Hybrid education: how do you make it manageable (and maybe even fun)?

Hybride onderwijs: hoe houd je het werkbaar?

Hybrid teaching, where some of the students participate online, is not easy. Not for experienced lecturers, but certainly not for starting lecturers. Karin Smit and Elma Zijderveld (educational consultants/trainers) recognise that this form of teaching is not ideal and explain why it can be so difficult. They also give tips on how you can make your hybrid education manageable and maybe even fun.

What makes hybrid education so difficult?

As an experienced lecturer you often are well versed in the subject matter and you have developed certain routines for classroom management.  When providing hybrid education, you also need to manage them over a distance, and you are faced with the technical aspects of hybrid education. This requires different and new skills.

It is advanced multitasking

‘It is a different teaching experience.’ Elma points out. ‘Lecturers feel like they are spinning plates; you can quickly feel like you are not paying enough attention to either group or the subject matter. This is even more so if you are a starting lecturer and often need all of your attention to master the subject matter while translating it to an educational meeting with students. You are often also required to improvise; it is advanced multitasking.’

Karin also emphasises the effort multitasking requires from the lecturer: ‘Most lecturers have become quite able with MS Teams and work with groups in channels. However, it remains difficult to split your attention, keep an eye on all groups, and involve students actively.’

How do you make it manageable for yourself as a lecturer?

Whether you are allowed to (or have to) provide hybrid education, differs per faculty and programme. You can make several choices that will help you make hybrid education manageable.

Keep it simple and be transparent

‘Don’t make it difficult for yourself, keep it simple’, Karin mentions as a first tip. ‘Other than that, it is very important to be transparent. Imagine you are in a train stopped in the middle of a field, and no one tells you what’s going on. This would be very frustrating. If this happens in education, people stop paying attention. For instance, point out when you will be talking to the people online and give physically present students a task to do in the meanwhile. If you are transparent in this way, people don’t mind problems as much. So, continually announce what you are doing.

Be well prepared

According to Elma, you can go a long way when you have a well prepared lesson plan. ‘Break your lesson down into small sections. Start with a clear instruction moment and subsequently work in groups on assignments. Keep the process in mind. Don’t think: I’ll just talk about the subject matter for a bit and I’ll spontaneously ask a question. Also consider group composition beforehand.

Make sure you have support

Karin and Elma also point out that it is important to have support on location, such as a student assistant who can manage the chat. Some faculties in the UU have allocated extra hours to this. It can also be beneficial to ask for feedback on your lecture or tutorial, for instance from colleagues or through a design group.

Don’t raise the bar too high

It can be helpful to realise that hybrid education is not an ideal educational format, and that it is logical to feel you are not doing your group justice. Accept this and potentially discuss this with colleagues. Don’t raise the bar to high.

How does it benefit the students?

It can be beneficial to sometimes pause and consider how your extra effort benefits the students. Students can keep receiving education, even if they cannot come to the campus. Those students that can come benefit from informal learning and the social and academic integration.

To this Elma adds: ‘Another benefit is learning from each other’s approach to studying. These are often small things such as seeing how someone takes notes, being able to easily pose questions to your peers, and exchanging experiences. There’s also something to students being able to physically go to the university in that they are going somewhere with the aim of studying. At home tensions exist between studying and relaxation as they more easily flow from one into the other.’

An overview of the tips

Are you (considering) using hybrid education? Below is a summary of Karin and Elma’s tips:

  • Keep it simple;
  • Be transparent (continuously announce what you are doing);
  • Make sure you have support on location;
  • Prepare well: break your lesson down into small sections, carefully consider your teaching methods and consider group composition beforehand;
  • And above all: accept that it is not an ideal situation, don’t strive for perfection and accept you are not 100% in control.

    Need advice?

    Do you have a question about hybrid or distance education? Please contact us.