Paul L. Caron

Monday, June 22, 2020

Blackman: How To Teach A Hybrid Law School Class

Josh Blackman (South Texas), The Difficulties of Teaching a "Hybrid" Class:

This fall, universities will adopt three general approaches to instruction: (1) in-person instruction, (2) online instruction, and (3) hybrid instruction. This post will focus on the logistics of "hybrid" classes: specifically, where half the class is in person, and half the class is watching from home. This approach is the most difficult method, by far. Strictly in-person classes will be made tough because of social distancing rules. But the general pedagogy is familiar. And strictly online classes face certain technical difficulties. However, all of the students are on the same level, with the same challenges.

The difficulty with any "hybrid" approach is that professors have to simultaneously appeal to two very different groups of students: those who are in-person, and those who are online. At any given time, half the class will feel neglected. Pedagogy aimed at facilitating online discussion (like checking the chat feature and waiting for a student's video feed to buffer) will annoy students in class. And pedagogy aimed at the warm bodies in the room (writing on the white board or calling on a student out of the microphone's range) will annoy the students at home. Pedagogy aimed at satisfying both groups will fail to satisfy either. All the while, the professor will have to keep his eye on the real hands in the rooms, and the blue hands in the queue. Professors will have to juggle a lot of balls in the air at once.

This post will address the challenges of hybrid instruction. ...

Josh Blackman (South Texas), Another Proposal for the "Hybrid" Class:

Earlier today, I wrote a lengthy post about the difficulties of teaching a "hybrid" class. In any given session, half the students will be "in person" and half the students will be "online," watching from home. This staggered approach will ensure students are able to space themselves out in the classroom. But hybrid classes present serious problems.

I explained that classrooms are not set up for hybrid instruction. I proposed that additional monitors should be added to the podium to ensure that the professor can easily see the Zoom grid, the Zoom chat, as well as powerpoint slides and other visuals. Of course, I recognized that this technological overload may overwhelm professors.

After I wrote the post, a colleague from another school called and proposed an ingenuous solution. It is foolhardy to try to teach professors to manage so many displays. Trust me. It's not going to work in two months. Also, it is not feasible to tax IT departments to supervise every class. IT professional across the country have performed heroic work in the last few months. But they cannot do everything.

My colleague suggested a far more simple solution: allow teaching assistants to assist with teaching! I prefer to call them "Zoom Producers." In short, students would handle all of the technical elements of the class, and the professors can do what they do best: teach.

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