Equivalence in hybrid teaching
When working with hybrid teaching, it is important for online students to feel like equal participants compared to those attending on site in the classroom.
Following teaching via Zoom should not be a worse alternative for someone who may be feeling a bit ill or is not as well prepared. Presence and engagement from the students’ side naturally requires presence and engagement from the lecturer, and that entails the lecturer having thought through the process in advance and communicating their approach to the students.
The students should know in advance what rules of conduct and etiquette they will be expected to follow. In a physical classroom, this is often obvious, but the norms online are not as well established and particularly not in a hybrid situation. Examples of rules of conduct could be the following:
- Be there on time, preferably a few minutes before teaching begins.
- Sit or stand at a table, and make sure that you have what you need to take notes.
- Make sure that you are in a fairly quiet environment, switch off your mobile phone and set it aside.
- Prepare so as to participate actively in the teaching session.
You can refer to campusonline.lu.se/en/ for texts intended for students.
Prepare for the same opportunities
As a teaching staff member, you also need to ensure that students in the digital classroom have the same opportunities to keep up with the teaching session. In addition to thinking through technological solutions with cameras and microphones, this may entail publishing support papers and PowerPoints in advance on the course platform instead of only presenting them or sending them out in real time. Students who attend online can then choose to print out the material or have it on another screen so as to view the lecturer and their fellow students on Zoom instead.
You can also prepare the group allocations in advance and communicate them to the students along with instructions and other administrative information via the course platform, so that you don’t end up with the students on site receiving the assignment first and those on Zoom being penalised with less time to prepare or discuss.
If all students are to contribute in writing to a discussion, one tip is to use Padlet instead of having the students write in the chat window or on a physical whiteboard. On Padlet, everyone can see everyone else’s text with equal conditions. Otherwise, it can easily turn into two different discussions, one in the physical classroom and one online, or suddenly going round in circles as someone in the physical classroom logs in to check the chat window. Read this introductory article about Padlet:
• Padlet is now available at LU!
Decide in advance, and communicate, the rules that apply to raising your hand to speak, for example.
Another way to generate equivalent engagement from your online audience is to establish a camera-on culture. However, most people are more bothered and nervous about showing themselves and their homes on camera than about attending a physical classroom, and not all computers accept a virtual background. Also, it is not at all certain that students understand why they should have their cameras on. Not everyone understands that what they see and what the lecturer sees may be different – so they may think they are not visible anyway. Likewise, it is not certain that you will actually see everyone in a digital classroom if there are many students online.
So if you want to ask your students to have their cameras on, make sure you explain why. Is it mainly for their own sake so that they concentrate better or get a better opportunity to get to know each other? Is it to enable you to identify that the right people are in attendance in the classroom? Is it because it is easier to lead a discussion and include everyone if those participating in the conversation are visible? My experience is that more people switch their camera on when I explain why I want them to.
• Read Fivee reasons to switch your camera on
Create space for informal exchange
One element that many students seem to miss in the digital classroom is the semi-informal time with their fellow students and teaching staff, the time that is not compulsory, but not completely voluntary either, in the sense that you have to take the initiative for it yourself. To a certain extent, you get that time for free when you meet in a physical classroom. The students may arrive a little earlier and talk about the course before the lecture begins, or someone may ask the lecturer a question in the break and several people start to listen in or take part in the conversation. This type of exchange seems to be harder to bring about digitally, but it is not impossible.
I usually make sure to arrive early to my teaching sessions and start the camera immediately. If someone pops up on screen and does the same, I start a conversation, exactly as I would if someone enters the physical classroom a little early. I manage the breaks in the same way. If I say “Now we’ll take a break” and then switch off my camera and microphone for 15 minutes, everyone else will do so too, but a little informal communication during the break can make a big difference to how engaged students dare to be in the session. Leave your camera and mic on during the break so that the students following online can get in on the conversation. It can be a good idea to open a break-out room to offer the online students an opportunity to make small talk outside the classroom without the lecturer.