For the past two months, the Community for Learning and Innovation has been running the initial phase of a pilot scheme using state-of-the-art hybrid lecture theatres in the Theil building. Lecturers Tim de Mey (Erasmus School of Philosophy), Josse Delfgaauw and Emö Oldenkamp (both Erasmus School of Economics) took part in it.
Students could follow the lectures live via an interactive Zoom link or watch the recordings later on Panopto. Delfgaauw also livestreamed lectures on Panopto, which meant that although students could not be seen in the hall, they could still ask questions using the chat function.
These first three early adopters were tasked with identifying all the issues hybrid education can bring about. How do you make the questions asked in the lecture hall and at home understandable? How can you engage home viewers and how do you ensure everyone can see guest speakers? Plus, which online channels work best?
Although it is still too soon to draw any firm conclusions, one of the biggest hurdles turned out to be facilitating the asking of questions. With Panopto, students could only do so via chat and students at home could not always understand the questions asked in the lecture theatre. For this reason, De Mey worked with a Catchbox (a wireless microphone housed in a throwable soft cube) in the lecture theatre – for anyone who dared. Oldenkamp and Delfgaauw decided against this because of the contamination risk. Pilot Project Manager Fem Windhorst explained that initially, it had been difficult for the lecturers to get the students at home involved in the lecture, so a special student assistant was put in the lecture theatre with De Mey to bring his attention to any online questions.
The nature of questions asked by students also seemed to differ during the pilot. One of the lecturers had the impression that the questions from students at home were less related to the subject matter than the ones asked by students in the lecture theatre. During the pilot scheme, the number of students in the hall fell considerably whereas the number of viewers online remained stable. Nevertheless, the students that had remained gave the lectures positive reviews.
The pilot scheme will be continued on a larger scale in January when there will be more lecture rooms ready and the lecturers will be better prepared. “Then we will set up the lectures specifically for hybrid education, instead of reusing already existing lectures”, says Windhorst.