Jasna Novak Milic has years of experience with blended synchronous and hyflex teaching. In her recent Spotlight on Practice interview Jasna outlined how her teaching practice has evolved to suit the needs of her Croatian Studies students, who are both on campus and online. In this post, based on that interview, are Jasna’s tips for helping everything run smoothly when teaching a face-to-face class with students joining online.

I’ve heard people say things like blended synchronous delivery doesn’t really work, or it doesn’t work successfully, or it’s too much trouble and too much work. And I say – not necessarily! There are a few tips and tricks you can apply and then it gets easier. Here’s what works for my teaching.

Jasna Novak Milic, Croatian Studies, MCCALL, Faculty of Arts

Tip 1 – Double Zooming

I really don’t like the idea of turning my back to the in-person students or the online students – double zooming helps to avoid that.

What is double Zooming?
By this we mean logging in to Zoom on more than one device.
Log into the lectern PC, share the screen in Zoom, and then project that on the big in-room screen. This will allow the on-campus students to view the online students while both groups will be able to see your content.
Then log in on a second device, such as your laptop (or your phone). This enables you to see the online student view and you can use the microphone from that 2nd device to pick up the sound from the class for the online participants (if the resident computer lacks a microphone).

What’s the difference between blended synchronous and hyflex teaching?
A good HyFlex model includes blended synchronous delivery, however, not every blended synchronous teaching mode is HyFlex. HyFlex also includes recordings for asynchronous delivery and generally flexible learner attendance, where students can choose the best mode for them: face-to-face, online synchronously or online asynchronously.

Tip 2 – Less clicks for a better user experience

I had participated in different workshops, lectures and online conferences and what I didn’t like to see was how a lot of time is wasted by clicking different apps while in the meeting. Even if we are confident technology users, just switching between windows and tabs takes too much time and I didn’t want this to be part of my class.

So, I transferred all my PowerPoint slides and resources to H5P. Every week my iLearn space has only a few clickable elements – one H5P presentation and probably just one page with notes that I take during the class. By using H5P I put everything I need for that class in one set of slides with the videos, audio, interactive quizzes and everything embedded in one place. This design results in a user-friendly and neat iLearn space and a blended tutorial with smooth transitions between different activities.

Tip 3 – Include interactive elements (I like H5P)

Why do I use H5P and not PowerPoint? PowerPoint can do videos but H5P provides a level of interactivity, even elements of gamification, that PowerPoint can’t. H5P is highly flexible, in the sense that even students learning asynchronously can access that interactivity and be actively engaged, rather than simply watching videos with others doing the exercises.

Or in class I can ask students to open the (H5P) slides and find a specific task and do it on the spot. Asking them to engage with interactive and gamified elements increases their motivation and enhances learning. So, it’s the interactivity of H5P that really helps the class to run smoothly. It also provides a good resource for students studying asynchronously or those who need to refresh or reinforce their knowledge at any given time throughout the semester.

Recently, I have learned about and started using Genially, which is another application with interactive features. Unfortunately, it can’t be embedded in H5P slides, but it can be embedded in iLearn. My students like escape room-type activities and interactive infographics that I use to remind them of the previous weekly contents.

Tip 4 – Use OneNote instead of a whiteboard

I often split the screen and on the other half of the screen will be a OneNote page. I use OneNote instead of a physical whiteboard so that everybody across both my cohorts sees what I’m writing, so I’m not using the whiteboard in the classroom with the textas. At the end of the class, I just copy & paste this to my iLearn page so that the notes are available to everyone for asynchronous use. Additionally, in languages where it’s easy to divert from the planned content, having digital copies of notes is a good way to keep track of the impromptu vocabulary or grammar used in class.

Why do I use One Note and not Word? Because with a Word document, you have to remember to save it and you are creating one more document in your already overflowing drive!

Rarely would I need anything else – only if we do something impromptu or we remember a song or something we want to search up would I go and open another window. So essentially, it’s just two things to have open – H5P and OneNote.

Screenshot showing the H5P and OneNote activity together.

Tip 5 – Use Echo360 to record AND edit

I don’t record classes through Zoom anymore. I have all my classrooms pre-scheduled for ECHO360 recording because that way I don’t have to worry about recording, downloading, and sharing the link with students. With the microphone that I’m using I can stop the recording, or the recording of the sound, just with the click of a button. If we do an in-class activity for 15 minutes, I don’t want those students who are watching the recording later to necessarily watch through that and not know when I’m going to start talking again. So, I stop recording the sound. Because I usually teach until late in the evening, the next morning I just quickly edit that video so that students relying on the videos have a clean chunk of relevant information that they potentially missed by not joining the class.

Zoom cloud recordings can be linked to Echo360 when Echo360 is not pre-scheduled or enabled in the classroom. However, in most cases, when enabled, the Echo360 recording option will result in better sound quality.

And that’s it. So it’s double zoom, it’s H5P slides, it’s OneNote as my whiteboard and Echo 360 for the recording (or you can record on Zoom instead).

But, if all this doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t matter, maybe there’s something else that will work better for your classroom.

What’s in my teaching tool kit?

After some trial and error, my kit now consists of:

  • a laptop with a tablet option (Microsoft Surface Pro) provided by the University;
  • the room’s resident computer;
  • an external Bluetooth speaker to avoid issues with sound echoing.

I can’t always use the speakers in the classroom, so it works much better for me to have the external speaker. Some resident computers don’t have microphones so it’s easier to turn of the speakers on the resident computer and join Zoom using my laptop audio. To enhance the sound quality in the classroom, I use my external speaker. Alternatively, I could use Zoom audio settings to combine the audio from two devices, but it would take more time during the set up.

Jasna’s toolkit: Laptop, resident computer, external Bluetooth speaker.

Whether I am using the resident computer’s speakers or my external Bluetooth speaker, the sound in the classroom is always good enough. Therefore, I don’t need to repeat what the online students are saying, so that my on-campus students can hear them. Sometimes I do have to repeat what the in-class students are saying depending on what activity we do. If we are having a discussion or working on conversational skills in class, I often walk around the classroom with a portable microphone or my tablet so the online students can hear what’s being said in the classroom.

It’s not ideal – there are still some disadvantages. Language labs, for example, do have portable microphones for students, but these are not strong enough. The one that I have for the ECHO recordings is much better. So, I usually pretend that I’m a journalist interviewing my students and that’s how we get around those technical issues and it’s working okay.

Reducing the cognitive load for students (and for us as teachers)

I’m mindful of students’ cognitive load. In the early days, our iLearn pages were just full of Word and PDF documents. Personally, I am always annoyed when I have to download every single document just to see what’s in there, only to realise that it’s not the one I need.

A PDF document is slightly better than Word because you can have a preview without downloading it, but it still takes too much time, and I don’t find PDFs particularly user-friendly or visually attractive. I wanted to avoid that, both for myself and for my students.

I do occasionally have one or two PDFs if for example, I want to provide additional references or literature to read, but in terms of what I’m going to be showing students in the class, everything will be embedded or put together in one H5P presentation.

I know some people have a love-hate relationship with OneNote. But once you figure out how to use it, it’s a great tool – it saves everything automatically, and creates temporary files that you can easily delete at the end of the semester when you don’t need those notes anymore. I don’t need an additional thirteen Word documents per unit I teach each semester that I probably don’t need to keep long term. So, it’s also reducing our cognitive weight when juggling lots of classes and units and resources at the same time.

Want some more tips for teaching on campus and online students simultaneously?

More resources:

Banner image: Alexander Supertramp on Shutterstock
Jasna profile image: Kylie Coaldrake
Screenshot and toolkit images – supplied by Jasna Novak Milic
Post edited by Kylie Coaldrake & Karina Luzia.

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email professional.learning@mq.edu.au with questions or requests.

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