He said hybrid classes that reach the 50 percent threshold are referred to as "Hot Bunks" because they allow a classroom space to be shared between two courses. There are 92 Hot Bunk hybrid classes scheduled at UVU for the fall of 2012.
"It's very clear that this is the direction the (university) president wants us to go," he said.
UVU is expecting more than 9,000 online enrollments in the fall, Clark said. Enrollment for both online and hybrid courses has grown by more than 20 percent each year, Clark said. Last year, roughly 2,000 students were put on a wait-list for online classes, which prompted the university to increase the class size cap with the assumption that an equivalent number of students will drop out of the class during the course of the semester.
But Clark was quick to emphasize that online and hybrid courses are not just about maximizing space. He said by tailoring the instruction, teachers can take advantage of technology's strengths to more effectively teach a course without losing the "magic of the classroom."
"The classroom has a place and I truly believe that," he said. "The power of hybrid is the faculty has the ability to deliver the key concepts in a variety of ways, and that includes face-to-face."
Wagner said a digital environment is also in line with the way students communicate with each other in today's digital world. Feedback on hybrid courses from both teachers and students has been positive, Wagner said, and many professors have noted that a student who feels uncomfortable speaking up in a classroom environment does not have the same difficulty engaging in discussions online.
"The secret is not to just embrace it because it’s a trend but to embrace it because it enriches the learning and teaching environment," Wagner said.
Jensen had similarly high praise for hybrid teaching. She said technology is full of opportunities for education and offers greater flexibility for students and teachers, but most people are hesitant to give up full-scale on the social aspect of a classroom setting.
"There's some people that really don't want to let go of that face-to-face component and hybrid really is the best of both worlds," she said.
In the end, Clark said the goal of distance education is not to replace the traditional classroom but to provide another option for a student's education. Much like how a hybrid course blends different delivery methods, a student's four-year education may include several online and hybrid classes alongside traditional classroom lecture-based courses.
As technology advances, distance education is also able to bring the classroom to student, wherever they may be.
At Utah State University, Utah's only land-grant university, video conferencing allows students to attend USU classes in each of Utah's 29 counties. Through IVC courses, students are able to participate in classroom discussion and pose questions in real time to teachers despite being separated from their classmates by, in some cases, hundreds of miles.
"It's in our blood," said USU vice provost Robert Wagner. "It's in our mission that we have to take education out to the state."
He said USU operates 64 locations across the state, for a total of 230 IVC-equipped classrooms, and this fall will broadcast 360 courses each week.
"There's not another university in the country that's done nearly as much interactive video broadcasting as Utah State," Wagner said. "We're a model for other institutions."
Though not to the scale of USU, most of Utah's schools use video-conferencing to reach students at locations other than the main campuses. At UVU, the technology is also used to broadcast college-level courses to high schools for concurrent enrollment.
"They're really participating in a UVU course," Clark said.
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