Until recently, I worked in education as a teacher. When the schools were closed, I had to learn how to use all kinds of tools in no time so I could offer lessons entirely online. When I was allowed to physically stand in front of the class again, there were still many students absent from the lessons.
Some of my students sat across from me in class; others sat (or lounged) at home in quarantine taking the lesson. And I had no idea where some of them were. This provided a completely new challenge. Keeping the online classes interesting was already a huge task, but keeping these teenagers engaged both in the classroom and online… wow, I really had to think about that.
From offline to online training to both at the same time
Initially, I gave the same classroom lessons to the students who participated online. That wasn’t the ideal solution. The online students lost interest. And when I shifted the focus to the online students, this in turn created noise and disorder in the classroom. It was quite a challenge! Only later did I realise that this form of teaching and training has a name: hybrid learning. I have since traded in the classroom for the business market. Here, too, I see the development towards hybrid forms of learning.
And then suddenly you’re teaching a hybrid class
Hybrid meetings. The phenomenon is already familiar in meetings. One group is physically sitting together, others join online. That saves a lot of travel time. International organisations know all about it. So this is not a challenge that is specific to education. It is expected that more and more training courses will take on this hybrid form. One group meets in a classroom and the other trainees join them online. And then you stand there as a trainer. From experience, I know that hybrid learning requires something new from you. How do you approach it?
Six tips for hybrid learning
If it is not possible to provide training in a classroom setting, via e-learning or a mix of both (blended learning), then hybrid learning is certainly an option. It may even be the case that, in certain situations, a hybrid form of learning can have a greater impact and increase learning efficiency. Worth investigating! If you go hybrid, you’ll need extra preparation. These six tips will help you.
Make sure everyone can see each other. Both online and offline. This can be achieved by having everyone log into the session. Including those physically present. They turn their sound off. This gives you an overview. If this is not possible, point a camera at the room and project the online participants onto a screen.
Make content choices regarding the programme. How much can be done asynchronously and what is the added value of synchronous learning? In other words: what is the ideal blend of your learning process. Make sure that the time participants spend synchronously with each other adds value.
What technical resources do you need? Want to split people up to work in groups? If everyone has a device and is logged in, you can also use hybrid forms of collaboration. If not, you can put the online participants in groups and the offline ones in other groups.
Want to hold a brainstorming session? See if you can use a shared whiteboard. There are also special screens for this, on which live drawings can be created and instantly shared. This increases the feeling of togetherness. Think carefully about the resources you have at your disposal.
It is advisable to test all resources thoroughly before applying them in (large) groups. Knowing where all the buttons are is only half the job. It’s a good idea to actually try everything out with someone, so you know how it comes across. You can also find out about any possible limitations or useful tricks.
Make sure you have a plan B. Something can always go wrong. The connection is slow or drops out completely. What do you do if that happens? If you work with a hybrid approach, then you have to be able to present another solution at that moment. If you think about a back-up plan in advance, then there is no need to panic if something doesn’t work. Just switch to your other option. It’s also great for the online participants to know what is expected of them if things go wrong and what they can then do.
Try to have fun with it! It’s new and exciting for many people, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Gain experience and learn as you go. Enjoy pioneering the latest technical possibilities. Write down your own observations and those of the trainees. You will then know what to adjust the next time. You will see that it gets better and better.
Which tool suits your purpose?
There are wonderful tools for getting people together online. They focus on different aspects, and the preference for one tool or the other often depends on your personal wish list. What comes first for me: no hassle and a user-friendly solution.
What is also important to me is interaction and a sense of group dynamics. Interaction is easily facilitated by quizzes, quick polls, a shared whiteboard and of course chats. The mistake I sometimes made was quickly asking a question in class that I had not prepared. The people participating online could not easily respond to it. With a quick poll, for example an online multiple-choice question, you can easily allow the participants to respond and you will have a visible overview of the answers in no time. You don’t have to prepare these kinds of questions and they can be asked spontaneously.
Working together in break-out rooms is also ideal. The physical participants can collaborate with each other, but you can also mix them with the online participants. Interaction and collaboration increase motivation and learning efficiency.
All of this is readily achievable with today’s technology. Everyone can actively participate: online, face2face or in a mixed version. Of course, you want the online participants to feel just as engaged as the offline participants. Even though they may be lying in bed.
How to proceed?
The past year brought about a number of developments in rapid succession. Now that we have experienced the benefits of online learning and barriers have been removed, demand for hybrid training is expected to increase. If you are a trainer or teacher, prepare yourself in advance. Research for yourself how to get the most out of this mix of offline and online training. This is useful, perhaps necessary, and also a lot of fun to do. Promise!
Take your next steps in hybrid learning
I can imagine that you still have some questions about the added value of hybrid learning over other forms of learning. Ask them! Do you have any experience yourself? Share it. Because that will help us continue to learn from and alongside each other. Or follow me on LinkedIn for more tips.