Center for Teaching and Learning

Challenges of delivering live lectures to in-person and online students simultaneously

Note: For guidance on recommended approaches for instruction in autumn 2021, please visit: Preparing for autumn quarter 2021.

Faced with creating equitable, engaging experiences for in-person students and students who must participate remotely, you may be curious about whether a blended synchronous course model (also referred to as hybrid-flexible or hyflex) is a solution. The model is defined as “learning and teaching where remote students participate in face-to-face classes by means of rich-media synchronous technologies such as video conferencing, web conferencing or virtual worlds” (Bower, Matt, et al., 2015). But to be successful, this model requires more than just streaming live lectures.

This approach is complex for instructors and students, and it is resource-intensive to implement well, requiring extensive instructor preparation for each class session, staff support, and trained teaching assistants to ensure that:

  • technology runs smoothly for all participants,
  • course materials and activities are adapted to work across modalities, and
  • students in each modality receive similar attention and have equivalent opportunities to participate.

For these reasons, the UW Tacoma and UW Bothell campuses will not use hyflex for instruction. At the UW’s Seattle campus, we recommend avoiding hyflex. Alternatives to this approach include flipped learning, splitting weekly class sessions between in-person and online-only instruction (hybrid), or incorporating a greater number of fully online learning activities for all students.

Below are essential considerations for any instructors or departments still considering a hyflex instructional approach.

Course design and preparation

  • In hyflex, students choose each class session whether to participate in person or remotely. The number of students who opt for each modality changes throughout the quarter, so instructors need a system for students to identify their preferred modality in advance for the quarter, or before each class session.
  • Instructors need to provide opportunities for both online and in-person students to engage similarly with course content, the instructor, and each other, as well as to demonstrate their mastery of the learning objectives.
  • Course designs including fully online, hybrid, and in-person activities would need to continue to provide flexibility for students with disparate access to technology and study spaces.
  • Handling technical issues while interacting simultaneously with both in-person and online students is time consuming. Instructors would need to cut down their planned material for each class session in order to allow enough time to address issues when they arise.

Time, staffing and training

  • Instructors or supporting staff need to be actively involved in Zoom chat to engage remote students, facilitate activities or breakout rooms, answer questions, and address technical issues. For classes beyond a certain size or complexity, this facilitation would likely require at least one additional TA or student assistant to be involved with chat during class. More instructional staff assistance may be required for larger classes.
  • Instructors and departments would need to prepare to handle technology issues when they emerge. Please note that the UW is not staffed to provide just-in-time, in-person support for Zoom, Panopto, or classroom audio-visual systems.
  • Instructors or departments would need to develop their own plan for training and practice to build confidence with the technological and pedagogical approaches required for this type of class format. UW resources are available for some components of this model.

Technology

  • While some larger classrooms are outfitted with hardware for video streaming, instructors in medium to small classrooms would need portable multimedia hardware, such as a webcam and external microphone.
  • Instructors would need to share class content in a fully digital medium, since classroom whiteboards, chalkboards and overhead projectors are not well captured on video.

It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. Blended synchronous instruction can be difficult to concretely define, as it has been used in reference to a variety of instructional approaches, including but not exclusively relating to hyflex. The difficulty in defining this model should be indicative of the possible difficulty of its successful implementation.