Working towards future hybrid education


With Covid-19 obliterating our traditional educational methods more and more voices are calling to establish a hybrid teaching framework. But is hybrid education the best option and is the university prepared for a hybrid future of education?

When I was informed that my Q3 course was designated “must have”, aside from the short lived ego boost (must have is apparently not related to the teacher, but to the students), I was delighted to learn that this designation implies I would be able to give live exercise classes to students in a classroom. Hours later, doubt started creeping in. How would such a class look and what would it feel like with only ¼ of the students allowed? What would students who cannot come to class do? How can I deliver “hybrid teaching” in an effective way?

The Cambridge English dictionary has two definitions for hybrid:
1. A plant or animal that has been produced from two different types of plant or animal, especially to get better characteristics.
2. Something that is a mixture of two very different things.

As we are forced to give the lectures online, the option to deliver live exercise classes immediately creates a hybrid course. However, it remains to be decided which of the above definitions applies in this case? Speaking to a camera while sitting at home and standing in a classroom feel like two different methods, so it stands to reason that definition number 2 applies. Yet, if properly done, the transfer of knowledge should not suffer from the medium used. So, whether it takes place at home or on campus, a lecture is a lecture.

Clearly a course that is half online and half live is “a new kind of animal” (so in line with definition 1). It then remains to decide what are these better characteristics we get from the mix.

Students do not seem to enjoy online lectures. So we are not delivering enhanced student experience. And as far as teachers are concerned, I can direct you to several columns by myself and my colleagues about our displeasure with online teaching. If we truly want to aspire to deliver added-value “hybrid teaching”, we need to create tens of new positions of education support staff that will support the creation of high-quality video material and online interactive content. And in addition we need to be able to stream every lecture from every lecture room to as many students who demand it (at the time of writing this column, a limited number of lecture rooms offers streaming and the capacity for simultaneous streaming of video can sometimes not meet demand).

Until we have sorted all these things out, let us focus on limiting the damage Covid has inflicted upon our students and lecturers. Not being worse than pre-Covid education, is an achievement on its own. And when normality resumes, we should have a real educated discussion about hybrid education to define how the TU/e version of hybrid will truly be a better version of education.

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