Lessons from 2020: Improving current hybrid classes January-June 2021

Since the 2020-21 academic year began, teachers have had to change class dynamics, methodologies and contents, update materials and strategies, to adapt to a new educational framework. Below we present, 5 points to improve the classes from January to June 2021; improve the quality of teaching, as well as the learning process of the students, all now in concurrent online and face-to-face, or hybrid.

1. The computer

The place of the computer / camera through which the online class will be recorded / projected, should be considered as one more student, and placed in front of the blackboard, in the first row. why?

1. The teachers must have visual control of this screen to be able to follow the students who are at home and confirm their presence, questions and answers, as with the rest of the students present in the classroom.

2. My visual field of the teacher should include both the students who are in class and at home

3. A computer or camera located on the side of the classroom can distort the image of the blackboard (even if it is a digital whiteboard), due to the glare caused by light.

4. The teachers can “forget” this circumstance and take for granted students are following the class from home, but there can be technical issues 

2. The faculty

• Can we vocalize? It is something that we are taught in communication classes and more relevant under the current situacion. With a mask, an innate ability of the human being such as lip reading, is totally nullified. Greater vocalization favors the understanding of our message.

• Can we speak slowly? It is another aspect to take care of in these circumstances. Mask filters (especially the good ones like KN95), protect against viruses, but the sound we emit is blocked. By speaking more slowly, we can better control that sound, improving the emission and regulation of the voice.

• Can we repeat? Some students find it difficult to ask this question because they feel that they “should understand”, or that there is enough of a problem with the masks to ask… ask in class if the class is well understood.

• Can we “listen” each other? Or just “hear” each other? An essential difference in teaching that puts every teacher to the test. With the current situation and despite previous efforts, it is necessary to know if the students can listen to us, and it is that sometimes they cannot hear well what is being said in the classroom. Solutions?  

First, it is essential to record the classes to be aware of the limitations, and thus be able to propose effective solutions like the previous ones (in addition to the students being able to review the class) but also, there are technological solutions.

• Use a microphone connected to the computer from which the class is recorded / broadcast, together with speakers to amplify the sound in the classroom, and also to clarify what is heard at home.

• It is necessary to check if the microphone can be inside the mask to avoid friction and thus improve the sound.  

3. Microphones and Speakers: What type? How much they cost?

• Depending on the platforms / applications used to give the classes, the same microphone / headphones as the mobile phone.

• The advantage of also using headphones? In addition to using the microphone, we can use one of the headphones to listen to what they say from home, generating greater interaction.

• With Bluetooth We can connect our mobile device to the computer and be free to move.

• In case it is necessary to purchase it, prices vary but in the range of € 15-25 there are good headphones, with micro and Bluetooth.

• Speakers… connected to the computer also by Bluetooth, it allows us to place them at the back of the class, so that again, they can be heard throughout the classroom. As in the case of headphones with a microphone, the speakers vary in prices and brands, but for about € 10 you can buy a good product.

4. Advice on class dynamics

• Follow the textbook, and have the students read the book (despite offering summaries and power points). They need to exercise reading, analysis and comprehension of texts, solving problems, and making their own summaries, which can be considered in the evaluation.

• Homework?? Of course!! The educational level was already quite diminished before the pandemic. As of March 2020 it was in free fall, and the current circumstances do not invite for effort (at least in adolescence – secondary / high school).

• Explain the form of communication; if possible, ALL UNIFIED. When different teachers use different platforms to send assignments, others to send summaries and an app for comments on lessons (support material), and another where the lesson is recorded, only gets the students confused. It is necessary to explain the method we are using so that communication is clear and to avoid problems.  

• The concept of “continuous evaluation” … change it to “continuous monitoring“. Perhaps it implies greater effort on the part of the teachers, as on the part of the students, but we must recover and maintain motivation … and some, accept what is their vocation to act accordingly.

• Take breaks to confirm the students are following the class, both in the classroom and from home. Insist on this point because especially from home, it is easy to follow networks or online games while they appear “connected” in class.

EXAMS !! They cannot be done only in the classroom! While a group takes the exam, those at home do nothing! We lose 50% of classes. We will launch a special post on this topic soon.  

• Avoid the use of “social” apps and focus on educational applications (if needed!). NO MORE INSTAGRAM, NO MORE WHATSAPP!!!!

• Have extra materials prepared for educational activities, both in-class and online, in case there is a teacher missing. NO MORE ONLINE GAMES!!!!

5. At home, and if possible, it is best to

– Have a workplace, a table and a chair, always in the same place

– Only use the device with which the class is displayed (disconnect the rest). It is not worth silencing them because if they light up or vibrate, they attract attention

– If there are adults, respect that time and space, understand that the situation for them is not easy

– If there are no adults, remove all devices that are not going to be used during classes (also during the time they are doing homework or studying)

– Install parental controls like Qustodio, Microsoft Windows Live Family Safety, Securekids, or Screentime; (my advice is to explain why*) to be able to verify inappropriate connections and to confirm the follow-ups of the classes  

*In general, reactions will be adverse (claiming lack of confidence, excessive control, etc.) for which we recommend a calm conversation about what it means to be in class for them, or to be at work for adults, also with control systems ( clocking, monitoring devices, checking online connections, etc.). It is also necessary to educate in this regard.

Wishing all a happy, healthy, and positive 2021

Author: Dr. Gonzalo Torquemada

Featured image: Hybrid Classroom from HBS 

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