Work from Anywhere

Is the hybrid classroom here to stay?

Paul Gentile, Senior Director of Product Marketing at LogMeIn

A new era of hybrid education

As is the case every year, this autumn thousands of students set their sights and ambitions on a brand new academic year. However, unlike previous years this just so happened to be during a global pandemic. And while the typical social and extra-curricular activities that schools are renowned for had to be significantly reduced and in some cases canceled, lecturers and teaching faculty members assured nervous students, and their families, that their academic experience would remain uncompromised.

Despite these uncertain and challenging times, many academics and university lecturers are choosing to view this as an exciting opportunity for never before seen large-scale digital transformation. While unusual, these circumstances present the perfect opportunity to create and revise existing content to ensure it is, not only engaging and challenging for students, but has long-term potential.

The new and improved blended learning experience

Blended learning is a concept that has been accelerated to meet new demand. The combination of teaching and technology provides a bespoke experience to suit the learning styles of every student. The blended learning approach combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods.

Every student learns in a different way and a huge advantage of introducing blended learning is the increased flexibility that it provides. During this time many universities have extended in-person teaching hours to help facilitate social distancing in labs, having the option to attend mandatory tutorials at varying times throughout the day could also prove invaluable for mature students and those with external commitments.

Meanwhile, with online teaching, students now have the option to revisit recorded content to help prepare for examinations and assessments and also have access to 1:1 online sessions with tutors for additional support, all at a time that suits them.

Dr Gareth Healey is a senior lecturer at Swansea University Medical school who has brought his experience using collaborative technology for research and business development opportunities, into the classroom: 

“Outside of teaching we have been utilising collaborative technology to expand our university business network combining pioneering technology, research facilities and scientific expertise with leading healthcare businesses to develop essential new medical and pharmaceutical products. Now we are looking at ways that we can bring this technology into the classroom, connecting our students with global experts in their field and utilise features such as live polling and attendance tracking to help us support them.”

The collaborative classroom

Prior to COVID-19, video-enabled room technology was reserved for the boardroom and corporate offices. But as video conferencing has become the norm in all aspects of our lives, from work meetings to virtual quizzes with friends, we’re also seeing it being introduced in schools and universities as a means to facilitate social distancing and ensure student safety.

Malden Catholic has been the first high school in Massachusetts, United States, to utilise a whole portfolio of collaborative technology to provide Covid-compliant learning for both their remote and in-person students. Through the use of innovative collaborative technology with features such as intelligent video framing capabilities that follow the teacher’s movement and highlight the flow of conversation by learning who is talking, they have been able to recreate the traditional classroom experience.

This technology also has the capability to reframe the scene on the speaker while keeping everyone else in view, so even remote students feel connected. A whiteboard view even allows teachers to broadcast the board image to remote students and share notes in real-time. Plus, with the option to access recorded sessions that have been automatically transcribed with captions, the classic ‘missed the lesson’ excuse will no longer apply.

John K, Thornburg, Malden Catholic Headmaster, views this technology as the perfect partner for keeping students and staff engaged: 

“Through the use of collaborative technology, Malden Catholic was able to move to distance learning without missing a beat and now we can create a stimulating and safe classroom designed for seamless faculty and student engagement. In these challenging and uncertain times, this technology is the way to guarantee that our students’ education will not be compromised”

Turning collaborative technology into a long-term investment 

Before 2020, it would have been hard to imagine a world in which remote learning was the norm for anyone other than mature or part-time students. Before now this style of learning may have been viewed as less effective than in-class teaching, but with the right mindset and technology in place this doesn’t have to be the case.

While the world never planned for the blended learning approach to become the teaching style of 2020/21, it does present an exciting opportunity, for staff and students alike, to re-define the education experience.  It’s common knowledge that there is so much more to education than what is taught in the classroom.

By viewing collaborative technology as a tool to empower students to take control of their own learning, schools and universities can find new ways to engage and challenge their students and to take this knowledge into the world.

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