As lockdown restrictions ease and we tentatively reintroduce in-person sessions to our teaching, Hybrid has become a hot topic. It offers a much-needed flexibility to run sessions with in-person and online students simultaneously, a key advance as we enhance the experience of our students in a continually changing world. In this message, I am pleased to offer some initial detail of this initiative and our plans for this new area of teaching capability going forward.
As communicated by Professor Blair Grubb at the end of March, the University has initiated a project to develop its flexible teaching capabilities and provide our students with the best possible learning experience, whether they are in the room or connecting remotely. To support this goal, we are building a new hybrid teaching service to join our existing portfolio of services that make up our digital campus. A formal project team including skills from across the university has been established to design and implement this service, with a significant amount of planning, equipment ordering, installation scheduling and community engagement work already being undertaken by CTIL, UoDIT and your school Digital Champions.
- We are upgrading 50 general teaching rooms and several lab and studio facilities to support some level of hybrid teaching (teaching students online and in-person simultaneously).
- At a minimum, all 50 of allocated teaching rooms will be equipped to a capability level we are calling ‘Capture & Stream’ by the September start of teaching, giving lecturers a guaranteed minimum teaching mode to plan for.
- Between now and the end of semester one, these rooms will be systematically upgraded to the ‘Dual Mode’ which will further extend their hybrid capabilities.
- It’s difficult to give a firm timetable for upgrading these rooms to the more advanced Dual-Mode at this point as there are significant issues around supply of the required equipment and the required installation skills. These circumstances are outside of our control, therefore we are deploying the more accessible ‘Capture and Stream’ as the default mode that will be in place in these 50 rooms by the beginning of semester 1, with dual mode being introduced as we are able.
- Online and traditional In-Person (non-hybrid) teaching will continue to be used widely depending on the specific requirements of the module and existing social distancing rules.
The key takeaway at this point is that if you will be running sessions with a mix of in-person and online students, then for Semester 1 the baseline mode you should plan for is ‘Capture & Steam’. ‘Dual Mode’ will become available in more rooms between now and the end of the calendar year and can be integrated into your teaching as required.
To structure the project and help you understand what is being put in place, we have defined the following modes of teaching:
These first two modes will be very familiar to us all, utilising existing facilities to run sessions either exclusively in-person or online. These modes are not Hybrid but will likely represent most synchronous teaching sessions in semester 1, depending on social distancing, access to technology and the needs of your respective cohorts.
The Hybrid modes represent a scalable progression of capability so that we can both work around supply limitations and provide a more achievable learning curve for staff and students. In summary, you can think of Capture & Stream as mostly a broadcast, similar to your typical webinar, and Dual-Mode represents a further step towards parity of experience for online participants, with multiple camera views, the ability to speak to the room and so on:
|Capture & Stream||Dual Mode|
|Mixed online/in-person participants||Mixed online/in-person participants|
|Single camera source (lecturer view) streamed to online participants.||Multi-camera view (lecturer view and room view); online participants can also share their camera with in-room participants|
|Audio from lecturer mic only||3-way audio between lecturer, in-room and online participants|
|Slides and screen sharing can be used to present to online and in-person participants simultaneously.||Slides, screen sharing, and visualiser can be used to present to online and in-person participants simultaneously.|
|Limited interactivity for online participants due to limited camera and microphone options; can be supplemented with tools like Mentimeter or Padlet and text chat.||More advanced interactions become available with multiple camera views, and the ability for the room and online students to talk and see each other.|
|Recording for revision and catchup||Recording for revision and catchup|
|Available in 50 rooms as a minimum setup for the September start||The same 50 rooms will be upgraded as and when we are able (without disrupting ongoing teaching)|
Note that there will be other combinations of approach and technology, but the above modes will allow us to talk clearly about this as the project advances. Dual delivery (running a teaching session multiple times for different groups) is also an option that some schools are adopting. This can be done using a combination of the above teaching modes as required.
Labs, Studios & Micro-Studios
In addition to the 50 general teaching rooms, there are three other areas where hybrid capability will be deployed. We are working closely with schools on their bespoke requirements for Lab and Studio spaces. For example, DJCAD has already been testing (and having fun with) a mobile setup that can bring a remote audience right into their studio spaces to experience and engage with the instruction and the work of their peers. This work is being done directly with the schools concerned so look out for more information via your internal comms channels. Likewise, we are examining how best to develop hybrid capability in laboratory settings in Science & Engineering, Life Sciences and Social Sciences.
The other room type on our list is the Micro-Studio. These single-occupancy, bookable rooms are being equipped to support video production at a higher quality level that might be achieved using a lecturer’s own kit at home or in their office. More details on these rooms to follow.
It would be wrong to speak about the mechanics of this project without briefly acknowledging the very real challenges the introduction of a new service poses to you and the rest of the community. The baseline hybrid mode of Capture & Stream is intended to give you a clear first step to plan for, with Dual Mode gradually becoming available as an option over time. I would also like to offer the following commitments on behalf of the project team:
- We will be transparent about the project, communicating timelines, progress, and other information as soon as we have it to give.
- We will engage with the community wherever we can as part of a service design approach; seeking to make evidence-based decisions and taking our design queues from you, the service users.
- We will approach the implementation of the service to offer stable targets that you can plan your teaching around and ensure continuing work, such as room upgrades does not interfere with your ongoing teaching.
I am also very aware that we have not talked about two key topics: how timetabling the 50 rooms will work, and the guides/training that will be offered. These two pieces must and will be addressed as soon as we are able, but please be assured that we are working on these important challenges and will communicate as soon as we have solid plans to offer.
You can stay up to date with the project and the service it is building though the following:
- Larger scale announcements and updates will be made through all-staff emails.
- Service information will be hosted on our brand-new resource site (hint – you’re looking at it now)
- All communication will be also published and archived on our blog.
- Comms will be simultaneously posted to the ‘Digital’ channel of the ‘Education and Student Experience Planning’ teams area.
- We will also reach out via our community links such as your school Digital Champions and Admin Champions.
Hybrid is an important advance in our ability to give students a world leading experience. I do not want to dismiss the challenges of introducing changes to our teaching capabilities currently, but I hope you will allow me to express my personal enthusiasm for the genuine benefits of this initiative and the long-term investment in quality of our teaching it represents. The key to creating good services is to design them in partnership with the community they mean to serve, and that is what we have committed to do, both for this early implementation of hybrid and beyond.
Thanks for reading and have a great day
Digital Education Service Manager