Hybrid teaching – a part of our learning environment

A university’s learning environment includes the contexts and resources that are necessary for students and teachers to learn and teach within the institution’s curriculum. 

hybrid classroom

Bild: CC0 Public domain on Wikimedia Commons

There has been a shift from the idea of a campus as a base for a university to a clearer definition of the programmes offered and how much this offer framework supports a flexible and broadened participation, a flexible functionality for the individual, on the physical campus and in digital forms – both internationally and nationally (Future learning environments, 2016). The concept of hybrid can be linked to both forms of distribution and teaching opportunities. Hybrid as a form of distribution can refer to blended forms but also to blending online meetings with on-site meetings. 

Here we will discuss hybrid in terms of teaching. 

Universities and colleges gain benefit from seeing the learning environment as a concept that includes both formal and informal as well as physical and digital elements that complement each other and strengthen each other’s importance. (Future learning environments, 2016, p. 12) 

Hybrid teaching means that you teach in a classroom with students on site, but others can connect via, for example, Zoom or learning centers. You thus teach both on-site and online. 

Hybrid teaching involves many challenges where the key issue is about capturing both the teacher’s and students’ activities in the room, and this makes it a difficult form of teaching to arrange without more advanced technology and preparation or specially equipped premises. The conditions for communicating with the different groups also differ and this makes it difficult to respond to each group in a good way. 

The term hyflex is mentioned more and more often today, where students are free to choose between participating on campus or online, synchronously or asynchronously. The method focuses on students’ active learning and presupposes collaboration between students regardless of how they choose to participate in meetings. The group work must mix campus and distance and must be able to continue outside the synchronous meeting to ensure that everyone is able to contribute. Read more about the model in an article in Educause: 7 Things You Should Know About the HyFlex Course Model. 

Earlier experience 

The biggest challenge with hybrid teaching is that you mix different forms of communication with different conditions both for learning and for the technical possibilities that are offered (the requirement for equity). We and many other higher education institutions have experience of teaching with students distributed at several municipal learning centers as well as students in the same room as the teacher. Some students have shown difficulties in commitment and other challenges that result in the online participants becoming a B-team, like flies on the wall. Today at Lnu we have a project that works with raising completion rates for distance/online students, a problem that can partly be linked to different conditions for learning. There is therefore a division between those present in the auditorium and participants via Zoom / learning centers. While it is considered good to have students present in the room who give feedback and a sense of presence, students who do not attend the on-site meetings express that they feel like second class students because they, among other things. have difficulty participating in discussions and difficulty seeing notes and pictures. Deficiencies in teachers’ use of technology can widen the transactional distance to the students so that responses in the form of body language and facial expressions cannot be interpreted at the same time as apparent lack of engagement among online students affects the motivation and mood of the campus group. When online students become ”invisible” to both teachers and students in the hall, questions and comments from the classroom are often prioritized and the distance students feel excluded from the discussion. One important thing to remember in hybrid sessions is thus the importance of consciously including the online students in the discussion. 

Traditional lecture teaching is relatively easy to organize in hybrid format with a camera and a good microphone for the teacher as well as screen sharing of slide shows in Zoom (at the cost of the students not being visible). You can thus create fairly simple solutions for simple lectures with limited questions from the participants, but it becomes more difficult when you want to create group work and more interactive exercises. Something that many teachers have struggled with during the year of Zoom teaching is the lack of a whiteboard. Although Zoom has a built-in whiteboard, its functionality is limited. 

Challenges and opportunities 

  1. Everyone must be able to see and hear each other. Everyone should be able to make their voice heard and the on-site students and teachers should see all the online participants. 
    Current situation and action needed: Today there are a number of Zoom rooms both in Kalmar and Växjö with multiple screens, cameras and microphones. However, these rooms are for smaller groups. Larger classrooms and lecture halls usually only have screen (s) in front and no microphones for the students. They are good for lectures but not suitable for discussion and group activities. Many classrooms have only one projector and soft screen at the blackboard and are not suitable for hybrid teaching without teachers taking all equipment with them. 
  2. Great technical stress. The teacher has difficulty managing the technology and at the same time preparing and carrying out the teaching. 
    Requirements for action: Regardless of how we equip our classrooms, we must strive for simplicity and uniformity so that the teacher feels at home even in a new room. In many cases, the teacher needs the support of an educational technologist or equivalent to handle a hybrid lesson that includes various activities. It is unreasonable for the teacher to be able to focus on equipment, settings, cameras, etc. during a lesson. 
  3. Technology and methodology requirements for students. Students need to be able to handle Zoom as well as shared documents or collaborative spaces. They need to learn how to work effectively in virtual groups, take notes, listen, ask questions, etc. This takes time and must be trained through simple exercises in the beginning to more advanced later. 
  4. Digital didactic competence for teachers. 
    Requirements? How are they communicated and remedied? Whose responsibility? 
  5. Disadvantages of synchronous meetings. Synchronous meetings, whether in the classroom or online, are often exclusive. A few participants (especially the teacher) dominate the discussion and the most talkative students benefit. Several participants are invisible, not because they have nothing to contribute but for other reasons. Some feel inferior to their eloquent and independent colleagues, some are anxious about saying something ”stupid”, some need time to reflect before voicing their opinion, some find it difficult to formulate themselves quickly in their second / third / fourth language and some are simply introvert. The synchronous discussion mostly provides space for spontaneous and sometimes ill-considered answers. The asynchronous digital discussion, on the other hand, can lead to a deeper discussion, as it provides time for reflection and opportunities for the silent participants to express themselves. For methods on how you can create more participation and activate the “silent” students, see the book Silent learners – a guide (Creelman ed, NVL 2017). 
  6. Do we have to be connected all the time? A solution to the hybrid question is that lessons are divided into shorter common meetings (synchronous, hybrid) at the beginning and end of the day and group work between them. After a half-hour review of the tasks, each group (mixture of campus and distance) gets several hours to work with the task both asynchronously (via shared documents, mind maps, bulletin boards, etc.) and synchronously (video meetings with any platform, chat channel, etc.). Students can then sit where they want and decide how to collaborate. They present the results in a concluding joint session or in MyMoodle. Focus on activity. Then we have less need for large meetings and the students are more active than in the classroom. This can also be considered a hybrid version of the Active Learning Classroom concept where students work in groups with problem solving while the teacher facilitates. (see more from the University of Minnesota, Teaching in an active learning classroom, https://cei.umn.edu/teaching-active-learning-classroom-alc).  
  7. Can demands for hybrid teaching once again focus on the form of the lecture despite its poorer results for students’ learning? Lecturing is the simplest form of teaching both on-site and online, as it requires only simpler forms of interactivity (show of hands or chat). Since interactive hybrid teaching requires a more advanced technical solution in the classroom, it can be tempting to create a simpler hybrid solution that works best for just lecturing. Pure lecture can be recorded in advance with a forum or other discussion area for questions and reflections. When the group gathers for a synchronous lesson, you can focus on group exercises, discussions, or other active forms of learning. A lesson is not just an hour of attendance but rather a process of asynchronous posts and discussions both before, during and after the lesson. In this way, all students get space to contribute. 


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