Hybrid Learning Comes to FCLIR

This fall the Five College Learning in Retirement program will introduce the option of in-person or remote attendance, known as hybrid learning, for a limited number of seminars. Following the success of Zoom classes during the COVID pandemic, the FCLIR Council voted to introduce hybrid learning as a solution to permanently expand remote learning, and to accommodate those who want to resume in-person meetings. The Five College Annex in Hatfield has two classrooms equipped with hybrid cameras, microphones, and screens.

To help us learn more about the introduction of the hybrid model, Michael Miller, the new President of LIR, and two seminar moderators, Jay Russell and Bob Cohen, agreed to share their initial impressions about the program. Michael Miller, the new President of LIR, played a leadership role in promoting the introduction of the hybrid model. He pioneered the concept during the spring semester and described it as reasonably successful. Jay Russell volunteered to introduce the hybrid option in his Viewpoints interest group because members of his group were divided about preference for in-person or remote learning, and hybrid offered the opportunity to provide both simultaneously. Bob Cohen is offering a hybrid class this fall with co-moderator Nancy Clune for their Motown seminar.

All agreed that despite a bumpy learning curve, the start-up problems are being addressed and are mostly resolved. For example, developing what Michael described as “hybrid etiquette” around managing the use of microphones and cameras will facilitate the integration of this model and ensure an optimal learning experience for all. In addition, the FCLIR Council recently approved the purchase of a dedicated computer for use in hybrid classes to simplfy implementation.

The three believe it is important for moderators who utilize the hybrid model to have a co-moderator. This allows one person to focus on content and the other to manage the technology, in addition to creating opportunities for potential new moderators to participate before committing to their own seminars. The second person can monitor issues the remote learners may have, and attend to details such as camera and speaker positions.

Jeff Cross of FCI, who manages the Annex building, said that a key to the success of this initiative is to familiarize the moderators with the technology so that they can achieve a sufficient comfort level prior to the start of their classes. There is a plan to provide orientation and training to moderators who offer hybrid classes. Michael Miller plans to create a YouTube instructional video for new moderators to learn about the technical aspects of the hybrid model. In addition, written guidance is available in the meeting rooms.

Jeff acknowledged that while adding a monitor and speakers to the learning process can initially be intimidating to some moderators, he is confident that with orientation and support, the hybrid model will operate smoothly. All agreed that review and evaluation of the hybrid model at the end of the semester will provide an opportunity for continuous improvement before expanding the number of hybrid classes in the spring.

Overall, the introduction of hybrid learning will provide the best of both worlds—personal interaction for those who are eager to resume in-person meetings and maximum flexibility for those who prefer the convenience of attending class from their own home.

Joanne Locke