How colleges are using technology to enable hybrid classroom environments

How colleges are using technology to enable hybrid classroom environments

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous pressure on the educational sector to adopt flexible learning environments that ensure students continue to receive high standards of education regardless of their circumstances.

In the hybrid classroom environment, instructors continue to hold in-person classes, while also live streaming them to remote students who must remain at home due to self-isolation and other reasons.

Ensuring that both in-person and remote students receive the same level of education is the biggest difficulty. However, it’s also one that can be solved using the right combination of modern technology and class structure. Colleges are making this happen in several ways.

Establishing a virtual classroom

Many learning routines depend on a collaborative environment that fosters healthy teamwork. The first and most important step is to establish an efficient system for organizing and sharing materials and assignments among students. This means establishing a virtual classroom that blends as seamlessly as possible with the traditional classroom.

The biggest challenge here is making sure that everyone’s on the same page. When you aren’t working with everyone in the class on the same level, it’s much harder to keep track of which work students have completed. The simplest virtual classrooms are little more than websites with pages for each unit. However, a lack of interactivity makes conventional websites far from ideal for building an effective, collaborative environment.

The most effective virtual classrooms make extensive use of connected technologies, such as cameras and microphones that capture and livestream lessons. Large monitors can display everyone participating in the class, including remote students, provided they have a computer equipped with a microphone and camera.
Some services, such as Google Classroom, are designed to help educators manage lessons more efficiently and in real time. Instructors can set up tasks for students, assess progress in real time, assign grades, and even integrate video.

For virtual classrooms to function efficiently, the disconnect between in-person and remote teaching must be as minimal as possible. Consistency is key to maintaining an environment that provides an equally productive environment for all students, no matter whether they’re in a traditional classroom or learning remotely from home, dorms, or even another campus.

Enabling classroom interactions

While technology provides the infrastructure needed to create a virtual classroom, instructors also need to think carefully about how they structure their hybrid classes. This goes far beyond students just knowing whether or not they should have their cameras and microphones turned on. The most common complaint people have about hybrid courses is that they don’t feel like they’re being taught. That’s why there needs to be a system for incorporating student activities and interactions.

For example, science teachers often depend on hands-on labs and practical activities, which often cannot be carried out outside of a controlled environment. Yet they are key opportunities for students to interact with teachers and with one another.

One of the best ways to keep remote students engaged is to use interactive gamification systems to digitize, as well as incentivize, hands-on activities. Nonetheless, it still requires a thorough understanding of how students will interact with one another, which tasks and units they need to complete, and which milestones everyone needs to work toward.

How students interact with educational content is another important factor to consider. Most classrooms use a mix of independent learning tasks and direct instruction. With the former, there needs to be a way to grade students fairly and accurately regardless of where they’re learning from. With the latter, collaborative spaces that blend remote and in-person interaction ensure consistent engagement. Sticking to digitized learning materials, instead of printed textbooks and other resources, will help foster a more seamless transition across the hybrid teaching environment.

Online Computers helps colleges digitally transform with integrated technologies that power remote learning and hybrid classroom environments. Get in touch today to learn more about our work with educational institutions.

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