Like many institutions, my university – knowing that the continued complications of the pandemic make remote access still useful – kitted out some classrooms to enable students to join on-campus teaching remotely through hybrid, or Hyflex (‘hybrid flexible’) learning. I, and a colleague, had the privilege of introducing our academic staff to these rooms and helping them think about how they might adapt their teaching to this new environment. There have been many pieces on how to teach successfully using Hyflex (such as this, from King’s College), but here are two key things I learned from my first term of training others in this mode.
1: Physical presence helps
Ironically, teaching people about Hyflex doesn’t always work very well in a hybrid mode. At the very early stage,a lot of people want to know practical things. Which buttons do I press? Where do I stand? All these things are hard to convey remotely, and most people in the room enjoyed looking over our shoulders and seeing what we were doing as facilitators. They also enjoyed the chance to practice, turning the system on, loading up their slides, starting Teams – all things they needed to be there for. That said, it’s also valuable for staff to know how a remote participant might feel, as well as seeing how their facilitators handle remote participants. Ideally, staff could move smoothly between remote and physical presence in the session, allowing everyone to experience both modes.
Mistakes are a good thing
My first training session did not go smoothly. At any given moment I was either lunging across the room with a handheld mic or attempting to pilot a laptop around as a supplementary camera. I tried to put on a confident front, but frequently lost my thread or made a technical error. However, this was more useful than you might think. The key issue for colleagues wasn’t a lack of knowledge – most of them were experienced teachers and had mastered Teams impressively – but a lack of confidence, especially what to do when things went wrong. How to take command of a room when you’ve just spent two full minutes speaking on mute, to half the group’s hilarity? My ‘errors’ let colleagues see how I dealt with problems, acknowledged them, and kept the session going. After the session, many spoke of their relief that it seemed ‘doable’ – they’d seen me survive, so they felt they could too.
As an educational developer, I had a true ‘baptism of fire’ with hybrid teaching, as my first experience of teaching with this mode was in training others. In our position, we can feel pressure to get everything ‘right’ the first time. However, it’s been a relief to reflect that every session doesn’t need to be perfect, and that imperfections can actually be productive. I hope the SEDA community can continue to share practice and provide a space for us to support one another as well as our teaching colleagues.
Dr Emma Kennedy, University of Greenwich
Bellato, A. & Gallant. Z. (2021). ‘Part 2: Teaching in the HyFlex Classroom: Benefits and Challenges.’ King’s College Digital Education blog