November 29, 2016. Business Arrow Education Author: Marcus Burrows

The Future of Education - Hybrid Learning

The age of traditional learning is long gone. How many times have you learnt a new subject recently and relied solely on sitting in a classroom to listen to a teacher?

To take me as an example, I have recently taken up a new subject. My learning path includes web based training from the vendor’s website, YouTube videos, a hands-on lab with remote access, vendor documentation, Wikipedia, a LinkedIn group, and I’ll be attending a “normal” training course – but the latter will probably be as a remote delegate. I’ll sit at home with headphones and webcam and participate from there.

Here at Arrow we have been delivering IT training in a variety of formats for some time now. You can attend a classroom at an Arrow office, attend a classroom held at your own office, or attend virtually. The latter option is itself varied in that you might end up being in a “classroom” where every other delegate has a remote connection, or a hybrid “classroom” where some delegates are at our training centre and others are remotely connected. I taught one course where a delegate started as a remote delegate but then opted to attend locally. 

Flexibility is built in – if there is illness, a train strike or even babysitting issues, then the options to be local or remote could change. Changing the mode of learning halfway through a course isn’t ideal, but the option is there. Virtual classrooms also span time zones. Provided that the foreign delegate is aware of the local time zone and when breaks will be held and so on, then there really is no barrier for anyone attending one of our classes from anywhere, and they do.

little boy hand up

How does a hybrid class compare with a “normal” class where all the delegates are local? Well, firstly it affects delivery style. The instructor will actually speak differently. He can no longer point to a part of the screen, but now has to describe that part of the screen succinctly so the remote delegates can follow - a more precise mode of speech is required. Also, an instructor may have to raise his voice slightly depending on what type of microphone he is using. Perhaps he’s using a radio microphone, in which case he can talk at normal volume and move around the room freely, but that won’t pick up local delegates’ voices every time. This all comes out in the wash – after a short time the instructor gets the knack for teaching using different audio equipment. 

A hybrid class affects the interaction with the delegates. When we train to be trainers, we learn certain classroom techniques to increase attentiveness and engagement levels. This might comprise of body language, or moving around the room for example. These techniques are largely negated for teaching remote delegates so the instructor has to think of other ways to create a positive learning atmosphere where everyone stays focused. 

Remote learning and hybrid classrooms also affect the delegates themselves. Remote delegates need a greater degree of self-discipline to remain attentive for an entire session – it’s all too easy to flick from one screen to another or be distracted by something in the home or office: after all, the instructor can’t actually see you and immediately pull you back in to the learning process.

Apple, iPad

When it comes to doing some practical work, there isn’t really too much difference between helping a local and remote delegates. After a couple of clicks, I can see a remote screen, read an error message and give advice. It’s not so very different to standing behind someone and telling them to click on this or that.

Finally, you may be surprised to learn that we even teach “hands-on” courses to remote delegates. That is, courses where the learner is using real, physical equipment for the practical exercises. How is this made possible? It really depends on what the course requirements are. Sometimes the physical equipment is powered on and cabled up ready for the course and we merely provide remote access to it. Perhaps a vendor has a requirement that a course be completed before a delegate can receive accreditation and yet the delegate is already a subject matter expert through field experience. In that case, the vendor can sometimes agree to replace some of the hands-on work with a video demonstration. Virtualisation is the big winner here though. A simulator made available over the internet can often do the work of expensive physical equipment quite nicely. The point is that almost any course can be made into a hybrid class.

All in all, hybrid classrooms and remote teaching means flexibility and reduced costs. Companies are more likely to release staff for a course with lower expenses and they are still on hand for an urgent issue at work. People nowadays are used to different learning methods and hybrid classrooms are now added to the mix, allowing learners to access an instructor – a real person - and yet retain flexibility and an on-site presence.

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Marcus Burrows is a Training Consultant in the Arrow Education team.

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