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Hybrid and online courses are gaining attention as alternatives to traditional face-to-face classes. In addition to the pedagogical flexibility afforded by alternative formats, these courses also appeal to campuses aiming to maximize classroom space. The literature, however, reports conflicting results regarding the effect of hybrid and online courses on student learning. We designed, taught, and assessed a fully online course (100% online) and a hybrid-and-flipped course (50% online 50% face-to-face) and compared those formats with a lecture-based face-to-face course. The three formats also varied in the degree of structure; the hybrid course was the most structured and the face-to-face course was the least structured. All three courses were taught by the same instructor in a large Hispanic-serving research university. We found that exam scores for all students were lowest in the face-to-face course. Hispanic and Black students had higher scores in the hybrid format compared with online and face-to-face, while white students had the highest performance in the online format. We conclude that a hybrid course format with high structure can improve exam performance for traditionally underrepresented students, closing the achievement gap even while in-person contact hours are reduced.




Originally published in CBE - Life Sciences Education.

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