Gemma Peacock: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISLI (International Study and Language Institute)
This case study reports on a successful pilot of hybrid/hyflex teaching in the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) where one class contained fully online remote students and blended on-campus students together. There are both benefits and limitations to using this approach for language and skills learning contexts.
The objectives of the pilot were:
- To investigate and refine the technical aspects of running hybrid lessons.
- To develop guidance for teachers.
- To ascertain whether hybrid/hyflex teaching and learning methods can be used in contexts where more complex interaction patterns are required.
- To gather feedback from teachers and students on their experiences.
The hybrid/hyflex pilot was run initially because small cohort numbers for ISLI’s autumn 2021 Pre-sessional English course precluded the running of two separate classes: one online and one on-campus. While evidence existed in other institutions of the successful adoption of hybrid in lecture-style classes, it was not known if hybrid would work in ISLI’s context as it specialises in English language teaching and academic skills development for international students. These fields require complex interaction patterns between students themselves and with their teachers.
During the pilot we refined the technology and processes necessary to deliver hybrid successfully as follows:
- A Teams meeting runs during the lesson, displayed on a smart board. Remote students attend this meeting and on-campus students can also do the same using their own devices to receive documents or links easily in the chat during the lesson.
- A device called a Meeting Owl Pro takes a constant 360 degree panoramic shot of the whole classroom and also shares video and audio of the speaker as they speak and move around the room.
- Two monitors on the teacher desk means they can interact with the Teams meeting functionality (such as displaying slides or documents) and they can use the other screen for other purposes (such as teacher notes).
- Teachers are thus able to speak to all students and remote students can speak to and see on-campus students via the Owl and vice versa for the implementation of a wide variety of interactive tasks.
- Focus groups were held with teachers and students on the pilot to gather data on their experiences.
NB: Hybrid/hyflex is possible without a Meeting Owl so long as a reasonable quality microphone and camera exists in the classroom.
ISLI’s hybrid/hyflex pilot achieved its outcomes. We investigated and refined the technical aspects of running hybrid lessons through trial and error. This resulted in the production of:
- a Meeting Owl Pro set-up guide for teachers.
- a guidance document for teaching and learning via hybrid/hyflex methods.
- a Teaching and Learning Sub-committee report on the pilot.
- future recommendations for hybrid/hyflex delivery in ISLI.
The feedback gathered from teachers and students on their experiences was generally positive. When combined with the feedback from ISLI’s TEL team, it was agreed that while it is possible to use hybrid/hyflex in language learning or skills development contexts it may not be desirable. Some recommendations include:
- Comprehensive teacher training in hybrid technology and pedagogy.
- Lesson design and staging must enable both remote and on-campus students to participate equally and to receive equal attention from the teacher.
- Where there is a small cohort (<5) these should be integrated into an online/F2F class to form a hybrid cohort to improve the student experience.
The pilot study was successful as it allowed for on-the-job teacher-training through action research, and a more granular understanding of how hybrid/hyflex can work in terms of both technology and pedagogy. I believe ISLI’s expertise of hybrid/hyflex teaching and learning methods could be called on more widely across the university as the blended learning landscape of the future takes shape.
Hybrid/hyflex teaching and learning has been hailed as a more inclusive and accessible mode of study since it gives students agency to choose whether to study from home or on campus according to their immediate needs. This has proved beneficial in other teaching contexts (add link to Cindy Becker’s T&L blog post). Current visa regulations, however, do not permit international students on Pre-sessional English courses to switch between online and face-to-face delivery within a course, as students receive an offer for one mode of delivery only. This means that some of the potential benefits of hybrid/hyflex delivery are not available to them at this time.
Since the pilot, professional conversations about hybrid/hyflex have taken place with schools across the university to include the Department of English Literature and Henley Business School. In May 2022, presentations on hybrid were delivered to HE colleagues at the JISC Change Agent’s conference, and with English Language Teaching professionals at the IATEFL conference in Belfast. Data on hybrid methodology usage is currently being gathered from a survey Gemma Peacock and Cindy Becker have circulated with the aim of writing a journal article in the near future.
Note: this entry is submitted alongside Cindy Becker’s T&L Exchange entry in which she shares her experiences of low tech hybrid/hyflex learning in English Literature seminars (add link to that blog here).
Hybrid Teaching and Learning Network (on Teams) for sharing good practice: https://tinyurl.com/ye6awyuz
General survey on hybrid teaching and learning practice at the University of Reading: https://forms.office.com/r/bF9k3amY3d