Do you need to teach on-campus with some students joining remotely? If so, you’ll be running a blended synchronous session – a practice that exploded in 2020.
Prior to COVID19, only the most intrepid instructors dared to teach face-to-face and online students at the same time. After all, blended synchronous teaching IS among the most challenging scenarios and has been shown to add to instructor’s cognitive load (Bower, Dalgarno, Kennedy, Lee, & Kenney, 2015).
Fast forward one year, and running sessions on campus with some of the participants joining remotely is a new normal.
So, what have we learnt about facilitating sessions for ‘on-campus’ and ‘online’ participants at the same time?
- Technical preparation matters
When it comes to synchronous online teaching, you can’t just ‘wing’ it.
Blended synchronous teaching requires technical preparation both from the instructor, and the students. For example, ideally all face-to-face participants should have charged devices with a headset to participate in the ‘whole-class’ discussions, and the online students should test that their equipment works as well. For more practical ideas see this quick guide
Since getting all the face-to-face participants to have charged devices with headphones is widely optimistic, it’s important to have a Plan B or C, e.g. placing a lecturn microphone near a laptop speaker for face-to-face participants to hear their online counterpart (beware of an echo loop!), or simply repeating questions.
2. An additional device goes a long way
Having an extra device logged in as a ‘test’ student goes a long way, as it can help you see what online students see and quickly diagnose if slides are not showing, or if they can’t see whatever visual input you might have. If you can’t bring an extra device to the classroom, ask one of the face-to-face students with a device to sit within your eye-shot.
3. Including online students
2020 also taught us multiple strategies for including online students in discussions, such as asking students to start their questions with Q or adding an agreed emoticon to it to increase their visibility, assigning one of the face-to-face students to monitor the chat and taking regular breaks to check on the chat.
Watch a recording of a Zoom session on Blended Synchronous teaching (11.02.2021)
A slide deck of the 11.02.2021 session
Teche blog post “Returning to campus: small group classes with an online option”
An extended guide (2020 version)
BlendSync project site: https://blendsync.org/
Bower, M., Dalgarno, B., Kennedy, G. E., Leee, M. J., & Kenney, J. (2015). Design and implementation factors in blended synchronous learning environments: Outcomes from a cross-case analysis. Computers & Education, 86, 1-17.