Hybrid learning bridges the gap for training professionals caught between the superior learning outcomes of traditional instructor-led training and the convenience of virtual learning. The hybrid environment is synchronous learning delivered simultaneously to both in-class and remote students—providing an equal learning experience, regardless of where the student is located.
In this installment of our series on hybrid learning best practices, we look at how to adapt content for hybrid learning. Because hybrid training is delivered in much the same way as traditional instructor-led training, it usually requires minimal adaptation of course content. However, to best succeed in this learning modality, there are a few adaptations you should consider:
Keep your content short, relevant and organized: While this is generally considered a best practice for all training modalities, the introduction of virtual students into this classroom environment makes the organization and composition of your material especially important. Your virtual students are faced with a wide variety of distractions. If you want to keep their attention, it is imperative that you provide content that is chunked into easily digestible segments, avoids unnecessary background information and is well organized.
Plan your interactions into the content: Hybrid learning offers unprecedented opportunities for classroom collaboration and engagement. In fact, many instructors report that by utilizing a hybrid environment they are able to create a more engaging classroom experience than traditional instructor-led training. Before you begin to adapt your content, familiarize yourself with the interactive learning features offered by your hybrid platform. Then plan in advance where you can utilize these features to keep your participants engaged and enhance the learning outcome. Keep in mind that interactive activities just for the sake of interaction are far less useful than those that add value to the overall learning experience.
Know your audience: In addition to having a firm grasp on what your students already know (and what they can add to a collaborative learning environment), you should be aware of how many students will be in class, how many will be virtual, and what your learners’ general comfort level with technology is. This knowledge will make it easier for you to plan successful interactive elements into your content.
Make your visuals interesting: Your remote students are primarily relating to the classroom through a screen. If the image on that screen in not moving and changing, your students’ brains will start mentally multi-tasking. To keep their attention, the images on the screen need to be engaging and interesting. Utilize your webcam in such a way that you are moving. Consider including more slides than you would for a traditional in-class presentation. Avoid text heavy slides. Instead use colorful, interesting images that tell a story. Plan on utilizing tools such as white boarding and annotation. A good rule of thumb is that if your slides can convey the material on their own—without a presenter— then they are not well designed for a hybrid environment.
Prepare your students: When you are putting together any content/materials to provide for participants in advance, be sure to include information on the expectations in a hybrid classroom. Let your students know that they will be expected to keep their microphones and cameras on (so that they are present in the class). Provide any information they will need to ensure that they will be prepared for the technical requirements of the hybrid classroom in advance—to limit interruptions and downtime when class is beginning.
When instructors/course developers make these minimal adjustments to their course content, they are best able to take full advantage of the benefits of hybrid learning. Students and instructors benefit from the increased collaboration and equal learning experience of a hybrid environment, while organizations are able to capitalize on the benefits of incorporating virtual learners.
In the next installment, we will look at delivering engaging content in a hybrid environment.