In distance education, hybrid or blended courses are those in which some sessions are held face-to-face and some others are held online. “Concurrent hybrid courses”, on the other hand, are those in which a class is taught in real time having both face-to-face and remote students concurrently.
Advances of video-conferencing technology and software make it possible to have one or more students joining a live face-to-face class from different distant geographical locations. However, teaching face-to-face and remote student simultaneously offers a new set of challenges to the instructor that need to be considered in advance. For example, depending on technology capability remote students might feel isolated or might miss important visual information that might hinder their understanding of the topic.
Here are a few tips based on the experience of several instructors who have taught under this setting:
Including non-concurrent online activities. Even though students have already been engaged in real time during class, online activities have the potential to reinforce their understanding. Common online activities include brainstorming and exchanging ideas in a discussion forum or reflecting upon a topic using a blog and then commenting on each other’s’ blog entries.
Implementing an onsite-online pair buddy system. Under this approach, a student on campus is paired up with a remote student using a laptop and video-conferencing software. This way, students on campus can facilitate the interaction between remote students and the instructor by asking any questions or making any comments that remote students might have. Of course, for this approach to work properly it is critical that buddy students on campus have the technological skills and be willing to collaborate with the remote students.
Including interactive group activities in real time. By having remote students being part of groups, they tend to feel more motivated and integrated with the rest of the class instead of being mere spectators. It is helpful to implement group dynamics such as ensuring that each student (including the remote ones) have equal amount of time and opportunity to participate. However, implementing two-way verbal communication in groups of three or more students in which various groups have remote participants might bring audio issues, especially when the discussion a group is so loud that interferes or distracts other groups. This problem could be mitigated it by using the appropriate classroom size, the right videoconferencing technology per group or by having groups using just text-based communication.
Planning and testing the most appropriate technology configuration. The content to be delivered and the type of interaction needed to achieve the course learning objectives should guide the selection of the video-conferencing application as well as the location of the local video-camera(s) and microphone(s). It is really important to test all the equipment in advance with a technology consultant and also with the remote students prior each class starts to ensure that they are able to see you and hear you and vice versa. Moreover, if you are using a PowerPoint presentation, consider sharing your computer screen so your remote students can see and read the content of your presentation too. If you are planning to write something on the whiteboard, you might consider having someone zooming the camera in or using a digital overhead projector to show everything you are writing on the fly so both your face-to-face and remote students can see it.
Recording the class. Since we all know that technology can fail at any time, it is highly recommended to record the class so remote students can watch it again in case their connectivity drops for any reason.
We’d love to hear from you regarding any other issues you have come across with when teaching concurrently face-to-face and remote students in real time and the ways you have solved them!