RITS, The Flex-Hybrid Teaching Method and Best Practices

For those teaching exclusively online, whether synchronous or asynchronous, the Risk  and Insurance Teaching Society (RITS) has held multiple webinars about online teaching strategies to complement the experience we’ve gained by converting to remote teaching formats in the spring. Mike Hubbel of Temple University shared his experiences and insights teaching online and making this an effective learning experience.

RITS also held a webinar to allow educators to share their experiences coping with COVID-19.  The discussion focused on challenges with teaching during these uncommon times, and how to overcome them. Please note, Michael Morrisey retired from the IIS on June 17th, 2020. The new President is Joshua Landau.

One teaching mode many are facing for the first time this fall is simultaneously offering students the option to attend class face-to-face, synchronous online, and asynchronous online. This approach is sometimes referred to as flex-hybrid or concurrent hybrid course delivery.

Steve Miller is employing this flex-hybrid approach at the University of South Florida (USF) this fall. “We’re seeking to respond to the students and parents who emphasized their desire for a face-to-face experience while simultaneously engaging those students who, due to their needs, prefer to attend class remotely.

Miller is working with a mentor through a Muma College of Business program established this summer to help faculty prepare for the uncertainty of the fall semester and deliver the best possible student learning experience.  “Not only is the flex-hybrid approach new to many of our faculty, but also depending upon what happens with COVID-19 this fall, we may need to convert our courses to fully online.  Planning and preparing to deliver our courses using the flex-hybrid approach will help us adapt and respond as circumstances dictate.”      

A key challenge with the flex-hybrid approach is making the in-class lecture experience high-quality and engaging for students who are attending class synchronously online. Working with his mentor, Miller identified a couple of different flex-hybrid delivery options.

  1. Using classroom technology – In this case, the classroom is designed with a video camera and microphone to enable video conferencing or live-streaming and recording of lectures.
    1. Key checklist to make sure this approach will meet your needs:
      1. How well are the slides and whiteboard captured by the camera? Is the resolution adequate? Tip: If you have quality concerns, try the 2-PC approach below.
      2. If using a whiteboard, how big do you need to write for students online to follow along?Tip: Try using a Doc-cam or a tablet PC whiteboard.
      3. Is the audio quality adequate when wearing a mask? Tip: Consider a remote Bluetooth headset.
  2. The 2-PC approach – In this case, the instructor uses two different PCs. The instructor logs on to a tablet or laptop (PC#1 – typically the instructor’s tablet) to run the lecture with the online students (e.g., MS-Teams). The instructor also logs on to the podium PC (PC#2) to project the MS-Teams lecture to the face-to-face students.The strength of this approach is that the quality of the online experience is essentially the same as the in-class experience. 
    1. Key checklist to make this approach work:
      1. The instructor would typically log on to MS-Teams on PC#2 using a ‘guest’ student account.   
      2. To use a whiteboard, it works best if you use an electronic whiteboard on your tablet. Just flip between slides and your favorite whiteboard app (e.g., MS-Whiteboard, MS-Teams, PowerPoint, etc.).Tip: PowerPoint Whiteboard allows you to save whiteboard annotations to a file so you can post them to your LMS after class.  
      3. For sound quality and flexibility, use a Bluetooth headset connected to PC#1.Tip: This also enables you to clearly hear online students if they ask a question. 
  3. Embed recorded lecture segments into your PowerPoint lecture slides.This is a variation that works in combination with either of the delivery methods above. This can be particularly useful in high student-interaction environments where you might place a premium on being able to serve as the moderator of the class.This allows you to focus your attention on the students while you advance through your pre-recorded lecture in PowerPoint. Tip:  Have your face-to-face students bring their laptops so they can participate in the online experience (e.g., breakout groups, surveys, pools, etc.).

USF launched this new mentorship program to help faculty prepare for these unprecedented times in education. The goal of this program is to help faculty leverage both teaching expertise and university resources to better serve students this fall. “We don’t want our faculty relying too heavily on plans to teach in person.  Nor do we want to assume that the quick transition we implemented in spring (e.g., to MS Teams sessions or recorded lectures) will deliver value to our students. Becoming more proficient at leveraging technology to communicate and interact with our students will be key to our success in the ‘classroom’. ”