In case you missed it, this blog post is a recap of the Exploring Mixed-mode delivery session LX.lab hosted on Tuesday 16th July. This workshop was our first step into understanding what teaching staff require to successfully run a mixed mode subject.

Lucy Arthur introduced us to the complexities of Mixed-mode and surveyed the current landscape in her recent blogpost. So read that if you’re new to this game.

What do you do if…

The session opened with a kind of challenge: What do you do if some students don’t want to or simply cannot come into campus? The reasons ranged from geographical to immunological: staying in China or a three hour commute and the understandable concern about growing outbreaks of Coronavirus in Sydney.

Room availability

How many rooms with the required equipment are available, and so how many classes can actually run this setup? The answer to this one is not so simple. There are 120 Zoom-enabled rooms and you can check your room by going to Search Audio Visual Equipment in a Room or visiting the UTS Audio Visual Service (AVS) at avs.uts.edu.au.

At the moment these rooms work great for broadcasting one-way through Zoom, but need technical adjustments for bi-directional communication – that is, if you need the remote students to talk back to you in the classroom.  

Physical distancing: Also of course, we need to ensure 4sqm per person at the moment. This presents additional challenges for communication between the teacher, students in a classroom and those on Zoom.

Online facilitators

It was also suggested that ideally there should be remote monitoring of student presentations in class so that those overseas can participate and ask questions as much as anyone else. This includes a presentation from overseas via zoom.

Even with a purely Zoom tutorial, having two facilitators is optimal. One for the chat and one for talking.

Zoom ghosting – but lively by text

Everyone reported having difficulty getting students in Autumn to use audio and video. First year students in particular insisted on using the chat box only. Students with a first language other than English also reported that written text chat was easier to understand than poor-quality audio.

Other students felt awkward. They didn’t want to be visible or didn’t feel they were publicly presentable.

However, in Chemistry and Maths subjects chat is very difficult once you start wanting students to reply with symbols and formulas.

I had a mix of cameras on and off. I found if I got them into it from the beginning they kept the camera on.

Double the work, double the cost, double the time?

Some attendees wondered about teaching budgets for on-campus classes. Would it double the cost to have twice the space for half the number of students?

It was also clear that activities using virtual whiteboards were roughly two times slower than in when everyone is in the classroom together. There was the general sense that in synchronous online classes you can only cover so much and the pace is slower. Many said they got around this by using far more asynchronous activities.

Labs from home?

When subject learning outcomes are very much tied to the demonstration of technical skills, how do the online students get to the same level as on-campus students. Is it safe to run labs at home? Could there be mobile labs that visit students’ localities? Are pocketlabs suitable for Higher Ed?

It’s an experiment

One idea that resonated was letting go of the feeling you should be in control of the class when things get mixed. Some reported that as teachers, the tech setup was confusing for them but fine for each group of students, and students only used one or two communication platforms in the end anyway.

Overall we told students we were experimenting to find what worked best

Recording

It’s worth noting for online delivery that a classroom that is classified as ‘Zoom-enabled’, can also be used to create recordings. This might be on the lectern PC or your own laptop via Zoom,  Kaltura Capture, Echo Universal capture, or any other software based platform if installed.

Actual implementation

While the concept of mixed mode teaching itself is interesting, most attendees wanted to know exactly how they could implement it in their specific setting rather than the general concept and theory. The way it can be implemented heavily depends on the particular setting each teacher faces. For example, the class size, shared screens vs white board, whether you want to show the faces of on-campus students to online students, etc.

The LX.lab was asked to develop some resources in consultation with AVS, potentially with “flow charts”, that show what technologies would be suitable to what specific setup, each with their pros and cons.

In short, it’s happening now! Watch this space and save this date for the next Community panel session: Thursday 27th August.

We have a working group in place and some Subject Coordinators have been experimenting in collaboration with AVS.

In our next meetup, we’ll be able to provide some more concrete recommendations and case studies. Meanwhile, AVS is ready to help you explore your technical options in specific rooms.

Good luck with your teaching and learning experiments. Until then, remember to contact the LX.lab when you need support for all things learning and teaching related.

Upcoming workshop

Feature image by Andre Moura from Pexels

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