Monday, 6 February, 2023

Enhancing Participation of Students in Hybrid Classrooms

Dr P R Datta

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on education. With schools and universities worldwide forced to close their doors, educators have had to rapidly adapt to a new reality: teaching in a hybrid classroom. A hybrid classroom is one where some students are present in the physical classroom while others participate remotely. This can be done in a variety of ways. Still, it commonly involves using video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams, Blackboard collaborates or Google Meet to connect with students learning from home. While the hybrid model has its advantages, it allows students who cannot be in the physical classroom for whatever reason to still participate in learning; it also comes with its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is keeping all students engaged, both those in the physical classroom and those participating remotely.

Several significant challenges are unique to this learning setting when it comes to student engagement in hybrid classrooms. Students' lack of connection with their classmates and professors is one of the most challenging barriers. This can cause the student to feel alienated and frustrated, which can hinder their ability to do well in class. In addition, it may be difficult for students to sustain motivation when they are not physically present in the classroom, and they may struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of the course. A third obstacle arises from the nature of the technology; for instance, if students are inexperienced with the functioning of specific technologies or do not have access to a reliable Internet connection, this may further hinder their ability to participate in class.

In addition to these problems, students must contend with the following additional obstacles: Time management: It can be challenging to successfully manage their time while simultaneously participating in online and offline learning. To get the most out of hybrid learning, they need to have good organisational skills and be diligent. Motivation: When students are not in a regular classroom setting, it can be simple for them to feel unmotivated, which can be detrimental to their academic performance. In such a scenario, students must inspire themselves by setting goals and remembering why they engage in this activity. Interaction with other students and the teacher is a perk of attending classes in a traditional setting, which is why this format is so popular. Students could have the impression that they are missing out on some component of their education if they attend classes in a hybrid environment. You need to find opportunities to engage with other students, either online or in person, such as through discussion boards or study groups; Keeping up with assignments: Because there is no predetermined time for each week's meeting in a hybrid class, there may be more assignments than in a regular class. Keeping up with this can be challenging, so organisation and self-control are essential! The key is to keep a cheerful attitude and be ready for anything. Although hybrid learning has a lot of potential as an effective mode of education, not everyone should pursue it.

Optimising student engagement in hybrid classrooms can be a challenge for educators. However, instructors can address various challenges through careful planning and consideration. By considering the unique challenges hybrid students face, instructors can create an engaging and successful learning experience. There are many ways to optimise student engagement in hybrid classrooms. Some of these include Using a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities: Students can have the best of both worlds by using a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous activities. They can be engaged in live, real-time discussions with their classmates and have the flexibility to complete tasks at their own pace. Encouraging group work: Group work is a great way to engage students with each other and the material. It also allows for different learning styles to be accommodated. Creating a supportive and inclusive environment: It is vital that students feel comfortable and supported in hybrid classrooms. This means Creating an environment where all students feel welcome and able to participate is key to successful hybrid classrooms. By taking these steps, educators can help ensure that students are optimally engaged in the hybrid classroom.

If you are an educator teaching in a hybrid classroom, here are some tips for optimising student engagement: Get to know your students: One of the best things you can do as an educator is to know your students on a personal level. This will help you understand their needs and how best to engage them in learning. Try to create opportunities for informal conversations with your students, both in person and online. You could start class with a quick check-in where everyone shares something about their day or week or host regular virtual office hours where students can drop by to chat or ask questions outside of class time. Use technology: Technology can be a great way to engage students in learning, both inside and outside the classroom. There are lots of different digital tools and resources available that can be used to support instruction and student engagement. For example, you could use an online quiz tool like Quizizz or Kahoot! to make review sessions more interactive or leverage video creation tools like WeVideo or Adobe Spark Video to have students create short presentations on topics they are studying. If you are unsure where to start, try searching for digital tools for education; there are hundreds of options out there! Encourage collaboration: Collaborative learning activities are another great way to keep students engaged in hybrid classrooms. Students can share ideas, give and receive feedback, and build social skills like communication and teamwork when working together on projects or assignments. There are many different ways you can encourage collaboration among your students; one option is using Google Docs (or another similar tool) so that multiple people can work on a document simultaneously from anywhere in the world. Alternatively, you could have students pair up for weekly study buddy sessions where they discuss what they are working on and help each other out with anything they are struggling with.

Make time for movement: Sitting still for long periods can be detrimental for both our physical and mental health, which is especially true for young people whose bodies are still developing. Where possible, try to incorporate movement into your lessons so that students do not spend too much time sitting down (this goes for both those in the physical classroom and those participating remotely). For example, you could start class with some quick stretches or yoga poses; host a brain break every 20 minutes or so where everyone gets up and moves around; or use lesson time as an opportunity for students to burn off some extra energy by having them stand up while they work through problems. Giving students some choice and autonomy over their learning can go a long way in terms of keeping them engaged. When students feel they have a say in what they are learning and how they are learning, they are more likely to be motivated and invested in the process. There are lots of different ways you can provide choice in your classroom; one option is to let students choose which project or assignment they want to work on or to let them decide how they want to present their work (e.g., as a video, a poster, a slideshow, etc.). You could also allow students to pick their learning buddies for collaborative activities or let them Choose which digital tool they want to complete a task.

Encourage independent learning: In a hybrid classroom, it is essential to encourage independent learning. This means allowing students to learn at their own pace and in their own time. By doing this, you will ensure that all students can engage with the material in a way that suits them best. Be flexible: One of the benefits of hybrid classrooms is that they offer more flexibility than traditional classrooms. Use this to your advantage by being flexible with your teaching and assessment methods. This will allow you to cater for the individual needs of each student. Evaluate regularly: As with any classroom, it is essential to evaluate student engagement regularly. This will help you identify any areas where improvements need to be made. By evaluating regularly, you can ensure that all students have the best chance to succeed in a hybrid classroom.

Please make use of student feedback by involving them in evaluating their learning. This can be a great way to keep them engaged and motivated. When students can provide feedback on their experiences, it can help you tailor your teaching to meet their needs better. There are lots of different ways you can collect student feedback. One option is to use a tool like Google Forms to create a quick survey that students can fill out at the end of each week. Alternatively, you could host a regular town hall meeting where students can share their thoughts and ideas on how the class is going.

 The hybrid classroom model is here to stay for the foreseeable future. While it comes with its own set of challenges, there are also many opportunities for educators to get creative and find new ways to engage their students in learning. By following the tips above, you will be well on your way to optimising student engagement in your hybrid classroom! Overall, it is clear that there are many benefits to optimising student engagement in hybrid classrooms. By doing so, students can gain the best of both worlds, the personalised attention they need to succeed, as well as the opportunity to learn and grow through social interaction with their peers. In addition, teachers can create a more dynamic and engaging learning environment that meets the needs of all students. While there may be some challenges to implementing hybrid classrooms, the potential benefits make it well worth the effort. With the correct planning and execution, hybrid classrooms can be an extremely effective way to promote student engagement and success.


The writer is Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK