Classrooms have quickly evolved to support hybrid learning environments. These settings blend virtual and in-person instruction, enabling students to join classes in physical classrooms or from their own homes. Key to creating a hybrid classroom, of course, is a high-quality video conferencing setup. Here are some tips on how to create an effective hybrid learning environment as well as pointers on how technology training can help everyone involved make the most of their hybrid classroom experience.
When classrooms were first going virtual, schools and universities were under serious pressure to deploy any technology that would enable students to remotely join classes. After having navigated a steep initial learning curve, many educators now want to make sure they have a video conferencing system in place that enables the most effective possible learning environment. With that in mind, here are four video conferencing setup considerations for a hybrid classroom:
1. Sound quality can make or break a hybrid class. Classrooms can be very noisy, with students shuffling papers, placing their bags on the floor, and moving next to their chairs. What might seem like a low level of background noise can actually make it increasingly difficult for students joining remotely to follow along during lessons. Consider using technology that can address this common challenge. For example, a solution like the Bose Videobar VB1 automatically excludes noise and delivers optimized audio to all participants.
2. Determine what technology students will need. When students are joining class remotely, they need certain technology in order to participate. This setup will likely include a video camera and microphone as well as adequate network bandwidth to support a video conference — and it may have to meet certain requirements to be compatible with the video conferencing system the school has selected. The students' home environments may have ambient noise that makes it hard for them to hear what's being said and to concentrate, so they may find it beneficial to use noise cancelling headphones that block out distractions.
3. Hybrid learning is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Students with disabilities may not find a typical video conferencing arrangement as accessible as others do. Teachers with disabilities may also require workplace accommodations to help them effectively use the video conferencing technology required to conduct a class. Consult with the students and teachers in advance to determine whether there are assistive technologies that can help everyone fully participate.
4. Different spaces may require tailored solutions. What works well for a large lecture-style room may not be ideal for a small classroom, and vice versa. A large space, for example, will benefit from a fully integrated video conferencing solution with dedicated conferencing processors and endpoints as well as loudspeakers and echo-cancelling capabilities. An all-in-one conferencing solution, on the other hand, will be more ideal for smaller classrooms and huddle spaces.
IT managers can go a long way toward helping their hybrid classrooms succeed by training educators on how to effectively use videoconferencing in the classroom. As EdTech Magazine points out, it's a good idea to offer technology training sessions to faculty, ideally using materials adapted to a hybrid setting, so they'll be more confident in conducting hybrid lessons. The same is true for any parents or caregivers responsible for ensuring that their child is able to participate in remote learning — especially if that student has a disability that requires assistive technology.
Schools with audiovisual technicians should fully train this staff in video conferencing technology so they may offer knowledgeable assistance. When a new piece of hardware or software is introduced, it may affect the workflow for the hybrid classroom environment. With this in mind, make sure to offer updated training sessions if an aspect of the video conferencing system changes or a new feature is released.
As hybrid learning becomes the norm, it will be essential for educational institutions to ensure that they have a flexible video conferencing setup that can scale for future growth. Regular training is also critical for helping faculty and students become proficient in virtual learning. By proactively addressing these two aspects and maintaining them over time, schools can be confident that their hybrid classroom will enable meaningful educational outcomes.