Managing teaching for students in different locations - hybrid teaching

Exterior of Jessop Building and The Diamond on campusThere is the possibility that, while the pandemic continues, there may be students who cannot attend face to face teaching. This may be due to local lockdowns or travel restrictions, or because the student is in a high-risk or vulnerable group, is self-isolating, or has caring responsibilities.

The numbers of students in this situation may vary from department to department, and given the global and unpredictable nature of the pandemic, numbers may vary over the course of the academic year too.

Students are advised to discuss with their departments if they are unable to attend face to face teaching.

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Departmental/programme review

It is important that any strategies to take account of students being in different locations are coordinated at a programme level, to mitigate against any risk of inequalities or sense of unfairness. Departments should review:

  • the key learning objectives that every student needs to meet
  • what exactly remote location students will miss
  • where students might be able to access this content/development at other places in the programme
  • staff availability and workloads

Following this review, departments should consider how they can support remote location students. One option might be 'hybrid teaching'.

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Hybrid teaching

Definition

This is a way of teaching synchronous sessions concurrently for face-to-face and remote-location students. Typically, campus-based students are taught on-campus and remote location students access the same session via a virtual classroom. For example, the teacher presents a synchronous session using Blackboard Collaborate to campus-based students (instead of PowerPoint) and remote location students access and contribute to the same session within the same Blackboard Collaborate session.

Who might hybrid teaching help?
  • Students unable to attend face-to-face teaching because they are shielding because of long-term health considerations.
  • Students unable to attend face-to-face teaching because they are caring for relatives at home.
  • Students who are unable to travel to the UK or attend face-to-face teaching because of quarantine restrictions.
  • Limited numbers of students who are self-isolating.

N.B. Hybrid teaching is more likely to be effective when most of the students in a group are physically present in the classroom and relatively small numbers are online. Hybrid teaching is therefore unlikely, in most cases, to prove an effective way of dealing with situations in which many or most students in a group are self-isolating. There are ways of supporting students who are shielding or quarantining other than through hybrid teaching delivery. Additional personal tutor meetings or group meetings to discuss on-line teaching material can be utilised.

What are the implications of this method of teaching?

Possible benefits:

  • May allow a sense of a whole cohort and a valuable way to integrate students who are unable to attend face to face teaching into the teaching experience.
  • Can be an efficient use of teachers’ time (although a second facilitator is useful to help manage the session and make sure all students can contribute).
  • Students (those physically present and those present remotely) will respond positively to hybrid teaching if they can see how students who are, for the reasons outlined above, unable to attend face-to-face teaching and might otherwise feel isolated can be brought into a teaching community.

Possible challenges:

  • Can be complex to manage.
  • Needs to be implemented consistently at a programme level to avoid creating inequalities
  • Risk that one group of students may receive more interaction/attention than the other.
  • May mean changes in teaching rooms/timetables
  • Students in different time zones may not be able to access synchronous hybrid teaching
How does hybrid teaching work in practice?

Livestreaming a session using Blackboard Collaborate

  • You can use the teaching computer in a lecture room as usual, but open your slides in a collaborate session, rather than in PowerPoint/Google slides (or share your screen/use a whiteboard etc. within collaborate). Remote students can view the collaborate window and hear your audio.
  • Advantages: more opportunities for remote students to interact with the teacher, e.g. through posting in chat, raising hand, etc.
  • Disadvantages: you need to use a microphone that is connected to the presenting computer. This is not the current set up in pool teaching spaces at present, but can be requested (see ‘what to do next’ section below).

The Digital Learning Team has produced a step by step guide to using Blackboard Collaborate for hybrid teaching:

How to use Blackboard Collaborate for hybrid teaching

There are other tools you can use within hybrid teaching sessions so that all students can contribute to a discussion, such as Jamboard. For more information, see our resource on digital tools for working with students.

Joe Palmer from the AMRC has made a useful video on hybrid teaching and suggests it works well for the following types of sessions/activities:

  • Open question (where you set students a task/question to think about and then are available to answer questions)
  • Question sheet (where you give students a question sheet to work through and are available to answer questions)
  • Small group work
Examples and tips from your colleagues

Colleagues in the Department of Education (Hadrian Cawthorne, David Hyatt, Tim Herrick and Caroline Hart) have been using hybrid teaching, both prior to the pandemic, and in response to current circumstances. They provide some examples and tips for you below.

Hadrian Cawthorne’s experiences:

“In 2020, myself and colleague Dr Christine Winter organised a day of White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership workshops to provide ‘hands-on’ activities across a range of data analysis methods. Hybrid workshops were designed to solve the issue of time, cost, and environmental impact of travel for the students, who were located around the country. We used Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to achieve this.
We had around eight attendees face to face and 15 online.
I setup Collaborate on the lectern PC and simply shared the whole screen and any PowerPoints the presenters were using. Dr Winter and I sat in as moderators in Collaborate and relayed any questions from online participants as appropriate. Each of the three workshops had practical activities and we invited the workshop leaders to chat with the online participants as well.
Additionally, we used a wired webcam on a tripod to capture the presenter visually and used a conference microphone to pick up the speakers and f2f students. This worked very well.
Each workshop consisted of a presentation and activities. We planned the activities meticulously so that the online participants would also be able to do them in the same way as f2f. Some of the activities were paper-based e.g. plotting data on graphs, sorting cards etc and we printed these for our f2f students and made the PDFs available to online students well in advance with instructions to print them out. Where it wasn’t possible for online students to do paper-based activities e.g. one activity where f2f students, as groups looked at printed photos and analysed them, we replicated using breakout groups and students annotated a PDF.
We received very positive feedback.”

Tips from David, Tim, Caroline and Hadrian:

Equipment/digital tools

  • Put collaborate on-screen in the room and present from there and invite f2f students to use it as well if possible so that its less “us & them”.
  • Quality of audio, both microphone & playback, is key (audio quality should be seen as an L&T/inclusion issue and not simply as an IT issue).
  • If using small breakout discussion groups, then you will need to use the non-random ‘custom assignment of participants to groups’ feature in Collaborate.

Pedagogy and interaction with/between students

  • It needs careful planning especially if session is a complex one.
  • Everything needs to be clearly structured, so those in the room and online know what's happening when.
  • You need to go a bit slower than you might do otherwise, because you're trying to gauge the reactions of people who aren't in the room.
  • Active chairing of these sessions is crucial, involving the summarising, consolidation and clarification of points made by participants.
  • A variety of forms of interaction is important (but then again, it is in a normal classroom too - it's just that the need to retain engagement is a little sharper when you can't get a sense of the room).

Student reactions:

  • For those who chose to be in the room, they really valued it; and, at the same time, those who weren't in a position to learn f2f appreciated being directly involved.

Recommendations

There is no institutional requirement upon departments or individual teachers to adopt hybrid teaching.

Where departments or individual lecturers are considering the development of hybrid teaching options, they should recognise and consider:

  • The need to put in place protocols relating to consent and confidentiality especially in relation to the discussion of sensitive topics.
  • The importance of ensuring that students have access to the necessary IT equipment and appropriate physical space to make hybrid teaching possible and that teaching delivery respects the conditions of individual students' Learning Support Plans.
  • Departments should recognise the importance of explaining to students why hybrid teaching is being adopted and who it is intended to benefit.
  • The interests of overseas-based students are accounted for. It would be wrong to offer hybrid options which UK-based students can access but not those currently based overseas.
  • Workload considerations are accounted for in advance of any decision to develop hybrid teaching at a local level.

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Other considerations

Using asynchronous activities in mixed cohorts

Asynchronous online activities in which students interact with each other, no matter what their location, will be key to building a sense of cohort if students are in different locations. These activities could include:

Our resource on building community offers further ideas for peer interaction.

Inclusive practice

Whichever method of teaching you use in these circumstances, it is important to make sure your teaching is inclusive.

  • Clearly communicate with students in advance about how sessions will work, and what is expected of them
  • Signpost to support and guidance for any technology you use
  • Include different ways for students to communicate and contribute to the session
  • Remember to take account of any Learning Support Plans for both on-campus and remote-location students in your cohort

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What to do next - support available

If you would like to discuss whether hybrid teaching will work in your programme, please email elevate@sheffield.ac.uk with ‘hybrid teaching’ in your subject line.

If you are sure that you would like to implement hybrid teaching in your programme, please fill in this google form.

The form, and any associated requests for support, will be considered by the Interim Vice-President for Education, a colleague from Elevate and a colleague from IT Services, who will be in touch with you.

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Further information

Links and downloads