Synchronous time, whether in-person or via videoconference, is a precious resource in hybrid courses. Do not use your synchronous time for extended lectures, demonstrations, or presentation of material; student feedback from Winter 2020 makes it clear that this is not an engaging or memorable option. Instead we recommend you record those materials so that students can view them ahead of time and save your synchronous face-to-face time, whether on-site or online, for higher-impact activities such as Q&A, one-on-one feedback, small group discussions, or other collaborative work.
Approaches that student feedback noted were helpful and engaging include:
Record extended lectures or demonstrations and follow them up with Q&A, discussion, or deeper dives during synchronous class time. Recording lecture or demonstration material allows students to refer back to the material and to study it when reviewing for exams. Synchronous time can then be used, with greater impact, to clarify points students have questions about or for activities that let them engage with the material--for example, writing collaborative explanations of a principle covered in lecture, where students pass a piece of paper down their row, each student adding a single sentence to the explanation. Winter 2020 feedback showed that it is important that the instructor be available for questions and interaction, rather than leaving such activities entirely to GSI-led discussion sections.
Create discussions with both online and live portions. Rather than choosing just one mode for class discussion, use a Canvas Discussion to let students brainstorm ahead of time, followed up by more focused discussion during your synchronous class time. Alternatively, you might follow live discussion with a Canvas Discussion where students expand on the ideas that came up during class-time. In either case, consider assigning some students to make initial posts and others to respond with analysis, as described in a previous Tip.
Keep as many hands-on activities as possible hands-on. While there are some virtual options available for certain experiences, student feedback makes it clear that there is still no true replacement for much experiential learning. This may mean restructuring the course significantly, rotating large portions of other class material and activities into online form so that synchronous time can be reserved for hands-on lab or other experiential activities, which may need to be done in far smaller groups than usual. It might feel like teaching your class two or three times over, but you might also think of it as teaching the heart of the class in leisurely stages that allow you and your students to dig deeper than usual.
In addition to the approaches that student feedback indicated were effective, we must take public health measures into account. During the current pandemic, in-person time will be complicated by the requirements of social distancing. Under these circumstances, it may, counter-intuitively, become more effective to have small-group work done via videoconference! In that case, homework might include a small-group videoconference, with students bringing their results in to present during synchronous class time. If this is not a mode you feel will work, for your class, consider altering the group activities into something that can be done by passing around a whiteboard or piece of paper, rather than gathering around it.
The vital first step to any of these approaches is to think about what course activities will have the greatest impact when done synchronously. Rotate other activities out to homework time. Try to reserve synchronous time for interaction and feedback with the instructor and with fellow students. This will be important in maintaining a sense of community within your class.
If you’d like to discuss plans for your Fall courses, please reach out to us at LSATSLearningTeachingConsultants@umich.edu. We’re here to help you.