Hybrid Learning Comes to 5CLIR

by Joanne Locke

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 LIR 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 held at the Five College Annex in Hatfield. To learn more about the introduction of the hybrid model, Michael Miller, the new President of LIR, and two seminar moderators, Jay Russell and Bob Kaplan, agreed to share their initial impressions about the program.

Michael Miller, the new President of LIR, played a central leadership role in promoting the introduction of the hybrid model. He launched the concept during the spring semester and described it as reasonably successful. Jay Russell volunteered to introduce the hybrid process in his Viewpoints discussion 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 in the 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 LIR Council recently approved the purchase of a dedicated computer for use in hybrid classes to facilitate implementation. The Council decided to use a PC to avoid what Miller described as Apple’s idiosyncrasies, which created some initial compatibility problems.

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. Jeff Cross, who provides IT support to LIR, said that a key to the success of this initiative is to familiarize the moderators with the technology so they can achieve a sufficient comfort level prior to the start of their classes. A second person can monitor issues the remote learners may have, and attend to details such as camera and speaker positions. There is a plan to provide orientation and training to moderators who offer hybrid classes. Michael Miller plans to create a You Tube instructional video for new moderators to learn about the technical aspects of the hybrid model. In addition, worksheets and onsite support will be available.

Jeff acknowledged that while adding a monitor and speakers to the learning process can be initially 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