making friends is a big part of college life. You can get to know your classmates through online discussions and group projects, but it’s clearly not the same as being in the same room with them twice a week and going for lunch after a lecture. You don’t get to bump into each other on the way to class either. But if you make an effort to chat outside of class or exchange emails with fellow students, you can overcome this obstacle. You also may have less interaction with your professors. It’s up to you to keep up your interactions with professors and go after them when you have questions or concerns.

It can take more of your time

You may think that in-person learning is more time-consuming because you have to get to the classroom — whether it’s a walk, a drive, or a subway ride — and you have to meet with your professor during his scheduled office hours. While hybrid learning may eliminate your commute, you may find you spend more time in class discussions and group activities, papers, and other projects. Also, you have to become an expert at time management so that you can devote the time you need to prepare for and complete your online assignments just as you would in your in-person class assignments. 

You must avoid temptations

When your class meets online, it’s easy to get distracted, especially if you have computer alerts for emails or text messages. Turn off these alerts while you’re in class if you can’t ignore them during a lecture or group activity. Some students may need to lock their smart phone in a drawer while in class online. 

Don’t give up on hybrid learning too fast, says Salim Serrano, Dr.PH, CPH, RRT, of Sahmyook University and a graduate of Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “I’d say to give it a couple weeks and see if you find your rhythm on this class format. Anything new/novel for a person takes some getting used to,” he says. “So, don’t say ‘no’ right away; give yourself a chance to make it happen.” 

Who Is Hybrid Learning For?

You’re looking at enrolling in a degree program and you have a choice: hybrid or blended or all in-person classes. If you’re a non-traditional student, you may want to give some serious thought to the hybrid model. It can work to your advantage and your crazy schedule. Your personality also can determine whether or not hybrid learning is for you. The following groups in particular may find hybrid learning the best of both worlds:

  • Working professionals: If you’re enrolling in a degree program while working full or part-time, hybrid learning may be ideal for you. You can schedule your online and in-person classes when you are available. 
  • Students who live far from campus: You save time by not having to travel to campus for your online classes. And if you’re lucky, you can schedule your in-person classes back-to-back or at least on the same day of the week. 
  • Students who have family responsibilities: Whether you’re responsible for aging parents or small children, having the flexibility to schedule online and in person classes around them and their needs can be ideal. 
  • Students who are self-disciplined but need some guidance: You have to be self-disciplined to succeed in any program, but hybrid is ideal if you have the self-discipline to take some classes online and meet their requirements in a timely manner. If you still crave some in-person instruction and face-to-face time with professors and peers, the blended or hybrid model could be your dream come true.
  • Students who are introverted. When you’re in a classroom, it’s the extroverts who usually dominate the discussions. You hesitate to speak up even when you know you have good ideas. If you’re shy and taking a class online, you may feel more comfortable speaking up from behind your microphone. You can take the time to think about what you want to say and contribute when you’re ready. “There are definite advantages for so-called introverts to excel in a hybrid style, particularly on the non-site class dynamics,” Serrano says. “It allows for answers to come in a less stressful way, where before in a complete on-site environment, one would have to come with immediate feedback, both for instructors and course attendees.” 

The U.S Department of Education analyzed 50 studies on the effectiveness of online, hybrid, and in-person learning, and concluded students found hybrid to be the most effective way to learn the same material. They published their findings in a study, “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning.”

Insight from a Hybrid Class Professor

Q: How can you make sure you’re performing your best when you’re studying online? 

A: Take hybrid learning in stride and build a high self-esteem. It is just a new and novel way to learn. Focus when online. Study when off and read ahead as much as possible. Some students slack off because