This semester, the Spanish and Portuguese Department rolled out more hybrid courses, which counts three credit hours online and three credit hours in the classroom.
The department is among a few others that have introduced a half in-class, half online structure in the past two years. Most recently, the Spanish department changed 610D, the second of three classes that make up the language proficiency sequence, into a hybrid class for the more than 350 students enrolled in the course.
Melissa Murphy, the language program director for the department, said the change is partly due to an increase in University focus on timely graduation rates and high demand for classroom space. She said the structure aligns with the department’s goal of student independence.
“There are students who want more contact hours with their instructor, but we want our students to be able to figure things out on their own,” Murphy said. “The hybrid structure matches with the flipped class structure that we already have.”
Murphy said in many cases, the hybrid courses have produced better grades than traditional courses when first introduced to students four semesters ago. The department piloted the hybrid structure with students in the final class of the sequence.
However, Spanish course lecturer Sarah Whitehead said teachers and students are generally reluctant to accept the new structure at the beginning of the semester.
“From both students and instructors, I have heard a combination of nervousness and frustration at the very beginning that seems to be sorting itself out now that we’re a couple of weeks into the semester,” Whitehead said.
Government junior Taylor Henderson said she is losing valuable interaction because of the technological replacements.
“The professors in this department actually want us to learn and are happy when we learn, so in my opinion, they don’t get to spend enough time with us,” Henderson said.
Whitehead said she acknowledges the benefits of the increasing trend of technology in the classroom, but she said the face-to-face contact in all UT classrooms is still essential.
“Valuable learning and social exchanges happen in our classrooms,” Whitehead said. “While the online portions of our hybrid courses are something I have a lot of faith in, the magic that happens in the classroom is something that emerges out of people being together learning things with the facilitation of an instructor.”