How can organisations and educational institutions adapt their learning spaces to accommodate hybrid interactions and do justice to all participants?
For most growth-oriented organisations, employee training, skill development and educational programs are important ways to enhance their team’s capabilities. Among other things, these play an important role in increasing employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.
While distance learning and virtual learning technologies have been a part of corporate training and educational programs for many years, hybrid learning or hybrid classrooms bring many changes. When implemented well, they offer an opportunity for a brighter future for learning initiatives of all kinds.
Put simply, hybrid learning allows real-time learning sessions to take place simultaneously across in-person and virtual spaces. The experience for students or trainees in hybrid learning sessions is quite similar whether they choose to participate from their homes, or in the classroom.
With well-planned hybrid learning infrastructure, learning can take place from almost anywhere, whether students are at home or in the classroom.
Guidelines for successful hybrid classrooms
While hybrid learning is a powerful tool, it requires effective planning to ensure it delivers the benefits that organisations expect. Creating a fluid experience for both faculty and trainees across various types of learning spaces can be challenging. To truly bring in a new paradigm, the modern hybrid classroom needs to be flexible, interactive and effectively boundaryless.
Here are some guidelines that can help businesses plan better hybrid classrooms or hybrid learning spaces…
1. Prioritise Ease-of-Use – for teachers, students and remote trainees
The hybrid learning scenario has its share of complexities and is unlikely to be successful if the technology is too complicated for the diverse participants to use. Making things easy has to be a prime directive. Teachers should be able to walk into a room and just start teaching their class instantly – a single touch to join. Any teaching tool they require should be immediately accessible, whether it’s a digital whiteboard or wireless sharing. Remote students should also be able to join with equal ease, with integrated calendars making it simple to find the right session etc.
2. Ensure immersive and interactive collaboration
Teaching-friendly display layouts help ensure that all the students can see and hear the teacher (and each other) equally well. The experience for learners needs to be right and immersive, with tools like interactive whiteboarding that help inform and engage both in-person and remote students. They should be able to participate and contribute in real-time with annotation features. Whiteboard notes should be captured automatically and can be shared with students after the session. Students at home should feel as much a part of the session as students in the classroom.
3. Carefully align the technology with the physical space
There are many elements of technology in the hybrid classroom and these need to be carefully aligned with the existing space and room layout. Cameras and microphones must be placed optimally to capture the teacher and the classroom well. Similarly, the teacher should be able to see the entire group or class – in-person and hybrid – when they are addressing them. Therefore, it is important to plan how the space is going to be used carefully. The technology chosen should also support different teaching styles.
4. Enhance the video and audio experience
Video and audio quality need to reach much higher levels for the hybrid classroom to become an effective environment for learning. Setting up multiple high-resolution cameras creates multiple video feeds so all the in-room participants are clearly visible. One camera follows the presenter, another shows the whole classroom environment, while yet another ensures that the right perspective of each person is framed clearly on the screen. Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes everything work seamlessly and also actively monitors speakers and microphones to enhance audibility and eliminate unwanted noises or reverberations.
5. Upgrade the remote student infrastructure too
While the infrastructure in office spaces is given a lot of attention, technology for the remote student should not be overlooked. Equipping them with better external webcams, microphones and headphones allows them to hear and see everything clearly and bring their presence on par with everyone else in hybrid meetings.
Many progressive organisations are moving towards experimenting with and implementing hybrid meetings in their collaboration spaces. However, it’s time that the corporate training room or classroom gets some attention too.
For businesses, hybrid learning can lead to savings on travel costs and provides much greater flexibility in implementing their learning programs. But employees/students/trainees prefer hybrid learning too, as it allows them greater freedom to choose how and from where they participate.
Organisations need to begin looking ahead and planning a move towards effective hybrid learning spaces that create more engaging, equitable and secure learning experiences.