ed tech in practice · reading responses & reviews

Response to ‘Conversations at a Crucial Moment’

I chose an article from one of the National Council for Teachers of English journals, College English, titled “Conversations at a Crucial Moment: Hybrid Courses and the Future of Writing Programs.” For the first few pages the author, Catherine Gouge, builds support for her argument that college writing instructors need to begin considering how to blend their composition courses.

Throughout the article, Gouge refers to hybrid courses rather than blended courses, but her definition of hybrid courses is congruous with blended learning (Gouge, 2009, p. 340-341). She quotes Todd Taylor’s list of ten principles for incorporating instructional technology that I believe are worth sharing here:

  1. Keep people first.
  2. Identify and build from program principles.
  3. Start simple.
  4. Invest heavily in hands-on instructor training.
  5. Revise strategies for instructing students.
  6. Consult with others.
  7. Expect the crash.
  8. Consider access.
  9. Be critical of technology.
  10. Use technology as a lever for positive change.

(as cited in Gouge, 2009, p. 343-344)

Gouge goes on to outline the advantages and disadvantages of hybridity. She notes the usual: flexibility, increased student interactivity, increased student accountability, financial benefits, development of marketable real-world skills, etc.  Notably, two of her listed advantages were new to me: first, she points out that the asynchronous communications among students and faculty “transforms learning from a one-time event to an ongoing process;” second, she uses anecdotal evidence to indicate that the challenge of a text-intensive hybrid course serves as a mini-composition course itself.

In her section on the disadvantages, Gouge points out that “the voices that are most noticeably absent in the existing literature on hybrid pedagogy are those that are critical” (p. 347). She lists the usual culprits of resistance to technology and lack of training and access.

Gouge moves on to discuss specific programs and focuses on ICON (Texas Tech University’s Interactive Composition Online Program). The ICON system is simply fascinating. This hybrid system involves multiple document assessors to grade papers anonymously. Through a complicated course management system, the program is able to allow an essay to be scored with comments anonymously and independently two times (or three, if necessary based on score differences).  She lists many criticisms of the ICON program.

In her concluding remarks, Gouge returns to a more general discussion of hybrid courses. She asserts that “the most important principle to keep in mind in approaching any programmatic design process, especially a hybrid one is that no teaching medium is a guarantee of student learning” (p. 357).  School-wide success with such programs requires support and training for the entire institution – students, teachers, and administration.

The most powerful “take-away” I had from this article came in the conclusion: “students need to understand as clearly as possible what to expect from the course and why the course is structured the way that it is” (p. 358). In other words, students need to know why some portions of class are saved for face-to-face while other portions of class are online. As obvious as this statement may be, I believe this is a significant question to keep in the forefront of one’s mind when making instruction choices regarding a blended classroom.

Much like this discussion post I have written, Gouge’s article took a lot of words to say, well, not very much. So, what was the main idea? Blended learning, like any other instructional strategy, has advantages, disadvantages, requires teacher training, and must be incorporated in an effective and meaningful way in order to maximize student learning. I was hoping that the article would be a bit more “how to” rather than analytical and anecdotal.

Work Cited

Gouge, C. (2009). Conversations at a crucial moment: Hybrid courses and the future of writing programs. College English, (71)4. Retreived from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CE/0714-march09/CE0714Conversation.pdf


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