Hybrid classrooms pave the way to a holistic teaching and learning environment

Technology can move existing teaching methods far beyond the scope of the traditional classroom

As the pandemic starts to wind down, students are welcomed back to the classroom, yet many schools have still chosen to keep online classes in the upcoming semesters.

I worked with Peter Claxton, our senior director of edtech solutions in Europe, and we observed that many schools and universities are not planning to fully return to in-person teaching due to the restrictions on on-site presence. It’s even harder for international students with the travel restrictions to return to school, so schools and educators are looking to ensure that education remains uninterrupted through hybrid learning, which combines in-class and distance learning.

In 2020, ViewSonic worked with a prominent university in Taiwan to establish our first hybrid classroom, creating a model to demonstrate this new form of education. I’d like to share that experience with you, and I hope it’s as informative for you as it was for us.

A new kind of education

Digital teaching is not a new concept in education, but the sheer demand and necessity for it in the wake of the pandemic was something no educational institution could have foreseen. Chung Yuan Christian University (CYCU) in Taiwan was no different. The university had been utilising online teaching for years through pre-recorded videos for students to learn asynchronously and remotely. However, teachers ran into difficulties with these programs as pre-recorded course materials take time to film and edit, are inflexible, lack interactivity, and do not address differing levels of students.

Realising the benefits of investing early in a hybrid learning solution, CYCU sought a solution that would offer a better teaching and learning experience that isn’t confined to the four walls of a classroom.

Building a holistic hybrid learning environment

To meet this challenge head-on, CYCU installed and implemented a hybrid classroom on campus. The key factor being to give equal weight to in-class and remote learners by fully integrating online teaching into the physical classroom, where teachers can use their established teaching methods and interact with both remote and in-class students simultaneously to bridge the gap between online and in-person learning.

Taking into account that many teachers would not have been trained in online teaching, an equally important factor is the delivery of a simplified and intuitive online teaching platform, where teachers can effortlessly learn about and adopt available technological tools in class.

Key components of the hybrid classroom

A successful hybrid classroom is built on a combination of hardware and software designed to seamlessly integrate the physical and digital into one cohesive teaching environment.

At the heart of the hybrid classroom solution is the large interactive touch display embedded with digital white boarding software that allows teachers to present, annotate, and collaborate on the display in real-time in such a way that is easily viewable by in-person and remote students. The software is easy to use for both teachers and students and fully incorporates the interactive capabilities of the display to help increase student engagement. Working in tandem with this is the pen display that allows teachers to write naturally on a portable display that instantly projects the content to the large interactive display at the front of the classroom.

A successful hybrid classroom is built on a combination of hardware and software designed to seamlessly integrate the physical and digital into one cohesive teaching environment

Working in combination with the interactive display, two projectors are also installed in the hybrid classroom to bring remote students, in-class students, and the teacher closer to one another by providing real-time video of each other during class. Both project images on the back wall of the classroom and are configured to display the remote students on one screen and the mirror the whiteboard display on the other. This configuration helps bring the remote students into the physical space of the teacher and allows the teacher to focus on the course or activity and maintain a high level of interactivity with the students without having to turn their back on the class.

Of the two cameras installed, one follows the teacher with automatic panning, while the other records students in the classroom so that students learning remotely can see their classmates to give them a sense of being in the room. Finally, the wireless mic detects and transmits the teacher’s voice directly to the classroom’s sound system and to the online teaching system to deliver an equally clear audio experience for in-class and remote learners.

A win for all involved

The outcomes of the hybrid classroom established at CYCU have shown the solution to be a resounding success, opening new opportunities for schools, teachers, and students. Hybrid learning now has the potential to eliminate the physical barrier of class size, helping schools with teacher shortages and allowing existing teachers to keep their preferred teaching methods as education moves into the digital era. But most importantly, students can continue to learn in times when they are unable to be physically present in the class.

This success case shows how technology can move existing teaching methods far beyond the scope of the traditional classroom. In a sense, the hybrid classroom at CYCU marks a milestone in education technology. The schools can refer to this hybrid model to develop more innovative teaching in the post-pandemic era, and truly achieve education equality for all students, regardless of location.

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