Despite the challenges of remote teaching and learning during the pandemic, student surveys in 2021 indicate that students want to continue having the option to learn online. Many instructors are willing to accommodate these students. But colleagues at several institutions are experiencing institutional hesitation, with concerns including technological costs, the need for additional staff and increased workloads, and students’ need to be on campus for some courses (so why teach any online?).
This raises the question: Can instructors engage in hybrid instruction—face-to-face plus synchronous online instruction, preferably with recording of the instruction for asynchronous use—without institutional support? Absolutely!
I have been teaching in a hybrid manner for almost a decade without institutional support. Now with many interested instructors, I share my experiences, successes, and strategies for instructors to engage in effective hybrid instruction. These strategies are
Additionally, hybrid instruction has numerous student benefits:
During the pandemic, instructors taught using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Collaborate, and Teams (collectively, “broadcasting software”). They switched between presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.), webcams, a writing-capture device, and discipline-specific software, all streamed by the broadcasting software. While there was a learning curve, there was a marked improvement in instructor skill and comfort using broadcasting software from spring 2020 to spring 2021.
Effective hybrid instruction can be accomplished using broadcasting software in the classroom.
The data projector presents what is on the computer screen. The instructor switches between presentation software, a writing-capture device, webcams, and any specialized software in the broadcasting software. In the background, broadcasting software streams the active screen and saves it.
The simplest form of instruction involves presenting and annotating material. To effect this, an instructor requires one of the following:
Preparing for class, an instructor should have the presentation software and any specialized software needed for class running. In the 10 minutes before class, the instructor needs to connect to the data projector, open the broadcasting software, and be ready to share the webcams and programs. A good pedagogical practice is to start with the instructor webcam so that everyone can see the instructor detailing the plan for that day’s class.
The processing power of the device needs to be sufficient to concurrently run the broadcasting and presentation software, capture one or more webcams, play videos, and run any specialized software for the discipline. The writing area needs to be of sufficient size to allow for comfortable writing. Most current touchscreen laptops have sufficient processing power. Few tablets do. If using a tablet, consider a Microsoft Surface Pro X, Apple iPad Pro, or Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+. The Surface Pro has the most functionality, the iPad Pro the least. Microsoft OneNote is simple and convenient for writing capture, and works on most devices.
Students learning online require a modern tablet or laptop and a stable internet connection that provides a minimum of 5 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed. This bandwidth supports full HD streaming, which is the maximum streaming resolution used by Zoom, Teams, and other videoconferencing platforms.
Broadcasting software has active instructional strategies built in: whiteboards, breakout rooms, alternate discussion and question modalities, and polling functionality. This removes the need for instructors and students to have third-party technology with limited functionality (such as clickers). The instructor technologies have various benefits and limitations, which are tabulated below.
|Several USB ports for expansion technologies||Not readily portable through class|
|Ethernet jack for wired connection||Touchscreen laptops are expensive|
|Video-out port for data projector|
|Write-on screen more convenient||Lack of USB ports|
|Portable through class||Wi-Fi streaming only (no Ethernet jack)|
|Larger write-on screen than tablets||Fixed at front of classroom|
|Already connected to webcams||Course-specific software not loaded|
Beyond the minimum, additional technologies will improve the student experience, student engagement, and pedagogical impact.
Instructor webcam. Pedagogically, it is valuable to see the instructor. Built-in webcams are of average quality, point in one direction, and vibrate when the device is written on. An external USB webcam provides stable, higher-quality audio and video.
The screen presented in class may not as clean as a PowerPoint presentation. Broadcasting software webcams and other functionality (chat, whiteboard, etc.) are along the periphery of the screen. Students have not complained about this.
Some face-to-face students will have the online stream running while in class. They may find it easier to see or hear. To build rapport with students, encourage them to inform you of any issues with the online stream (connectivity, not sharing the correct screen, not being recorded, etc.) and of questions from online students.
Teaching in a hybrid modality at a formally face-to-face institution gave students the option to learn in a modality they were comfortable with. Over eight years, I observed that learner engagement and participation increased, total attendance was unaffected, and student feedback increased.
Online learning can be made nearly equivalent to face-to-face learning. Online assessment cannot. Locked-down browsers do not prevent the use of other technology. Remote monitoring is forbidden in many areas because it breaches privacy rights. This provides many ways for online students to engage in academic misconduct with near-zero chance of being caught. While technology is in development to address online assessment, some current options for online assessment include
Face-to-face and online students should complete the assessments at the same time. Since term and final exam dates are known weeks to months in advance, online students have time to find a proctor or arrange to come to campus for these assessments.
It is readily possible for an instructor to engage in hybrid instruction with little to no additional resources or institutional support. The strategy presented herein is simple, efficient, and scalable. An instructor can start with the basics, get comfortable with that, and then add additional technologies to improve their instruction and student learning.
Roy Jensen, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, primarily teaching first-year, analytical, and physical chemistry. He is regularly recognized for teaching and pedagogical innovation. His interests are in applied chemistry and pedagogy, with interests in learner development, factors affecting student success, and modernizing instructional resources.