Over the past year and a half, educators around the country have learned a lot about how to design and teach a hybrid course that not only ensures learning but encourages student engagement and participation.
It is not a simple task. A hybrid learning environment can take a variety of forms. But there is one commonality across these varying formats—the need to maintain student attention when they are not physically in the classroom. Connecting with and engaging students while teaching hybrid courses is a must.
What Is Hybrid Teaching?
Lance Huang is an education lead for Agora, Inc., a platform for real-time engagement APIs. “Oftentimes, hybrid learning and blended learning are used interchangeably,” says Huang. “However, there are fundamental differences between the two, especially when it comes to the types of students who would benefit from each model.”
Blended learning, Huang says, is a common approach used around the world that combines online education materials with in-person classroom settings. Schools have been using some form of technology within the classroom for decades. Hybrid learning, by comparison, is a model that allows students to attend classes both in-person or virtually. Educators and students engage through the same collaborative hardware or software. The pandemic has made this model more prevalent around the world. But, says Huang, even beyond COVID-19 “hybrid learning has great potential to improve accessibility for students living in two different homes, juggling a job and schooling at the same time or simply needing an EdTech solution that works around their busy schedules or specific life circumstances.”
Preparing and Designing a Hybrid Higher-Ed Course
In a hybrid teaching environment, Huang says, “administrators should begin looking at themselves as technologists.” They need to be thinking, he says, “about what the common pain points are for educators and students and how they can adopt technology that addresses them head-on.”
For instance, he says, “integrating AI [artificial intelligence] technologies into classrooms can help track a student’s learning process and analyze their responses to questions. It can also dynamically adjust the difficulty and granularity of the material to cater to the student’s needs.” Natural language processing and voice recognition technologies can also offer big benefits for educators. He points to an example of a US-based startup, TeachFX that can monitor the teacher-to-student talk ratio, and how long a teacher pauses and responds to questions to promote student engagement and equity.
But, while technology is a foundational must-have in a higher-ed, professors and instructors must know how to use that technology to maximize the effect when teaching hybrid courses.
How to Teach a Hybrid Course in Higher Ed
Teaching hybrid higher-ed courses is a new experience for many professors. However, over the past several months, they have learned how to teach hybrid classes and adopted some best practices that have allowed both them and their students to thrive in the virtual learning environment.
Here is what some professionals in higher education had to say about how to design and teach a hybrid course.
One critical hurdle that must be addressed quickly is the ability to engage students remotely, says Kate Novak, Ed.D., a professor at UPenn GSE and an international education consultant. Creating relationships with students is important in any setting but particularly important in remote learning environments. Students need to have a strong sense of who their teachers are and even why they teach, says Novak, who stresses the importance of creating a strong instructor presence. “Your students have to know that you are ‘there’ and your instructor presence is tremendously important in making sure they know they can contact you for support and ask you for help when needed,” she says.
It is also important to ensure that students are prepared to master the digital environment, Novak says. That means making sure students have the tools or supplies needed for the course—and that they know what to do with these tools and how to use them. Access, she says, is key.
“When delivering a lesson and your goals, consider the range of possible ways that students will access this delivery,” Novak recommends. “What options and choices can you provide so that your students can access the plan either digitally or technically?” Building technology considerations into lesson planning will make it easier for both instructors and students to access and accomplish the goals of each lesson, she says.
Stacy Haynes, Ed.D., LPC, ACS is an adjunct professor of psychology at Rowan College of South Jersey and has taught courses for the past 15 years, for several years online classes only. “The new model of hybrid and Zoom are changing the look of college,” she says. For her classes, she says, she uses videos from YouTube frequently to help engage her audience through Zoom. She has open discussions through chat. “I find students who may never have participated in class are now participating in the chat,” she says.
Russell L. Meek, Ph.D., and visiting professor of Old Testament at William Tennent School of Theology also makes use of videos in his hybrid higher-ed courses. He uses short videos in three ways, he says:
- To summarize the objectives and assignments
- To offer encouragement to students and demonstrate how the material covered in the current week has impacted my day-to-day life
- To provide insight into the “daily life of your professor”
Meek’s day in the life videos are short videos that share whatever he is doing with his family that week. “These are short, silly, and mostly unrelated to the course,” he says. “I use them as a way to connect on an emotional and personal level with students.”
Haynes also appreciates the ability that teaching hybrid higher-ed courses provides to instructors to show students their environments. “I have had class from my private practice office or from my basement office,” she says. In addition, Haynes takes advantage of discussion boards during the week to add opportunities for additional conversation and “to make up for the in-class dialogue that normally would happen in a classroom.” Zoom and hybrid courses, Haynes says, “are making a connection to students similar to in-class teaching.”
The hybrid learning environment is different, but as professors and instructors learn more about mastering this new learning model for higher-ed, they are finding it holds many opportunities to engage college students—wherever they are.
Want Help With How To Design And Teach A Hybrid Course?
As you can see, one of the most important parts of designing and teaching a hybrid course is successfully engaging your students. That is where the Zoom classroom and tools like Class come into play, offering user-friendly, seamless and flexible learning options to serve students in a wide range of settings, regardless of the type of learning model being deployed.