Keith Feiring

Dr. J. Servatius

EDUI6706 Section 1

March 10, 2003


High School Independent Studies:

A Hybrid Online English Course


            The title of my project is, High School Independent Studies: A Hybrid Online English Course. The project consists of two main components:

·        creating a hybrid distance learning course for teaching High School English – Language Arts to independent study students presently participating in an on-ground English program; and,

·        testing the effectiveness of the distance learning course in meeting its goal, which is to give additional learning opportunities to students participating in an on-ground English program.

I am defining a “hybrid distance learning course” to mean a course that provides students with learning over both the Internet and in face-to-face meetings with their teacher.

            Background Information - Goal of Course

            The Hybrid Online English Course will be created to teach independent study students in grades 9 – 12, English – Language Arts. Presently, these students are enrolled in an independent study program in which they are taking all of their required high school courses. The way their schedule is currently arranged is they come to school one hour each week to meet with their teacher, receive and turn in assignments, take tests and discuss questions regarding all of their courses. The rest of the week they work independently at home, having no further contact with the school or their teacher. They have no opportunity for student interaction or to participate in discussions.  The limited amount of time students physically attend school, impacts on their teacher’s ability to provide lessons and other resources that could enrich their learning. The students represent a cross section of learner levels, from remedial to accelerated. Their school is in the California school system and is presently undergoing severe budget cutbacks. The effect of these cutbacks is a reduced supply of textbooks and learning materials. In addition, the school district where this course will be conducted has no funds to pay for a Course Management System (CMS.)

            Rationale for the Project

            The purpose of this project is to study whether on-ground, independent study high school students can participate in and benefit from online instruction.

Although the author of this project must teach all the required high school courses to his students, he has chosen to focus on creating a hybrid course that teaches High School English. In his opinion, the study of English – Language Arts has the most universal benefit to all students and makes the most useful online course to create. The author’s course, will also offer students the opportunity to improve in the following areas:

·        computer skills;

·        preparing for the High School English Exam;

·        interacting with other students;

·        working and collaboration with other students;

·        communicating with each other via writing; and,

·        preparing for future online classes.


            Approach to the Project

            A small group of students will be evaluated to determine if they are qualified to participate in the Hybrid Online English Course. The course will be constructed using various principles and applications that the author learned in the CSUH Online Teaching and Learning Masters’ Program, for example, VARK Learning Styles and threaded discussions.

            Prior to taking the course, students will be given a Star Reading Test to evaluate their reading levels. Students will also be given surveys to complete related to their experiences with learning English, their perceptions of Online Learning and their expectations for the course. Midway through the course, students will be surveyed about their experience taking the course. During the students’ weekly on-ground visits with their teacher, students will be interviewed and also will be observed utilizing the online component in the presence of the teacher. At the end of the course, students will be interviewed again regarding their experience with the course. Students will also take the Star Reading Test to see if their reading levels have improved. Throughout the course, students will be provided with lessons and tests. These tests will be collected and later evaluated regarding the effectiveness of the course. At the conclusion of the project, the course will be evaluated on the basis of the collected materials. Improvements to the course will be recommended based on these evaluations.

Course Design Issues

            My hybrid English course will be designed for high school students in a multi-grade setting.  The course syllabus will meet and exceed the requirements of the school district in which I am teaching. The course is also designed so that students will have the opportunity to:

·        improve their computer skills;

·        interact and hold discussion with other students over the Internet;

·        display and discuss their essays and projects in different forums; and,

·        prepare for the California High School Exit Exam (for those needing to pass it.)

            Since the school district has no funding available for a commercial CMS, the course will be housed on a web site I am creating.  The web site will have many of the elements found on a commercial CMS. This web site will function as the CMS. In addition, my CMS will be designed for ease of use by the students and have a graphic orientation in order to appeal to the younger student.

            There are a number of legal issues that will be addressed regarding the participation of minors in an online course: ownership of student posts in discussions, rights to privacy and censorship.

            A characteristic of my school district’s independent study program is that students are enrolling throughout the year. There is no official first day of school. To accommodate this situation, this English course is designed to permit students to join and begin participating at anytime throughout the year. This is a significant factor in the design of the course.

            Students will continue to physically meet with their teacher one hour each week in order to participate in their other high school classes. In this meeting, a certain amount of time can be given to discussing any issues related to the English course.

            Due to this course being the pilot, initial student enrollment will be limited to no more than ten students. The course will have duration of ten lessons, rather than weeks.

            Literature Review

            This is a review of a variety of publications that present information relevant to my project.


            In order for students to receive high school credits for participating in a course, State-mandated standards must be incorporated into the course. The following list is English-Language Arts Content Standards from the California Department of Education. These standards apply to grades nine thru twelve.


1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development

2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials

3.0 Literary Response and AnalysisWriting

1.0 Writing Strategies

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)Written and Oral English Language Conventions

1.0 Written and Oral English Language ConventionsListening and Speaking

1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

(California Department of Education.)

            There are many free resources available to assist the course developer in creating lessons that will comply with these standards. One free resource is provided by the San Diego County Office of Education. It has placed online, for use by educators, a series of lessons called CyberGuides.

These are supplementary, standards-based, web-delivered units of instruction centered on core works of literature. Each CyberGuide contains a student and teacher edition, standards, a task and a process by which it may be completed, teacher-selected web sites and a rubric, based on California Language Arts Content Standards.  (San Diego County Office of Education)

            Multigrade Instruction in a Hybrid Online Class

            In many Independent Study programs, the teacher works concurrently with students in grades nine thru twelve. The teacher is required to create a unique learning environment that accommodates this heterogeneous group of students. “The challenge for the multigrade teacher is to meet the individual needs of students in a classroom setting characterized by multiple levels of ability achievement and social and physical development.” (Susan Vincent)

Ms. Vincent goes on to say that:

In multigrade instruction, children of at least a two year grade span and diverse ability levels are grouped in a single classroom…Students can be taught specific strategies that help them make decisions and solve problems on their own, process information effectively, become reflective about their thinking and learning processes, set their own goals for personal development, and plan ways to achieve these goals…As the multigrade teacher emphasizes self-directed learning, a more efficient learning environment is created.

            The opportunity for a course to be presented in a hybrid online class environment creates the potential for benefits beyond the traditional on-ground classroom.  In her paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Lynn M. Smelser states:

The growth of the Internet and other technologies has teachers finding themselves once again moving away from the “traditional classroom” into educational domains that have no physical boundaries and incredible potential for interaction and collaboration among classroom participants. A hybrid course maximizes this potential by offering two very different environments – the traditional physical classroom and the online space of the Internet – for course members to interact with one another and the course material, thus creating expanded opportunities for uniquely reaching students with different learning styles, backgrounds, and educational goals.

            Learning Styles and Online Learning

            There are definite benefits that can be achieved when a course designer is cognizant of various learning styles. Studies have shown improvement in student understanding of information when courses are designed with consideration to different learning styles. Diana J. Muir performed research “to determine if online learning could be adapted to individual learning styles and if that made a difference in standardized testing scores of Internet students.” The study showed online learning to be adaptive. Muir states that the “Ideal” online course should include: “…Teacher strategies which address all learning styles, activities that adapt to different learning styles…”

            An approach to course design that gives consideration to learning styles is taken thru the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.)  Harvey J. Brightman discusses “the four dimensions underlying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and several teaching approaches that will appeal to different MBTI profiles.”

            The High School Student

            Are high school students prepared for the demands of taking online courses?  What type of expectations should there be for student participation and performance? Ron J. Hammond studied high school and college students’ ability to learn online. “High school students had more complaints about interactive learning… They value interactive classes more than college students, yet do not perform as well…and found the interactive courses to be difficult.”

            Prior to enrolling students in a distance learning program, they should be assessed as to their ability to participate. This may be done using a questionnaire pertaining to students’independent study skills and computer experience. “To avoid failure and inefficacious pedagogy in Web-based environments, potential students should respond formally to a set of criteria.” (Elizabeth A. Buchanan)

Teaching Practices

            In order for students to obtain the maximum benefit from a course, a substantial amount of investigation and planning must go into the developing it.

Instructors must create instruction that supports active learning. The learning environment must ensure that the learners are provided with a specific context, clear goals and objectives based on defined needs and instructional strategies that reflect their needs and interests. Strategies should include problem solving, collaboration and partnering. (American Distance Education Consortium)

            The online environment is unique in many ways and this should be addressed in the course design. However it is important for the instructor to be aware that the basic principles which foster a successful on-ground course remain the same for the online course.

Many of the best practices employed by classroom instructors can and should be employed in the online environment. All instructors should consider the student needs and interests when creating and delivering courses…All instructors must consider the human element in whatever environment they are instructing.

(Roger Powley)


            Student Qualifications and Standards

            Students must meet certain qualifications in order to participate in the course:

·        have a home computer which meets hardware and software requirements;

·        have a reliable home Internet connection; and,

·        be proficient in their computer and Internet skills.

            Prior to the start of the course, students will be required to attend an orientation session that explains how to log on and utilize the online component of the course. Students must agree to meet requirements regarding interaction with each other (to participate in discussion and chats), academic honesty and attendance.

Course Content

            The course will meet all the requirements of the California Department of Education in order to award High School course credit to the participating students. In addition, the students will improve as well as learn new skills related to computer usage and online classes.

            School District Requirements for the Independent Studies Program

            The following curriculum requirements were developed based on students receiving five credits in High School:

·        read and report on five novels;

·        write ten essays;

·        accomplish fifteen units of vocabulary; and,

·        study a variety of subject matter including grammar and punctuation.

            Additional Course Specific Requirements

            Students will be required to:

·        type all assignments using Microsoft Word;

·        take timed reading and writing tests;

·        participate in common discussion topics;

·        participate in chats; and,

·        participate in a Star Reading test to determine student’s reading level.


Student Communication

            Student will utilize a variety of applications in order to communicate with each other and complete assignments:

·        email;

·        chat;

·        threaded discussions;

·        digital drop box; and,

·        telephone conferences.

            Multi-grade, Multi-skill Level Assignments

            Students participating in this course will be in different grade levels. They will also represent different skill levels in the subject of English. In order to accommodate this range of students, a variety of lessons will be posted on the course Web site. Students will be able to select lessons specific for their grade level.

            Evaluation of Course

            Data will be obtained for later evaluation of the course by utilizing the following:


            Three surveys will be conducted over the duration of the course. Surveys will be given to the participating students and to their parents. Survey One will take place prior to the start of the course, Survey Two, midway through the course and Survey Three on the final day of the course.



·        The course instructor will make notes on student and parent feedback (both solicited and unsolicited) throughout the course.

·        The course instructor will observe students using the CMS

            Star Reading Test Results

            Reading test scores will be documented prior to and upon completion of the course.

            Student Work Samples

            Student work samples will document student ability to produce, for example, a five paragraph narrative essay prior to and upon completion of the course.

            Interviews with Students and Parents

            Information gathering interviews will be conducted at the conclusion of the course.

            Revision of Course

            The author will evaluate the course when it has concluded and make recommendations for its revision:

·        organize a database of the Course Evaluation data;

·        decide on main categories of the course to be evaluated;

·        review the data;

·        make recommendations for improving the course; and,

·        reference items within the course that correlated directly to results of the Course Evaluation data.


Proposed Timeline

Project Start Date:                    Oct 15, 2003

Project Completion Date:          February 29, 2004

Week of:

·        October 15

o Begin process for qualifying potential students.

·        November 1

o Seek approval from Final Project Advisor, and revise project proposal.

o Seek final approval from my school district to conduct the course.

o Finalize all legal requirements for the course.

o Notify participating students of course start date.

o Ongoing discussion between myself and my project advisor continues until the completion of the project.

·        November 15

o Course orientation for participating students.

o Distribute and collect pre-course surveys.

o Perform Star Reading Test.

o Conduct pre-course essay assignment.

o Begin course.

·        December 15

o Distribute and collect mid-course surveys.

·        January 30

o Complete course.

o Conduct Exit Survey.

o Conduct Exit Star Reading Test.

o Conduct Exit Interviews.

·        February 7

o Create database of data and evaluate.

o Propose changes to course based on evaluated data.

·        February 14

o Submit first draft of project report to advisor for review.

·        February 21

o Revise first draft of project report.

o Submit final project report.


Note: A portion of this timeline is based on the timeline and wording of the Project Proposal of Gloria Y. Niles, D.C., 11/8/02


Works Cited


American Distance Education Consortium. “ADEC Guiding Principles for Distance Learning”

2002. 15 Feb. 2003 <


Brightman, Harvey J. PhD. “GSU Master Teacher Program: On Learning Styles.” Georgia State

University Web Site Sept. 1998. Georgia State University. 15 Feb. 2003


Buchanan, Elizabeth A. PhD. “Assessment Measures: Pre-Tests for Successful Distance

Teaching and Learning?”  Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume II, Number IIII, Winter (1999) 20 Feb. 2003 <  buchanan24.html>

CyberGuides, Teachers Guide and Student Activities. 2002 San Diego County Office of

Education.  28 Feb. 2003 <>

English-Language Arts-Content Standards for California Public Schools 19, Nov. 2001.

California Department of Education. 28 Feb. 2003 < reading/>

Hammond, Ron J. “Fine Tuning Interactive Delivery for High School Students in a Rapidly

Growing College and Distance Learning System: A Student Readiness Approach.” ERIC ED 429 630 1999. 15 Feb. 2003

Muir, Diana J. “Adapting Online Education to Different Learning Styles.”

ERIC ED 462 940 2001. 20 Feb. 2003

Powley, Roger, CD PhD. “Online Teaching Best Practices.”  Innovative Training Solutions Inc.

2001. 15 Feb. 2003 < Samples/Papers/papers_teaching.htm>

Smelser, Lynne M. “Making Connections in Our Classrooms: Online and Off.”

ERIC ED 464 323 2003. 17 Feb. 2003

Vincent, Susan, Ed. “The Multigrade Classroom: A Resource Handbook for Small, Rural

Schools. Book 6: Self-Directed Learning.” ERIC ED 448 983 1999. 20 Feb. 2003