Planning and presenting a hybrid teaching session

Hybrid teaching describes a situation where a lecturer is teaching a group of students physically present in a lecture or seminar venue, whilst other students are remote and join the same session using systems such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The lecturer or keynote speaker(s) may also join the session remotely.

Some measure of remote teaching may continue, even after pandemic restrictions have been lifted. Hybrid teaching is not our preferred mode of delivery due to the challenges outlined below; the Centre for Teaching and Learning recommends instead separate sessions for in-person and remote students, if resources allow.

The teacher may themselves be delivering the class from a remote location, with a mix of remote students and others together in a room. While this may seem a bit unusual, students still value this for a sense of presence and community – possibly things like seeing the expressions of other students in the room and catching up with each other during and after the class.

Pedagogical guidance

Hybrid seminars, classes and tutorials

Consider first what you want your students to be doing during the class time. For example, will you ask them to present findings; debate an issue; solve a problem set etc. Then consider what preparatory work they may need to do in advance to ensure they are ready for the session. Make sure that all students have access to the appropriate learning resources in advance, irrespective of whether they will be joining the class in person or remotely.

Clearly outlining in advance your expectations for engagement during the session is key, for example, are you expecting students to work with one another, whether in-person or remotely; will they need access to particular resources during the session etc?  It is important to ensure your session design enables all students to engage in the class, no matter whether they are attending in person or joining remotely.

Offer students advice about what to do after the live session. If there is any follow-up activity, what is it and when is it due? This is particularly important if students will not see one another after the class, whether in person or remotely.

Use Canvas to support your teaching and students’ learning. Canvas allows you to plan and integrate student activities which may be carried out either before or after a teaching session. For example, provide preparatory or supplementary materials; and create activities such as asynchronous discussions, quizzes, assignment submissions etc. See our FIT pathways for learning designs to accommodate different group sizes and mixes of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Useful tips

  1. Introductions. Invite students to introduce themselves at the start of the session, so those who are joining the class remotely are brought into discussions from the start. This also helps identify early on if there are any connectivity issues for those joining remotely.
  2. Encourage questions. If feasible, the lecturer or tutor could encourage active engagement by regularly prompting questions and inviting a participant to speak. Invite remote students directly, so that they do not feel alienated from the class. Approach students by name, whether in the room or online, rather than simply saying 'Does anyone have a question?' (this usually results in an echoing silence). You may find it helpful to consult the Centre for Teaching and Learning resource on active engagement in large classes.
  3. Use polls. Encourage students attending in person to bring along their laptop (or mobile device); then during the class, the tutor could post polls online which all the students will be able to engage with. In this way both in-person and remote students would be sharing the learning experience by doing the same task. The tutor may wish to ask a particular student to explain their response to a poll question(s); aim to seek participation from students joining remotely as well as those physically present in the class to reinforce the collective learning experience.
  4. Put students into small groups. If you are using breakout rooms in Teams, the students in the classroom can form in-person small group(s) and have a break from the screen, which is a benefit. In-person breakout rooms can take longer to come back than online ones (practical tip – perhaps ask them to report back last?). An alternative is to use Teams breakout rooms for all, with a mix of in-person and remote students, again to bring these groups together, rather than creating a 'divide' between those attending in person and those studying remotely.
  5. Post links to resources for discussion. The tutor could post links to external resources in the Teams chat, for example, a website or a museum artefact such as in Cabinet. Students could spend time on their devices looking at the object or website, before the tutor starts the discussion.
  6. Share the session plan in advance. A planned agenda will create some prior expectation of what the class will entail and prompt students to complete any key preparatory activities. Having a session plan doesn’t mean that your class can’t be spontaneous – for example, feel free to follow or expand a related discussion thread.
  7. Record the session. We recommend that you should record the session and make the recording available via a Canvas course so that all students can access it at any time. This is particularly important for revision classes.

Hybrid lectures

Lectures may be delivered, broadcast and recorded using Panopto – to audiences both in the room and remotely. Delivering lectures in a hybrid mode tends to be less challenging than presenting seminars – seminar work is generally more participatory and interactive compared to broadcasting and recording a live lecture using Panopto. Hybrid lectures can also include short activities, such as online polling, which all students can engage with simultaneously; responses will allow the lecturer to get a feel of topics that are less well understood and may require more explanation during the lecture.

As for hybrid seminars/classes and tutorials, it is important that lecturers clarify in advance what their expectations are in terms of students' advance preparatory work and active participation during the lecture. The lecture recordings should be made available via Canvas – this will happen automatically if you have enabled the ‘Panopto Recordings’ tool in the relevant Canvas course and started your recording from there. Activities in Canvas such as discussions, quizzes and assignments can help students to prepare (or test their prior knowledge) before the lecture and consolidate their knowledge afterwards, for example, in preparation for exams.

Challenges

A hybrid teaching scenario is difficult to plan for in terms of technology tools and pedagogical approaches. Some challenges include:

  • A hybrid session almost certainly cannot be handled by one presenter alone (unless the student numbers are low). It is advisable to have the following people on hand to help:
    • A colleague (or graduate student) to handle questions posed online by the remote students, so that the lecturer can concentrate on the live situation.
    • One or more AV technicians to handle the cameras, microphones and multiple computers.
  • Various ‘high-tech’ or ‘low-tech’ solutions can involve significant IT and AV equipment costs. IT Services and Medical Sciences are still consulting users and exploring various technical options. The examples attached to this scenario reflect early attempts to equip rooms for hybrid teaching. Please contact the contributors if you wish to find out more about the equipment.  
  • In the in-person venue, the lecturer can judge if the students present are grasping the material through their willingness to participate, the questions they ask, the responses they give to questions and by picking up nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. Clearly, this is not so easy to assess for students who join remotely, which underlines the necessity for a second person to facilitate the experience for the remote students.
  • Different time zones may make it difficult for remote students to join real-time seminars or tutorials. To ensure inclusivity, live sessions should always be recorded so that all students may access and review the recording later.
  • Wi-fi provision in the room may be insufficient if in-person and remote students are all running video on their laptops at the same time. Be aware of this possibility and that you may need to ask students to switch off their video cameras, especially if they are not speaking.

Technical guidance

IT Services has provided a list of recommended audio-visual equipment in meeting rooms and teaching spaces.

The Education IT Programme is running a project to investigate needs for hybrid teaching. This will include equipping a small number of teaching rooms with recommended audio-visual equipment, as well as working with academics to design optimal hybrid teaching and learning experiences. Please contact edu-it@it.ox.ac.uk for more information.

Panopto is the recommended software for recording lectures. Guidance is available on webcasting (live streaming) using Panopto. Panopto webcasts are very much ‘one-way broadcasts’, which can be delivered to an audience in the room as well as to others in an ‘overspill’ room, or remote location. It is recommended that all recordings should be made available to students after the event (via Canvas) for further reference, note-taking and revision before exams. 

Canvas allows you to create structured content and resources for students to access as well as a means of contacting students and receiving work. In consultation with academics and Colleges, the Centre for Teaching and Learning has created a number of Canvas course templates, including for tutorial teaching and lectures. Forums can be set up to have asynchronous discussions on a topic, and Assignments can be set up for students to submit work. SpeedGrader allows you to provide formative feedback to students in several ways – typed comments, annotations, audio or video.

Microsoft Teams provides the platform for live sessions using audio, video, screen sharing and polling. The chat functionality is good for informal discussions and Q&A (the text is retained in the Teams Chat app for later reference). You can also share files and links with students in Teams.

Ensure that any materials that you need to share with students are easily accessible from a laptop. Where possible, save any Word or PowerPoint documents in PDF format before uploading to make viewing online quicker and easier.

Contact us

Many departments and faculties are reflecting upon how programmes are taught, what materials are assigned and how students are assessed. We can help. Academics and administrators who would like to consult with the Centre for Teaching and Learning as they design flexible and inclusive programmes may contact us.

Useful links

  • Faculty of Law, University of Oxford has published information about how they have made provision in the St Cross Building for alternative modes of lecture/class/seminar during the COVID-19 pandemic. These configurations will also easily be adapted to suit situations where the presenters are themselves not in the room, but online. 
  • Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University: Student reactions to hybrid teaching. This video was recorded in November 2020, under Covid restrictions. It is acknowledged that such a set-up requires an investment in equipment and human resources – the University is looking into various types and levels of equipment in teaching venues to accommodate hybrid teaching.
  • The Saïd Business School’s Teaching and Learning Initiative is working with their faculty members to prepare similar guidance on hybrid teaching and learning.
  • IT Services is running the Improvements to Hybrid Teaching Facilities Project to help safeguard the University’s ability to support teaching and learning for those attending a session either in person or remotely.
  • The University of Liverpool conducted a trial of on-campus teaching in September 2020. The aim of the trial was to gain first-hand experience of teaching in a socially distanced way, with some students participating remotely. Read more in their blog post: Trial of hybrid teaching on campus.
  • Heriot-Watt University has published a guide to their Responsive Blended Learning approach.
  • University College Cork, Ireland: The Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) has produced a guide for hybrid learning and teaching.
  • Equipment in teaching spaces: Contact teachingspace@admin.ox.ac.uk

Microsoft Teams:

Panopto (Replay):

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