From our Faculty: Tips for Teaching in a Synchronous Hybrid/HyFlex Class during the Pandemic

In November, we asked Pacific Faculty to share the educational strategies and technological methods that they found to be successful when teaching a synchronous hybrid or Hyflex course—courses where the instructor met with some of their students in a physical classroom while remote students joined via Zoom. Our respondents answered thoughtfully and honestly and provided some great advice for teaching in this challenging environment.

Below, we have compiled and organized the results from this questionnaire around several basic teaching principles that emerged from the responses. We feel that these tips are extremely valuable and will be helpful for both instructors teaching in a hybrid environment for the first time as well as those who are coming back to the environment for a second semester.

Provide clear structure and expectations for students

Overwhelmingly, our respondents found that it was critical to have clear and transparent directions for their assignments, deadlines, and activities during synchronous class sessions. They also reported that it was important to maintain clear expectations about assignments and participation. Some specific strategies they mentioned were:

  • Have a well-structured Moodle site.
  • Provide clear instructions for assignments.
  • Have a consistent structure for synchronous class sessions.
  • Have a consistent structure for weeks or units of study.
  • Have multiple methods for communicating deadlines.

Some Further Resources:

The Transparency in Teaching and Learning website provides background and strategies to help you design your course to ensure that your students understand what they need to do, why they need to do it, and what success will look like.

Keep students accountable

Many of our respondents felt that having clear strategies for holding students accountable for both in-class and out-of-class work was important for the overall success of the class. Some of these strategies were:

  • Have students provide a written response to a discussion prompt or questions.
  • Have students report the results of individual or group work to the class as a whole.
  • Use technology to observe student work and to collect results. Several instructors reported that Google applications, such as Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Jamboard were particularly effective as student work environments because students could share their work among each other, the faculty member could observe their work in real time, and the students produced a clear artifact of their work.
  • Use Moodle Discussion forums for students to report on both in-class and out-of class work.
  • Some instructors reported that they had students record themselves in Zoom break-out sessions when practicing a particular skill. This both held students accountable for their work and allowed the faculty-member to assess their progress.

Reach out to students individually or have one-on-one sessions with students

Our respondents also reported that meeting students one-on-one or reaching out to them individually was a key strategy to help their students stay on track and to build community in their courses.

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with students.
  • Reach out to students who have missed work or otherwise seem to be falling behind.

Some Further Resources:

This blog post describes a technique for fostering a sense of belonging in our students by creating moments of genuine connection with them. This blog article from Cult of Pedagogy summarizes a technique for creating moments of genuine connection with students online.

Use small groups to foster discussion

Several of our respondents found it difficult to hold an effective full class discussion in a hybrid environment. To hold effective and engaged discussions, a number of faculty chose to use small groups or teams to have their students interact with each other. Some tips they had for effective small group discussions were:

  • Have a clear prompt or instructions for the small group session. It is best if this is written and available electronically so students can refer to it during the small group session.
  • Have the students produce something or report on what they did in the small group session.
  • Have a strategy for how to group in-person and online students. Some instructors found they had the best outcomes when they had in-person students in groups only with other in-person students and online students in groups with other online students. Other faculty intentionally mixed the two cohorts. Either strategy requires some preparation beforehand so it is important to consider how these groups should be formed.

Some Further Resources:

This article describes a strategy for integrating remote learners into a face-to-face class.

Be mindful of your presentations

Many of our respondents discussed how they put extra thought into their presentation materials by creating more engaging and dynamic PowerPoints, using videos during class periods, and finding funny or engaging content. They felt that these materials helped keep their students engaged during classes. In addition, faculty who were teaching in disciplines where they needed to write or draw freestyle during a presentation or lecture, such as faculty teaching in Math or Science who need to write equations or draw diagrams, found strategies to be able to present these digitally.

Have grading strategies

Grading online can be more time-intensive than traditional paper-based assignments. In courses that require substantial grading, such as writing-intensive and calculation-heavy courses, the extra time it takes to grade can be overwhelming. It is important, therefore, to consider grading workflows and processes prior to the course so that student work can be evaluated as efficiently as possible.

Keep tech simple

Some of our respondents reported that keeping track of both the classroom environment and online environment at the same time can be challenging. To help reduce this complexity, these respondents reported that they tried to keep their technological set-up as simple as possible. For example, some of these instructors tried to use only one computer in the classroom, use only a set number of features in Zoom and Moodle, and limit the number of third party applications they used.