Professor Cindy Becker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Literature and Languages
During the pandemic, hybrid learning was used in two modules I taught – one at Foundation Level and one at Part One. I found it worked well for discussion-based sessions. I recognize that there are potential gains and losses to continuing this practice post-pandemic and I hope this case study might contribute to our institutional conversation.
The objectives were to:
- Include as many students as possible in live teaching sessions.
- Maintain the energy of a group learning setting for all students.
- Reassure students that they were still part of their learning cohort, even off campus.
- Ensure good attendance and engagement on key modules at Foundation Level and Part 1, which might be seen as ‘at risk’ stages for student retention and attainment.
Seminars in Arts and Humanities offer a specific type of learning experience, based upon developing ideas through discussion in a group setting. Students did not respond well to the idea of one-to-one (or two/three) sessions as a replacement if they were off campus. They struggled to attend or to engage in sessions which could become ‘information-giving’ tutorials rather than ‘knowledge-sharing’ seminars.
Hybrid learning, in my case through a Blackboard Collaborate session running simultaneously with a campus seminar, was used for some modules in my department to include students who were unable to come onto campus due to the pandemic. I used the desktop computer in the teaching room, and I had the camera facing me (the online students preferred this to looking at their fellow students). The sessions were low tech, so I did no more than share my screen for visual material used in the seminar. I put the handouts in my Blackboard module and shared them in the Blackboard Collaborate chat. At the end of each seminar the online students stayed in the session so that I could check in with them once the on-campus students had left the room
For the Part 1 module, the module convenor alerted me to those students to whom I would need to send the Blackboard session link. No students other than these were offered the option of attending online
The first three objectives were achieved with the Part 1 module. An unplanned outcome was that we opened the hybrid sessions to a student whose mental health precluded on-campus attendance for two weeks, so the impact was wider than expected.
I then introduced hybrid learning in a Foundation module on which there had been poor attendance, for seminars in which I was offering important information about assessment.
I sent the online link to all students on the Foundation module. An unexpected outcome was that this did not significantly reduce the number of students who attended the on-campus seminar, but it did draw in the students on the module who had been regular nonattenders.
I think hybrid teaching and learning worked well because our subject lends itself to relatively low-tech, conversation-based seminar learning. It worked for me as a seminar leader surprisingly well; this might in part have been because students were happy to give me leeway as I drifted off camera or took a few moments to catch up with their chat contributions.
On reflection I wish I had explored the option of students in the room interacting on their laptops with the online-only students. Responses would be passed to me from students online via students in the room on WhatsApp during general discussions, and I would have liked to facilitate that more formally. I wonder if we are underestimating our students’ abilities to multi-task in this way when we offer them campus-only sessions and I am keen to see whether the blended learning landscape of our future might also allow for more hybrid learning opportunities.
I led a professional conversation on this topic in my department to share our experiences and, perhaps, to consider what we might lose if we abandon hybrid teaching next year, weighing this against the potential risks that might be associated with its continuance. I would be pleased to hear from any colleagues who would like to become involved in a wider conversation.
Note: this entry is submitted in conjunction with Gemma Peacock’s T&L Exchange entry in which she shares her experiences of hybrid/hyflex learning in language learning and academic skills development courses in ISLI (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