Hybrid learning – what is it and why is it a game changer?

Patricia SantosHead of the e-Learning corporate production team, Cegos Group

In our last blog, we looked at the concept of hybrid working. Since the advent of the pandemic, there has been much talk about ‘hybrid learning’. So, what exactly is hybrid learning? And why should businesses and learning professionals take note?

Hybrid learning takes place when the trainer and only some of the participants work in the same room. Other participants join online as if in a virtual workshop. All participants are encouraged to interact with each other and learn together.

Importantly, hybrid learning is not the same as blended learning. Blended learning applies to a mix of live classes (virtual or face-to-face) and self-directed e-learning. Hybrid learning applies specifically to live learning sessions.

There are several advantages to hybrid learning. Firstly, it allows people who find it difficult to travel – due to Covid-19 restrictions or other issues – to join the training programme. It also allows businesses to run training programmes for regional or even global teams, without the expense of flying everyone to one destination and accommodating them. As a bonus, it helps improve your company’s carbon footprint!

Managing hybrid learning

Engagement is the biggest challenge when it comes to managing a hybrid training session. How do you keep people online fully engaged at the same time as those present in the room? There is a danger the trainer will instinctively work closely with those in the room, while online participants will act more as observers. This is far from ideal.

Everyone must be made to feel part of the same group. It’s important for the trainer to make sure the online group and people joining virtually are fully integrated.

So, how does this work in practice? There are several strategies a trainer can adopt.

  • Make sure all face-to-face participants have direct access to those joining virtually. Each learner should have a laptop or tablet where they can interact directly with those online. All virtual participants should switch on their cameras to help with interaction.
  • Never split virtual and face-to-face participants when working on class exercises. Make sure each group or pairing is made up of a mix of in-room and virtual participants. For example, when an in-room participant is paired up with someone online, they can relay questions from their virtual buddy to the trainer. This is helpful because the trainer cannot monitor the chat as they would in a totally virtual session.
  • The trainer should carefully consider the way they present the training to ensure their language is inclusive. They should remember that those joining virtually may need visual cues to help them access the training materials. For example, slides and other resources should be clearly marked with titles, page numbers, etc. and referred to explicitly by the trainer where necessary.
  • The trainer should also ensure the camera or cameras are placed where they are always visible to the online participants. It is very difficult for online participants to engage with a trainer who keeps disappearing out of view!
  • Use a co-producer if possible. A good co-producer will manage all the interactions between in-room and virtual participants and ensure online participants are looking at the correct document, allowing the trainer to focus on the act of teaching.

Hybrid learning in the future

Developments in technology will make hybrid learning more effective in the future. I remember a few years ago , where each virtual participant had access to a robot in the room. I could command the robot to look in any direction and move around, which made the virtual experience much more realistic.

In real life, we never fix our gaze on the trainer the whole time. Instead, we naturally observe people and things of interest in the room.

The best hybrid and virtual training programmes are the ones where you forget you are online. And that is the ideal scenario when bringing people together, wherever they may be.

If you would like to know more about how to use hybrid learning in your training programs, contact Cegos today.

Written by

Patricia Santos

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