Hybrid Spaces

I am having an ADHD day from hell so to get my brain back into focus I just went down to the kitchen and made a chocolate cake and now I do what I always do to get the thinking thoughts out of my head–I write. (Okay I cheated and used a bake mix so that was an effort of less than 10 minutes.) The cake baking is my Pomodoro Technique for editing this blog post. One of the things that I keep coming back to is the fluidity between the physical and digital realm that will be more prominent this coming academic year, than it has before. So my mind is often on these hybrid spaces. Mind you the core of this post is something I wrote for a working group. There was not yet time to read and reflect any much further. I just wanted to formulate this a bit more and share for feedback.


Campus as Means of Interaction

Hybrid spaces instead of traditional classrooms. Over the last couple of weeks as pivot to online learning slowly merged into a plethora of terminology: remote to physically distanced learning, online learning, f2f learning, synchronous and asynchronous and Zoomroom versus Roomroom (okay I might have made that one up) have stirred various debates, my favourite term, the one that somehow made click was hybrid classroom. Maybe because it fits the bill for ambiguity a virtual classroom can be or inevitably is hybrid, a physical classroom is hybrid as well.

One of the questions when talking to colleagues about decisions which classroom have to be held physically is: What are these spaces for? What do you want to achieve and do in that physical space that cannot be done in any other way? I think simply trying to translate a seminar, workshop, lecture, into the physical classroom just with less students, is a miscomprehension of the entirety of the situation:
not just from a pedagogical point of view, but there are issues around accessibility, students and staff that might have to continue shielding, that are living so far away that they might still not be able to travel to the UK, or are far away enough to make commuting on a daily basis unfeasible and have financial concerns about moving onto or close to campus if there are only limited times during which campus can be accessed, to issues around mental health and anxieties about coming to campus, wearing masks, seeing people in masks/vice versa there might be students who are in need for a safe accommodation, for access to PCs and/or internet and social contact.

Categories of Space?

Under consideration of these points. What is the purpose for the time on campus? Leading these thoughts further made me wonder if we can categorise these campus and hybrid spaces?

  • Self-study, writing, access to internet and computers
  • In classroom interaction with peers and educators
  • Interaction socially (clubs, societies, unions)
  • Interaction with staff (tutors, lectures, support staff)
  • Interaction with the space itself: for belonging, experience, interacting with one another through the space (the space a vehicle to connect people)

Another way to think about these hybrid spaces is to think about them as three different types of hybrid space:

  1. fluid,
  2. self-study,
  3. and gathering spaces.

We need to address the mindset that the physical space, is for teaching-as-usual-just-with-less-students and some on Zoom. The main questions to ask when redesigning for a (on campus) hybrid classroom are:

  • What is the purpose of this class?
  • What are my session ILOs?
  • Is a hybrid classroom the best way to achieve it?
  • What are we using the hybrid classrooms for?

The three types of hybrid classroom (there might be more) could be used the following way:

Fluid Spaces where the interaction through the space (the space building the bridge between learning and learners) is the point of engagement:

A throughput like in a museum or a gym (involve experts who do the calculations for footfall and throughput). With areas where the students are more stationary (is there an activity buffet/stations of sorts? Where they engage within the space with their educators and peers) combined with areas where throughput has a higher frequency and speed (maybe combine the interaction with your peers through the space (games above that can be learning games, collect information, get help, solve a challenge). For instance: students can write and post things in each station (e.g. on a big sheet of paper or post-its”, and for example, or use their mobile devices, centre around a question for debate/invitation for thoughts. Students can then read each other’s posts and participate in a conversation asynchronously but physically. 

To summarise:

the learners can move through different stations to collect information (ABC curriculum design=acquisition) this can happen outdoors (see above appropriate NFC, Apps, QR codes etc) or indoors. Then gather in the Gathering Spaces hybrid space or digital to consolidate, discuss, create.

Note: In the US several towns, or public areas have begun to block off roads so there is more space for people to move in the open and interact but keep physical distance.

Self-Study Spaces where the being in the space is the point of engagement:

Here some spaces which are designed to be calm spaces, could be self-study spaces where learners bring their own devices and can go into and work in a physically distanced manner but without being alone at home. Is there a way to set up safe study spaces, similar as it’s one in schools with transparent screens between learners (study spaces are particularly valued by WP, mature students, and students transitioning into HE or into final year).

Gathering Spaces where the learners meet one another in a more classroom type setting with direct access to the educators to ask questions, interact, get feedback. One technique for this could be an amended version of the fishbowl technique:

Inner Circle/Outer Circle Layout

The physical classroom serves as the Fishbowl the ‘Outer Circle’ are the remote participating students who observe, take notes, and participate via online chat . Identify communication strategy for out circle as they feed back to their peer group (team) but also interact with one another in the classroom space.

Resource: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/socratic-seminar-john-suralik-blake-wiggs

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