Applying hybrid learning to a new forest health program

Before joining the Extension Hybrid Learning study group, I had already been experimenting a bit on my own with hybrid learning techniques, without calling it Hybrid Learning or really knowing what I was doing. For example, I’ve started teaching our Basic Forestry Shortcourse in a “flipped classroom” format. I give assignments ahead of class time for participants to read an Extension publication, view a narrated slideshow, or watch a video. Then we use the in-class time for discussion of the subject material in small and large groups. This allows us to use the class time to explore more deeply particular concepts that are most relevant to the participants, rather than the old one-way lecture format that I used to use. The flipped classroom model was presented to us during the study group as a commonly used practice for hybrid learning.

I used the Hybrid Learning study group as an opportunity to start framing a new program that is in my work plan for this year. I’m working with several other collaborators to create a short training program for forestry & natural resources professionals, as well as volunteers, that will help these individuals recognize the signs and symptoms of a couple of very high priority exotic forest pests. We want more trained eyes on the ground (or more accurately, in the trees) to aid in the EDRR (early detection and rapid response) should these insects arrive in Oregon.

From the outset, I knew that I wanted to have some online resources for this program, for participants to be able to refer to before, during and after the training. I also felt that some face-to-face elements would be essential for participants to be able to practice their identification skills and to interact with expert instructors.

I’ve come up with a draft model for my “Forest Pest Detector” program that consists of a couple of online modules followed by a face-to-faces session. One of the things that Cub and Jeff stressed during the study group is that in a true Hybrid experience, the online and face-to-face elements are integrated and that there is interaction between students, instructors, and the content in both settings. I’m not sure that I’ve achieved that. Stay tuned for the launch of our program sometime next year.

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