Enhancing the lecture theatre for an inclusive hybrid learning experience

A real-world example of how technology has unified dispersed students and lecturers

It’s fair to say there is significant debate about remote learning in HE. At the start of the pandemic there was no choice, and remote learning was the only option. Now, we have choices, and decisions are being made about the future of remote and hybrid learning in Higher Education.

Below we share details of a pilot project that takes the traditional lecture theatre and adapts it to create inclusive environments for students, whether learning remotely, in-person or through a hybrid approach.

Hybrid learning is here, and questions are being asked about whether or not it’s sustainable. Can students get full value from their tuition fees and time at university if they are not physically present in their learning space?

But simply restricting the options to either in-person OR remote isn’t acceptable.

The real question is the same one that is being asked across all sectors of society. Where do I need to be to achieve my goals most effectively? Or, in HE, where can I achieve my most effective learning?

The reality is that a university education is made up of a range of different experiences. Some of which require the upfront and personal, but could others be achieved just as effectively a different way?

Large Group Teaching

The role and quality of large group teaching were under scrutiny before anyone had even heard of COVID. Was the broadcast of information to largely passive groups really the best way to prepare students to enter the world of work?

Moves were already being made towards an active and collaborative learning experience. Even in large group settings, different technology options were being explored to facilitate and stimulate that multiway engagement between student and lecturer and peer to peer.

“Before the Pandemic, the University had the vision to see that we needed to update our teaching venues, and a programme was underway that would offer enhanced collaboration and lecture capture facilities.” Patrick Daly (former Assistant Director for Learning and Teaching Support, Queen’s University Belfast).

At Queen’s University Belfast, the arrival of the pandemic expediated plans already in place to increase the potential for collaborative learning in their lecture spaces.

“When the Pandemic hit, we realised we needed to go further and turn our spaces into connected learning and collaboration venues that offer an inclusive experience to all our users across every setting. Whether a student is attending a venue physically or virtually, they must have an equal opportunity to engage with academics and fellow students”. 

But this is not the case everywhere. As institutions made a dramatic and rapid switch to remote learning, the priority in the first instance was to ensure continuity of learning. That meant the acceleration of investment in tools like Microsoft Teams, recording and lecture capture, and a relative slowing in investment to enhance active and collaborative approaches in the in-room environment. A logical response as with empty lecture theatres and virtually 100% of teaching now online, the focus had to be on driving engagement within a virtual environment.

However, as those percentages have started to shift and large group teaching is making its return (albeit at an uneven pace), many institutions are taking a fresh look at the traditional lecture theatre and the potential role of hybrid learning.

The ability to expand the reach of learning, create new timetabling flexibility, and support continuity of learning in the face of personal need, or an as yet unknown future crisis, certainly has appeal.

Always on the condition that the quality and equality of the learning experience is maintained.

Is it possible to have hybrid flexibility without complexity?

There is no question that the introduction of remote participation into a lecture theatre environment adds additional complexity to active and collaborative large group learning.

There is now another remote set of individuals to consider and engage with alongside the in-room audience. This group needs the same quality of experience and opportunity to engage as those present in the room—all the while ensuring that the academic has a straightforward way to manage those interactions.

However, as the pilot project at Queen’s University Belfast demonstrates, we can take steps to remove complexity from the hybrid approach and use technology to enhance the experience of both lecturer and student. And, suddenly, the long-term potential for hybrid learning begins to open up.

Creating high-quality hybrid experiences

So, how can we use technology to overcome the challenges presented by hybrid approaches and create a better, more inclusive experience for all involved? Using the example of the pilot learning spaces at Queen’s University Belfast, this was the challenge that Pure AV, Sennheiser and Queen’s University explored in a recent seminar.

The seminar considers how to tackle challenges such as

  • How to enhance the remote learner’s experience
  • The integration of traditional teaching tools into a hybrid lecture
  • The enhancement of audio performance in hybrid spaces
  • Voice-based camera tracking for audience inclusion and capture
  • Control and how to create a straightforward experience for the lecturer

Watch on-demand to hear the first-hand experiences of the team at Queen’s University Belfast (Dr Dan Corbett, Lecturer at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering,  Mohamed Hamed, Media Services Manager) and see a demo of the system from their 300-seat lecture theatre.

Learn more about the system design, as Sennheiser and Pure AV talk about the key technologies behind the solution. And dig a little deeper into the solution through the questions asked during the closing Q&A section.

This is a conversation about hybrid and about bringing together technology and teaching practice to improve the learner’s experience, wherever and whenever that learning is accessed.

View the full Seminar www.pureav.co.uk/ub

Leave a Reply

Free live webinar & QA

Blended learning – Did we forget about the students?

Free Education Webinar with Class

Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

Join our expert panel as we look at what blended learning means in 2022 and how universities can meet the needs of ever more diverse student expectations.