To make time in class for group activities devoted to critical thinking, we integrated a series of short online lectures into the homework assignments of a large, introductory biology course at a research university. The majority of students viewed the online lectures before coming to class and reported that the online lectures helped them to complete the in-class activity and did not increase the amount of time they devoted to the course. In addition, students who viewed the online lecture performed better on clicker questions designed to test lower-order cognitive skills. The in-class activities then gave the students practice analyzing the information in groups and provided the instructor with feedback about the students' understanding of the material. On the basis of the results of this study, we support creating hybrid course models that allow students to learn the fundamental information outside of class time, thereby creating time during the class period to be dedicated toward the conceptual understanding of the material.