Conducting a class with a mix of in-person and remote students can be hectic, because there is a lot happening at once. Relax, take a deep breath, and follow these tips.
While it usually is not particularly time consuming, it does take a few minutes to sign in to your live session, regardless of which web conferencing tool you use. Arrive early, if possible, to launch the session and enable your microphone and camera. You can also quickly test out any content you plan to share.
Any time you use technology, there is the possibility of something breaking. With extra time, you may be able to resolve the issue (remember that restarting the computer or software you are using fixes many issues) or contact technical support for assistance. You also have time to implement a plan B, like broadcasting from a laptop or smartphone.
Look for opportunities to build community among all of the students in the class. Take advantage of online assignments in discussion forums, group projects, and other opportunities for the online and in-person students to communicate and engage with each other. Yellowdig is a great tool for building community that can serve as a discussion forum as well as a backchannel during your live sessions.
When you are conducting a live session with both in-person students and remote students, it is easy to forget that your online students are part of the conversation. Remember to address the online students as well as your in-person students. Build in breaks where you can check in with online students to see if there are any questions. Repeat comments or questions from in-person students for the online students, if the room microphone does not pick up students effectively.
Consider whether a TA or even a volunteer from the in-person students can help monitor the online session to let you know of any questions or comments from online students.
Group projects or class activities can enhance any course, but can become especially important in a mixed mode course. Since some of your students will be working at a distance, you should take the time and effort to facilitate group work sessions and formation of groups. For example, you might need to survey online students about their time zone to form groups that can work together in a similar time arrangement in real time. For projects, you may want to schedule “group work” sessions when you or the teaching assistants are available for check-ins or to answer questions. Use tools such as polls and surveys to get frequent feedback about how group work is going for all of the students.
You may want to offer more office hours in a mixed mode course than you would normally offer in a face-to-face course, particularly for remote students or classes with group projects that might have groups with a mix of in-person and remote students. With some of your students working at a distance, you will need to make a larger effort to get feedback from your students and to see if there is anything about the class or the way you are communicating that needs improvement. Offering office hours on different days and times will also help the online students feel more engaged with you and the course itself.
If you will be conducting live sessions in the class that include a mix of in-person and online students, you will need to experiment with ways to make sure that you are heard clearly and your materials can be seen by both audiences. In addition, you will need to adjust your usual style of in-person instruction, taking the time to include online students in discussions and activities. The methods will vary depending on the tools available in your particular classroom space.
You might use your teaching assistants with managing and working with remote students in breakout rooms and groups in your live session or monitoring chat and questions from the remote students. If you do not have a TA, ask for volunteers among your in-person students to monitor the chat and ensure that questions and contributions from online students are shared with you and the in-person students.
Generally, in a mixed mode class session, some activities may be difficult. For example, in an open discussion, online students might not be able to hear students in the classroom because of the size of the class or space or the type of microphone available. Group activities that have a mix of online and in-person students working in the same pair or group usually don’t work well since the in-person students would need to be in the online conference individually, creating feedback, echo and other extraneous noise making their conversation inaudible.
You may need to consider online substitutes, such as more online forum work or using a “round robin” format for presenting or commenting so individual students can step up to a microphone. Because you are teaching audiences in different locations at the same time, think of ways to simplify activities so you can respond to both the in-person and online students and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate and have their voices heard.
Flexible Teaching guides were developed by Duke Learning Innovation and adapted for NIU by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. They are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
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