Evolving Education: Hybrid Learning By: Jake Hirsch-Allen, Co-Founder/Advisor August 14, 2014 At Lighthouse Labs, we see a common thread running through many of our applicants: they will try to learn to code by taking an online course, but they hit roadblocks that they can’t push through, or need guidance on how to proceed with their learning. Often, they start these courses but do not finish them. We also see the inverse experience: computer science students come to us when their lecture-based degrees are too theoretical or overly structured. When founding Lighthouse Labs, we sought a balance between these disparate silos in the world of developer education: self-directed online classes, and teacher-led classroom settings. Our final result is a Hybrid Learning* model, in which our students benefit from the best of both worlds. What is "Hybrid Learning"? In current educational literature, the exact definition of hybrid learning is a source of much debate. However, there is one concept central to the term: an integration of online tools with face-to-face activities that "reinforce, complement, and elaborate one another". At Lighthouse students see this in their day-to-day experience: morning lectures, online lab work, breakout sessions, and TA mentorship all work in concert with each other. This is in contrast to other educational models that only use one of these, or use them in a way that's not truly integrated. In practice, this means that we aren’t simply listing additional online resources; we are weaving them into every exercise, lecture, and code review. This ensures none of the lessons we put forth feel tertiary to the students’ learning experience. Research shows that this methodology contributes to student satisfaction and success, and improves students' attitudes towards learning.** So what is the online component? Like all developers, students at Lighthouse Labs benefit from a nearly infinite amount of online developer resources. These are peppered throughout the Lighthouse Labs experience, and they complement and enhance their in-person activities and interactions: from our prep course, in which we link to exercises on a variety of websites such as Ruby Warrior; to our use of networking tools like Slack and TeaOrbit to integrate Lighthouse' online and offline communities. In our program itself, we often include additional learning resources on from a variety of developer sites, such as Stack Overflow, or blogs such as Yehuda Katz's. The emphasis, of course, is on practical skills and applicable knowledge: these are all resources that actual developers would use in the course of their jobs to pick up new skills. Compass guides the way We relay these developer resources through our proprietary learning management system, Compass. This provides a central hub for students to access all the milestones in their learning. Furthermore, for teachers, it also allows for central data collection, and in turn learning customization. Our teachers can easily use Compass to pinpoint improvements for individual students, highlight stretch goals for those who excel, and refine the curriculum for future cohorts. Producing job-ready developers There is a question I frequently hear: “why not just take an online course?” Part of my answer is that they do exactly that, as part of our prep course and throughout the bootcamp. Another part of the answer is the various pedagogical benefits outlined above. But the true beauty of our Hybrid model is that it starts to mirror the job experience for developers. As we’ve heard from our hiring partners, our students leave with the ability to both learn from their senior peers and properly apply information from online resources. These are crucial tenets to growing as a developer. This gives them the wherewithal to mitigate the “Imposter Syndrome” that plagues new developers, and allows them to be immediately productive upon entering the workplace. Our ultimate goal is to produce intelligent, job-ready developers, and our Hybrid Learning model is structured to do exactly that. This post is Part 2 of a 4-part series from our founders on how Lighthouse Labs is evolving education. For the other parts, click below: Part 1: 3 Student Projects I Use Every Day Part 3: Why We Use Co-ops Part 4: Flipping The Classroom (Coming soon) *The terms "blended," "hybrid," "technology-mediated instruction," "web-enhanced instruction," and "mixed-mode instruction" are often used interchangeably in current research literature. **** S. Alexander, Flexible Learning in Higher Education, In: Editors-in-Chief: Penelope Peterson, Eva Baker and Barry McGaw, Editor(s)-in-Chief, International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition), Elsevier, Oxford, 2010, Pages 441-447, ISBN 9780080448947, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-044894-7.00868-X.