The UTC Leadership and Decision-Making doctoral program is based on a hybrid delivery model designed to use the best of face-to-face and virtual classrooms to facilitate the doctoral scholar practitioner in this journey of learning, synthesis, application and discovery.
Hybrid learning seeks to use the best of synchronous face-to-face classroom experience and the online tools that allow us to create a truly virtual classroom. Knowledge cannot simply be generated by instructors and linearly transmitted to students to use whether in the face-to-face or virtual classroom environment; it is built up through the synthesis of social experiences that occur in the learning environment. Therefore, we use the virtual learning environment, designed to offer the most effective experience where participants become the focus and thus play an active role in the teaching and learning process. This learning environment helps create opportunities to generate and construct new knowledge through interactions between instructors and learners, learners and learners, and learners and learning materials. The hybrid model, using synchronous face-to-face meetings along with virtual classroom activity with time designated in between sessions for analysis, reflection and synthesis, is used to create, support, and facilitate levels of rigor expected by the program participants and faculty. Through hybrid learning, the LEAD program seeks to find the best environment for the faculty and participant roles in the classroom, whether face-to-face or virtual. The responsibility of a faculty member to lead the learning journey is critical in a hybrid model and probably more akin to a leader / participant role than merely a lecturer / audience relationship. The dynamism of active conversation between learners and faculty can be even richer in a virtual environment than often occurs in the traditional classroom. The social interaction, which takes place in the face-to-face session combined with the virtual classroom, appears to strengthen the learning process by balancing the relationship aspects from the face-to-face classroom with the asynchronous format provided in the virtual classroom for analysis, reflection and synthesis.
According to Kearsley (2000), the most significant applications of communication in virtual learning environments are discussion forums, which provide a way for participants to extend the classroom discussions. They provide better cognitive and exploratory learning (Haggerty et al., 2001), increased student-to-student discussion and cooperation (Kassop, 2003; Stodel et al. 2006), superior learner empowerment (Kassop, 2003), upgraded critical thinking skills (Shapley, 2000; Collison et al., 2000), and the requisite time needed for specific learner reflections which weave together the content constructs and the experiential learning that are unique to each participant. An incredible benefit of our hybrid learning model is the complete engagement that the virtual classroom allows and the way that engagement can enrich the face-to-face classroom experiences. It is often said there is no back row in the virtual classroom. Through careful instructional design and discussion facilitation, every member must contribute, which does not often take place in a traditional face-to-face classroom. After being actively engaged in the virtual classroom, the comfort provided by the anonymity of the virtual classroom response contributes to a sense of confidence that encourages greater contribution in the focused face-to-face meetings that are part of our hybrid model.