Harrington, Anna M. “Hybrid Developmental Writing Courses: Limitations and Alternatives.” Research & Teaching in Developmental Education 26.2 (2010): 4-20. Education Research Complete. Web. 26 May 2014.
“Hybrid Developmental Writing Courses: Limitations and Alternatives,” was one of several 2010 articles exploring the possibility of using the hybrid course model in developmental writing courses. As the title suggests, Harrington believes that the hybrid model should be approached with caution as it has limitations that could be solved with alternative course delivery models in developmental writing courses. Harrington begins the article with a literature review establishing the need for attention to hybrid course delivery in developmental courses. She establishes this by reviewing literature suggesting that hybrid courses could effectively marry the success rate of online courses with the retention rate of face-to-face courses. Harrington establishes the importance of the discussion of hybrid course delivery by explaining that while they have economic appeal for the college, but that the cost of technology might prove problematic for students despite the fact that gaining technological skills in a hybrid course would likely benefit them in the long-run. The primary problem with hybrid courses, according to Harrington, is that while students need to develop technological skills, the lack of these skills may contribute to their struggles in their writing courses. She details issues that arise with hybrid course delivery: technological access, computer skills, community, and poor literacy skills (8). While many students have access to the internet, computer technology, and technical support, Harrington claims that most instructors assume that students have sufficient access to the required technology. That students may not have access or may be hesitant to seek assistance does not seem to concern some instructors who find it easier to operate under the assumption that all students have sufficient technological knowledge and support. Harrington suggests that the use of and reliance on technology in hybrid courses is problematic for developmental students they may have to learn computer skills while also trying to master literacy skills. Harrington also suggests that hybrid courses cannot build the same tight-knit community that face-to-face courses build. Harrington ends by suggesting alternatives to the hybrid classroom: modified course scheduling, use of computer classrooms, gradual easing of students into technology, and effective, convenient technological support. Ultimately, Harrington believes that face-to-face courses are superior to hybrid courses, so we must take that into consideration; however, writing teachers have a responsibility to help students learn to navigate and become comfortable with technology.
I would recommend this article for those seeking an understanding of considerations that should be made when developing a hybrid developmental writing course for a community college, though I would argue that many of the struggles these students face are faces by students at four-year colleges as well. Though Harrington has a clear preference for face-to-face courses, she does attempt to look at the affordances that hybrid courses offer in addition to looking at their limitations. This article is a good starting point for examining the debate regarding hybrid classes and would make an effective contrast to Linda J. Stine’s argument that hybrid courses are preferable to online and face-to-face classes, as they offer the best of both.