Enhance the classroom for an inclusive hybrid learning experience

A real example of how technology has unified dispersed students and faculty

It is fair to say that there is a significant debate on distance learning in higher education. At the start of the pandemic, there was no choice and distance learning was the only option. We now have choices and decisions are being made about the future of remote and hybrid learning in higher education.

Below we share details of a pilot project that takes the traditional lecture hall and adapts it to create inclusive environments for students, whether they learn remotely, in person or through a hybrid approach.

Hybrid learning is here and questions are being asked about whether it is sustainable or not. Can students take full advantage of tuition and time spent at university if they are not physically present in their learning space?

But it’s not acceptable to simply limit your options to in person OR remotely.

The real question is the same that is being asked in all sectors of society. Where do I need to be to achieve my goals most effectively? Or, in HE, where can I get my most effective learning?

The reality is that a university education is made up of a number of different experiences. Some of which require advance and staffing, but could others be reached just as effectively in a different way?

Teaching of large groups

The role and quality of teaching in large groups was examined before anyone had even heard of COVID. Was the transmission of information to predominantly passive groups really the best way to prepare students for entry into the world of work?

They were already moving towards an active and collaborative learning experience. Even in large group contexts, different technological options have been explored to facilitate and stimulate that multidirectional involvement between student and teacher and peer to peer.

“Prior to the pandemic, the University had a vision to see that we needed to upgrade our teaching venues and a program was underway that would offer better collaboration and lesson acquisition facilities.” Patrick Daly (former Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching Support, Queen’s University Belfast).

At Queen’s University Belfast, the arrival of the pandemic has accelerated plans already in place to increase the potential for collaborative learning in their classroom spaces.

“When the pandemic hit, we realized we needed to go further and transform our spaces into connected learning and collaboration places that deliver an inclusive experience to all of our users in every environment. Whether a student is physically or virtually attending a place, she must have equal opportunities to interact with academics and fellow students ”.

But this is not the case everywhere. As institutions moved dramatically and rapidly to distance learning, the first priority was to ensure continuity of learning. This meant accelerating investments in tools like Microsoft Teams, recording and capturing lessons, and a relative slowdown in investments to improve active and collaborative approaches in the internal environment. A logical answer as with empty classrooms and virtually 100% teaching now online, the focus had to be on promoting engagement within a virtual environment.

However, as these percentages have started to change and large group teaching is making a comeback (albeit at an uneven pace), many institutions are taking a fresh look at the traditional classroom and the potential role of hybrid learning.

The ability to broaden the reach of learning, create new schedule flexibility, and support continuity of learning in the face of personal needs or a yet unknown future crisis certainly has a charm.

Always on condition that the quality and equality of the learning experience is maintained.

Is it possible to have hybrid flexibility without complexity?

There is no doubt that introducing distance participation in a classroom environment adds further complexity to the active and collaborative learning of large groups.

There is now another remote group of individuals to consider and interact with along with the audience in the room. This group needs the same quality of experience and opportunity to engage as in the room, while ensuring that the academician has an easy way to manage those interactions.

However, as the pilot project at Queen’s University Belfast demonstrates, we can take steps to remove complexity from the hybrid approach and use technology to enhance both the teacher and student experience. And suddenly, the long-term potential of hybrid learning begins to open up.

Creating high-quality hybrid experiences

So how can we use technology to overcome the challenges presented by hybrid approaches and create a better and more inclusive experience for all involved? Using the example of the pilot learning spaces at Queen’s University Belfast, this was the challenge Pure AV, Sennheiser and Queen’s University explored in a recent seminar.

The seminar considers how to tackle challenges such as

  • How to improve the distance learner experience
  • The integration of traditional teaching tools in a hybrid lesson
  • The improvement of audio performance in hybrid spaces
  • Voice-based camera monitoring for audience inclusion and capture
  • Control and how to create a direct experience for the teacher

Watch on-demand to hear first-hand experiences from the Queen’s University Belfast team (Dr Dan Corbett, Lecturer at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Mohamed Hamed, Media Services Manager) and watch a system demo of their 300 -aula magna.

Learn more about system design, as Sennheiser and Pure AV talk about the key technologies behind the solution. And delve a little deeper into the solution through the questions posed during the closing question and answer section.

This is a conversation about hybrid and blending technology and teaching practice to enhance the student experience, wherever and whenever such learning is accessed.

View the complete seminar

Enhance the classroom for an inclusive hybrid learning experience

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