A new hybrid teaching space at City
ISLA – hybrid teaching at city, university of london
Inclusive Synchronous Learning Activities (ISLA) is a new pedagogic and technical hybrid method for live teaching simultaneously to students who are both on campus and online. Academic staff simultaneously present to their class face to face and online using Zoom or Teams. A camera broadcasts them to the online audience and microphones pick up all speech in the room for the remote learners. This is often known as hybrid or dual delivery teaching.
ISLA rooms are primarily intended to enable interaction between students and lecturers and so are best suited for smaller class groups (max. 30-40 students, total). It is essentially comprised of an additional layer of technology, comprised of a large display screen for the Chat window and Gallery view, a second camera directed at the in-class students for those online to see, and additional ceiling microphones installed throughout the room to pick up discussions.
ISLA enables the following benefits for those who opt for hybrid teaching:
- Brings together a diversity of perspectives
- The whole class can interact with each other in real time
- Allows students to join classes when it is impossible to attend
- Provides student choice about mode of attendance
But it has the following challenges to be aware of:
- Complex to manage and teach the session
- Require familiarity with technical setup
- Limitations on suitable rooms
- Limitations on class sizes
- Vulnerable to changing circumstances (e.g. illness or a further lockdown)
- Vulnerable to technology issues
- Risk of inequitable experience
These are some of the existing terms that the HE sector is using as a taxonomy for synchronous teaching with a significant uptake in this hybrid approach since the Coronavirus pandemic and some before*. Many institutions have created these types of space now and for the future;
- Blended Synchronous
- Equitable model
The typical approach in the early days of the Pandemic was either complex or very basic and DIY, often not well thought through or technically complicated, largely through understandable reactive and tactical reasons. But without thoughtful planning it has significant implications for a poor student experience, mainly in terms of compromising an inclusive learning experience. There are issues around digital poverty, accessibility and home environments with potential risks to stress levels and student’s mental health. Equally it has substantial ramifications for teaching, as there are concerns with technical operability, module and course design, timetabling, classroom management, co-facilitation, preparation and assessment, for example.
Hybrid teaching often requires the intensive use of technology, which needs to be carefully designed and pedagogically supported. Coronavirus forced a shift to online learning that represented a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-design the curriculum particularly with a greater focus in active learning, less reliance on large group didactic teaching delivery and opportunities for progressive and positive changes.
We know that passive learning, mainly in undergraduate education is based on lectures but can be changed for the better by converting more course delivery to active and blended learning.
ISLA allowed City to begin to overcome the traditional barriers to active learning by creating opportunities for greater equity, engagement and enhanced educational experiences. It has opened up the potential for greater inclusivity, with digital accessibility reconsidered and the possibilities for wider audiences of students. But it is not simple!
Small isla space
This small seminar room for 16 students is equipped with 2 LCD screens, one for content and one for the gallery view for students in class
medium isla sPace
This medium size space caters for 40 students and features dual projection for the content and a large display screen for the students gallery view
large isla spaCe
This horseshoe shaped lecture theatre caters for 90 students and features Zoom Rooms control alongside the ubiquitous Crestron panel for content switching.
“It’s very exciting to teach in this room, my students were quite wary at first, but now they enjoy the dynamics of our hybrid classes.“
Educator at City