Hybrid Teaching: Taking Teaching and Learning to a New Level

Lynette TAN
Residential College 4 (RC4)

Lynette and Residential College 4 (RC4) took a bold step in experimenting with hybrid teaching. She shares how they have made it work in the context of small group seminars.

Photo courtesy of Elgin Low Quanbin

For the first time this week, at the start of Semester 1 of the new academic year, I delivered hybrid seminars—where I taught socially distanced and masked students in the physical classroom who participated simultaneously on Zoom with students from different university zones, and with one student in Korea. The students on Zoom were projected into the physical class on the screen, and the interaction was seamless.

This is a culmination of much planning at Residential College 4 (RC4) where a few months prior to this, we had started strategising how to introduce more face-to-face (F2F) elements into the curriculum in light of safety measures put in place due to the pandemic. For the interdisciplinary classroom, a signature pedagogy of the UTown Colleges (Residential College Programmes), to work, we were prepared to move most of our modules online, with F2F engagement limited mainly to consultations and the like. 

However, as the hybrid approach, referring to the simultaneous conducting of F2F and online lessons, became a distinct possibility, this was set up with help from the Centre of Instructional Technology (CIT).

The intersection of Zoom and F2F environments took some thinking. This involves considering equipment that would capture the classroom dynamic: a camera with a lens wide enough to deliver a clear image, and a microphone system that can feed both into the room speakers and the Zoom environment without creating disruptive feedback during the session.

More importantly, how would the hybrid class work in our teaching and learning context? We took reference from A Guide to Hybrid Teaching (CDTL, 2020), as shown in Figure 1 where X refers to the intersection where students in both the F2F and online environments could interact with one another using apps like Poll Everywhere. The diagram has been updated to illustrate the hybrid approach that we use at RC4.

Figure 1. Adapted from A Guide to Hybrid Teaching (Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning, 2020)

Hybrid Class

Here is how we set up the hybrid class: 

  1. The desktop or the instructor’s computer connects with Zoom and projects the online students into the main screen in the physical classroom, using an appropriate camera and microphone system (the ones that come with your laptop or desktop will not work).
  2. Students interact with one another as if they are all in the same physical space, without barriers. All students online can unmute themselves and speak freely, while those in the class speak into a microphone connected to the desktop so the students online can hear them. We used two microphones, one attached to the instructor at all times.
  3. All the tools on Zoom are available for use for students both on the F2F and online environments.

What Went Well?

Here, we share what worked well for us:

Do quick polls by directly annotating on the PowerPoint slide

Instead of setting up Poll Everywhere, polls can be conducted by having F2F and online students communicate their answers on the PowerPoint slide via the “Share Screen” and “Annotate” functions on Zoom. Students had fun with the “hearts” and “stars” response icons in Zoom (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Students responding to a poll via Zoom
Use the “Share Screen” function on Zoom for community building and other exercises

Students can share their screens on the main screen in the physical classroom. I put this into good use for building a sense of community—getting students to share a picture that told their peers something interesting about themselves. This worked so well, with pictures of pets, travel experiences, movies and food being featured here.

Use the Virtual Whiteboard on Zoom for group work

Students in my module could use the Virtual Whiteboard to draw Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs), which they did in the breakout rooms (and in the F2F classroom), and discussed later by sharing their screens.

Figure 3. Explaining Reinforcing and Balancing Feedback Loops using Zoom Virtual Whiteboard

At RC4, we have students from 3 different zones—A, B and C—as part of the University’s safe distancing measures. For parity in our students’ learning experience, students attend F2F and online classes on a rotational basis.

The running of this level of hybrid class, where students outside engage directly with those within the classroom, as well as the instructor, in a near replication of the F2F experience is exciting and holds great potential for teaching. With all the tools of Zoom at our disposal as well as the affordances of the F2F environment in a synchronous blend, we have achieved a new benchmark for the 21st century classroom.  

 

Lynette TAN is the Director of Studies, Associate Director of Student Life and Senior Lecturer at Residential College 4 (RC4), NUS. At RC4, her teaching on Systems Thinking explores the philosophies and work of the Systems Pioneers and empowers students to be humane change agents as they navigate global issues that are critical in the 21st Century. She has a strong interest in technology enhanced learning. Lynette previously contributed a post on the effectiveness of online platforms for engaging learners.

Lynette can be reached at rc4lynette@nus.edu.sg.

Reference

Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (2020). A guide to hybrid teaching [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://nus.edu.sg/cdtl/docs/default-source/professional-development-docs/resources/quick-guide-to-hybrid-teaching.pdf.