M.A. in Engaged Humanities & the Creative Life

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Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS A "HYBRID" PROGRAM?

A hybrid program combines online learning with residential sessions. To be specific, each 3 unit course has 30 hours of contact time (time learning with the instructor). 55% of those hours are spent in residential, and 45% are spent online.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL QUARTER LOOK LIKE?
Each quarter contains 10 weeks of instructional time, though they will extend longer to accommodate holidays and other breaks for rest, relaxation, and reflection. Students take two 3-unit courses each quarter. The first 6 to 8 weeks of each quarter is spent reading at home and engaging online in discussion and activities with the faculty and one's classmates. Students and faculty then gather together on campus for a 4 day residential weekend (see below). Students return home and back to the online format to continue reading, discussing, and completing final assignments.

WHY DO WE MEET FACE-TO-FACE WITH OUR INSTRUCTOR SO LATE IN THE QUARTER?
Some instructors will assign projects as part of the coursework, and will want you to present those projects during the residential, so meeting later in the quarter allows time for the creation of those projects.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT DURING THE RESIDENTIAL SESSION?
Classes begin at 9:00 a.m. on Thursdays, and end at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, in order to accommodate students who wish to travel back home that afternoon. Classes are in session from 7 to 9 hours a day, and faculty are encouraged to combine lecture, pair work, student presentations, and group discussion with experiential and embodied learning to accommodate different styles of learning and to keep the day flowing. Students can meet with faculty one-on-one during lunch and dinner breaks, and every session contains an opportunity to meet as a group with the program's director to address concerns, raise questions, or discuss how the program is progressing for them.

The session extends to 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening, combining classes with a variety of social gatherings, special events, forums, and guest speakers.

HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD I EXPECT TO BE ONLINE?
Students are expected to log in to our distance learning software (Desire2Learn) several times a week, for a total of three hours per week. This will typically include time spent reading the online presentation, posting and responding to discussion boards, listening to an audio file, or watching a video, though there may be other activities as well.

Experience has shown that students learning in an online format have a tendency to spend more time per week online "in class" than their residential peers, creating a potential imbalance in their personal and academic lives. We have several measures in place to protect our hybrid students from this imbalance, including designating a "preparation week" when students and faculty are not online during the week before the residential session and the three days afterward, and requiring no online hours the last week of the quarter, allowing students time to complete their final assignments, and assigning other weeks as "offline weeks." In addition, we maintain strong boundaries around how much online material there is to read, especially with discussion boards: students are given word or paragraph limits to initial postings, and are given a limited number of responses they must make to each other. If students wish to continue a conversation outside of the boundaries of the assignments, each course has an online Classroom Café, which is an open discussion board where students may converse freely about a topic.

ARE THERE REQUIRED DAYS OR TIMES I HAVE TO BE ONLINE?
Pacifica requires that all students log into their online courses on the first day of the quarter, and post something that indicates attendance. This is a Federal Financial Aid requirement, and it can be done anytime during that first day. Other than this mandatory sign-in requirement, most assignments will be due once or twice weekly so you can log in and complete them at your convenience.

BESIDES PARTICIPATING ONLINE, WHAT OTHER SORTS OF WORK SHOULD I EXPECT?
Reading, of course. The number of books and articles will vary by instructor but in general, expect between 800-900 pages of reading per course. Other assignments may include individual or group projects, research, presentations, and essay-writing.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM FACULTY IN A HYBRID PROGRAM?
When you are on campus, your experience of a faculty member will be the same as any residential student at Pacifica and will include a combination of lecture, discussion, group work, student presentations, engagement with film and art, and experiential learning exercises. Faculty will be available for office hours during meals so students can sign up for one-on-one time together.

Teaching styles online vary, but in general, online learning takes as its motto that instructors are to be "guides on the side" versus "sages on the stage." Faculty are asked to review and participate in the online discussion two or three times per week. They will typically offer general guidance to the group, rather than to individual students in this format. In other words, a student will not receive feedback on each of his or her postings; however faculty will help to facilitate the discussions for the group by offering insights and commentary. Individual faculty members' personal teaching styles may differ, so expect variations in this regard.
Faculty are also asked to be available for students for phone conversations during the quarter. Faculty will list their phone numbers on the syllabus, but it is preferable that students should send a request for a phone conversation to the faculty via email, indicating the content of the conversation, and suggesting a few good times they can be reached. Our faculty are also attempting to maintain balance in their lives, and it is not expected that they are online or available every day of the week; the expectation is the same as it is for students, that both will log in several times a week.

PART OF THE REASON I'M DRAWN TO PACIFICA IS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO STUDY WITH PEOPLE OF LIKE MINDS. HOW DOES A HYBRID PROGRAM LEND ITSELF TO A SENSE OF COMMUNITY?
Very well. Students who have gone through our Engaged Humanities program will tell you that community builds quickly in that environment. While you may not "see" your classmates every month like a traditional Pacifica student, you will "hear" from them weekly. In fact, online learning is particularly conducive to hearing the voices of all students, as it requires participation from everyone; students who normally may be very quiet in a traditional classroom may be more comfortable "speaking" online.

Remember, too, that you'll spend a little more than half of each course meeting face-to-face with your classmates, and over those four days per quarter on campus, you'll continue online discussions over shared meals together, you'll watch films and have social time together, you'll attend classes and guest lectures and work together in pairs and groups.

I'VE NEVER TAKEN AN ONLINE CLASS BEFORE. WHAT SORT OF SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE TO ME?
Prior to the start of the program, all students will be required to participate in an online tutorial to become familiar with the delivery software. For ongoing questions or support once you begin the program, you may contact the IT department via phone, or chat with them live online. The Program Administrator will also be available to answer your questions and provide support. In addition, there are video and written tutorials available online.