Brief Hybrids - A Small Step Towards Integrating Technology

Brief Hybrid activities allow you to test out a new technology by integrating it into your regular teaching in a thoughtful, strategic way that does not commit your whole course to this new technology.

What is a Brief Hybrid (BH)?

A "Brief Hybrid" (BH) is an activity of approximately 15-20 minutes intended to help a group of people produce or learn how to do something useful. In its simplest form, a BH allows you to introduce a concept, try out a technological teaching tool, actively engage your learners as they process the experience, and point participants to additional resources, all within a short period of time.

Brief Hybrids come in different ‘flavors’ depending on audience and purpose. Whoever your audience, design it with attention to and specifying: learning outcomes, preparation, interaction, follow-up, and timing. A BH typically includes the following components:

  • Plan – with guidelines for instructors and students; usually located on a web page;
  • Interaction – activities involving all students and instructors;
  • eClip – Web-accessible media clips (video, narrated PowerPoint, etc.) that last no more than 5 minutes in total;
  • Other Resources – Web-accessible information or files, printable handouts, reading assignments, etc.; and
  • Follow-up – next steps, feedback options, additional resources for those students who wish to learn more.

Sound complex or long? Actually, you should be able to run through these steps in pretty quick order for any topic that you are familiar with (45-75 minutes for a simple version).

How to Create a Brief Hybrid:

  1. Select a Focus – Identify a challenging topic or instructional bottleneck, critical concepts that continually prove difficult to get across, but are fundamental to a learner’s understanding. Pick something that is worth the time it takes to build a brief hybrid module – and is likely to be something that you will use again.
  2. Design & Plan your BH – take into consideration length of time required for the BH, audience, useful combinations of media & face-to-face interactions, appropriate technology tool, short handouts, and distribution strategies.
  3. Prepare to Build your BH – Gather equipment, resources and ‘access accounts’ needed to build a BH. Equipment – Computer/Laptop, Headset w/microphone, camcorder (e.g. Flip Video) and/or digital camera (for recording & uploading video, photos, sound, etc.). Software – Internet browser, PowerPoint, Jing. Online Account Access for Google Apps, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
  4. Develop or Locate an eClip – eClips are excellent ways to introduce new techniques, topics or technologies, or to provide guided explorations of concepts, ideas, or instructional bottlenecks. All benefit from a concise, clear and logical presentation of key points, vivid images and illustrations, accessible text and supporting audio and, where appropriate, posing questions that guide reflection and solidify learning. Producing eClips provides a way of ensuring these fit into a specific time-frame (generally 2-5 minutes) and are preserved in multi-media formats that can be readily accessible in the future. There are three key ways to develop eClips that can be used in your BH: Find Relevant eClips on the web, Create Narrated PowerPoint eClips (using a tool like Jing), or Producing Video eClips (using Flip Video cameras, for example).
  5. Design Your Inter-Activity – Interaction is a central component of a Brief Hybrid. Building in opportunities for participants to interact with the ideas, facilitators, and each other adds richness to the experience that helps them work with the concepts and make the information their own. Whether discussing application of the ideas and/or skills presented, or having the chance to ask or answer questions, the interactive opportunities allow participants to integrate the new material into their own framework of understanding. The challenge is to pick something that can quickly fit into your brief time period and flow naturally from and/or into your eClip(s). You may even create a space inside your eClip for this activity (or create a 2 part eClip) to facilitate interaction. Some examples of inter-activities you might consider including are: Brainstorming, Think-Pair-Share, Critical Incidents, Role Plays, Small Group Discussions, etc.
  6. Identify and Organize Resources for your BH – Think about all the resources you will refer to during the BH (websites, documents, diagrams and other useful text, references, examples). Think also about references you used and resources you want to direct BH students to. Gather all links and documents together in one place.
  7. Creating a “Homebase Webpage” for your BH – A “Homebase Webpage” that can serve as an entry page for your BH will contain all the main links that you will need to conduct your Brief Hybrid. Use Google Docs to create a simple webpage that you can make public.
  8. Do a Practice Run and Rethink your BH – Try this out yourself, with a colleague, or with your students. Pay attention to how it works and look for feedback so that you can tweak and improve it.

Once you create your first BH, doing the next one is not only easier, it’s quicker since you can build off of what you did before. Even better, if you have picked your focus well, you now have a module that you can use the next time you teach this topic, or that you can post online and integrate into an online or hybrid version of your course. Planning your next Brief Hybrid allows you to reflect on the first one – assessing its effectiveness, considering how to improve it, and possibly sharing it with others.

References and Resources

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Bonnie B. Mullinix, Ed.D.
Senior Consultant, Faculty and Educational Development
Teaching, Learning and Technology Group (TLT Group)