A few years before the quarantine of COVID-19, I struggled to do training in a hybrid classroom. I was equally good at online training and personal training but not as effective when I had a mixed audience in the classroom and online. In my training, I either neglected online students or ignored students in front of me.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify our terms. I use that term “Flips learning” when I post educational content online so that participants can view the material before the training session. During the training session we can use active learning exercises to practice the material. Training takes place entirely in person or online; I don’t confuse the audience. I use the term “blended learning” when the audience is ambiguous – partly virtual and partly personal. I can use learning flipping techniques, but the audience is hybrid.
Why use blended learning? As a training and development (L&D) specialist in the federal government, I have often had to train staff and distance workers. To succeed in my work, I needed to become the best in blended learning. Here are three tips that have helped me improve. These are not the only strategies you can use, but I find them fundamental.
1. Think radio, not television
Even though your online students are watching you in a video stream, audio is vital to conveying your message. Learn to be clear in your voice and use verbal cues to guide students online. If you point to something on the slide, state that you are pointing to part of the slide, and show what you are pointing to. The classroom will also appreciate additional verbal cues.
Number the slides, mark all the visuals you showcase, and quickly check with your online audience to make sure they see what the class is seeing. It’s also a good idea to have a producer in the room watching your presentation online while monitoring the chat. Use the producer as a facilitator and come in often to see if there are any comments or questions in the chat.
2. Use a pair together
I recently used this activity after hearing about it in a podcast. Ask class members to bring a laptop to class and log in to the online stream. Make sure they mute so you don’t get distracted by listening to your presentation both in class and online. Make sure each class member has an open chat, and encourage each of them to connect with a virtual partner. Periodically invite mixed partners to share ideas and ask each other questions about content. The advantage of this approach is that online participants connect with both the coach and their classmates.
3. Use mixed group activities
Use collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Miro, Mural, Office 365, or similar applications to help participants create collaborative artifacts in groups. Strive to ensure that teams are equally composed of class participants and remote. The noise of the discussion can confuse class participants, so arrange for classroom participants for sessions and encourage them to use headphones and microphones. Like collaborative pair-sharing, mixed group activities help build connections between you and students, content and students, and students and each other.
It is only natural to play on your strengths as a coach. This form of blended learning is a relatively new way of learning, and it is more than just a combination of personal learning and online learning. It has unique characteristics that can make it difficult for coaches who are new to the approach. However, your facilitator skills, such as paying attention to feedback, engaging the learner, and clearly explaining content, are still important. Instead of focusing on the differences between the two audiences, focus on the similarities of students online and in person.