A Hybrid Classroom for Flexibility in Education — A Project From LaSalle College Financed as Part of the Digital Action Plan
This article is a translation of a text first published in the French edition of Profweb.
As part of its Digital Action Plan (DAP), the MEES (ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur) called for innovative projects linked to the use of digital technologies in higher education. Both of LaSalle College’s project proposals were funded:
- The development of a classroom dedicated to hybrid courses. This is the project that I am going to talk about in this article.
- The development of a room to encourage pedagogical innovation by teachers. That project is the subject of another article.
Hybrid courses, what are they?
The expression “hybrid course” can refer to different things, but, with regards to this project, LaSalle College uses it to mean HyFlex (hybrid-flexible). It means a course for which each student may choose, each class that the teacher offers it, if they will attend the class in person or remotely.
Profweb has already published teachers’ real life stories about HyFlex courses:
- J'assiste au cours, peu importe le lieu et le moment [in French] presents the experience of Jean Labbé and was published in 2012: that teacher was certainly a precursor.
- Grammar à la Carte - How a HyFlex Course Design Makes my Students’ Learning More Effective written by our editor, Andy Van Drom.
You can learn more about HyFlex courses by reading the explanatory page created by Laval University [in French] and by watching the testimony of a teacher who gives a lecture-based course as a HyFlex course [in French].
Why Hybrid Courses?
Mathieu Lépine, assistant director of studies at LaSalle College, supervises the projects of his college that were funded as part of the DAP. He explained to me that the idea to offer hybrid courses comes from the willingness of the College to personalise the students’ journey to better respond to the needs of every student.
LaSalle College already offers synchronous online courses, especially the last courses of the common tree. However, Mathieu Lépine explained to me that the college would like to offer “à la carte” online courses, and hybrid courses are a step in that direction.
The room to adapt
At LaSalle College, about half of the classrooms are active-learning classrooms. The college chose to use one of those active-learning classrooms to set up its hybrid classroom, since the audio equipment (speakers) was already in place. That being said, if the idea interests you for your own college, please note that it is absolutely not necessary that the room used to be an active learning classroom at first.
At LaSalle College, the following material was necessary to furnish the hybrid classroom (which does not prevent it to be used occasionally as a “normal” active-learning classroom):
- A wide-angle camera to film the whole classroom (in order for the remote students to be able to view the class). The camera can also zoom on the person making an intervention.
- 1 lavalier microphone for the teacher
- 2 microphones fixed to the ceiling to record the information from the students in the classroom
- 1 big screen (with a projector) so that the people in class can see the remote students (who film themselves with their webcam)
At LaSalle College, the platform selected for broadcasting is Adobe Connect. In fact, that platform was already used by the college for its 100% remote courses. However, other free platforms can also be used: Microsoft Classroom, Google Classroom, etc.
The participating teachers
The college recruited 6 of its teachers who had already experimented with online courses to try hybrid teaching in the fall of 2019. Those teachers come from various disciplines: from the common tree as well as computer sciences or fashion.
The class having just been put in place, the first classes of the semester could be given in class only while the teachers adapt to the new classroom. Mathieu Lépine explained to me that many of the teachers that were recruited were not necessarily at ease with offering all of their classes in the “flexible” mode: it is possible that the students will be obligated, occasionally, to show up in class. For other classes of the course, they will be able to choose their mode of attendance. If everything goes well, at least 25 hours of class could be given in the hybrid format each week at LaSalle College.
At the end of the semester, LaSalle College will survey students and participating teachers (via surveys or discussion groups) to evaluate the impact of a hybrid course on the students’ motivation. The students’ grades and the absenteeism rate will also be studied to quantify the impact of a hybrid class on academic success.
Mathieu Lépine and Hans Olivier Puskas, educational support coordinator at LaSalle College, did not want to guess the proportion of students who will choose to attend the class remotely. But they suppose, very reasonably, I think, that the “remote” mode should be particularly popular early in the day, late in the day, or in the evening.
To be continued…
When I spoke with Mathieu Lépine and Hans Olivier Puskas, the equipment was being tested. It is certainly a project to keep an eye on and Profweb will keep you posted about the benefits of the project in the months to come!
Thanks to Mathieu Lépine, assistant director of studies at LaSalle College and Hans Olivier Puskas, educational support coordinator, for taking the time to speak with me and for their excellent collaboration in the writing of this article.