Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff Hybrid Instruction

Well, we are back at school in the winter term 2021/22, but since not all students are vaccinated, I decided to teach my "Didaktics of Media" course in a hybrid manner. Natch, they are always my guinea pigs for didaktical experiments. The first week I had 7 people online and 14 in the room. The second week this had grown to 10 online and 7 in the room (some dropped the class after seeing how much work it was). What is my setup and how did we work?




There is sure to be more to come on this topic this semester! In one class last week I had more students on from a distance than in the room. That gave us a good feeling in the room as we had more space to breathe. The distance students were not as actively involved in the discussion, but that gave more possibilities to say something for those in the room.

Guest speaker or students present at a distance

There is a relatively simple way to have a guest speaker or students at a distance present. The main problem here is making their distant voice heard in the lecture hall. I have tried all sorts of loudspeaker arrangements with the installed loudspeakers that caused feedback. What worked well was to have a little JBL Clip 3 boombox connect to the monitor described above via Bluetooth. The sound on my presenter laptop is turned off.

I then took a lanyard and attached it to the clip of the boombox and hung it from the plastic shield currently in front of the teacher's desk. This helps send the sound throughout the room. It would also hang nicely on the corner of a whiteboard. The volume needs to be turned way up, then it can reach all the people in a normal-sized classroom (45 people). I even used this little boombox to play music in a 260 square meter, 5-meter high room and it worked nicely.

Use the camera in the back of the monitor iPad to show the room to the students at a distance. You can show half the room, so that those who do not want to be on camera can sit outside of the camera viewpoint.

The biggest didaktical problem is getting students at a distance to stop talking. They don't see my evil eye, or a notice, or when I stand up and walk towards them. I have to interrupt what they are saying, thank them, say there is no more time for questions and go on to the next person. Smaller didaktical problems are distant students forgetting to unmute themselves or not having the Zoom app updated. Switching speakers goes very smoothly online if you enable anyone able to start sharing a screen.

Students present in presence with distant students

In some of my classes I regularly have students present results of their investigations. For example, in the course "Didaktics of Media" the students have to take 4 e-learning units and briefly present both the unit and their evaluation. There are three different methods they present:

  1. With PowerPoint slides (sometimes Keynote)
  2. With a PDF
  3. With Google slides or live hacking, that is, using a browser

Each of these has their own challenges. I have them upload both their slides and a link to the unit to a Moodle forum before class. This makes it easier to find things, as it is all in one place. With slides they can just use my computer, although it can be difficult for PC people to use a Mac. This way, if they have notes, they can see them, too.

If they have a PDF you have to switch the presentation mode to mirroring and use CTRL-L (or Command-L on a Mac) to put the pdfs into full-screen mode. Now Zoom will put the videos of the distant students on the middle of the slides and the controls at the top of the window, visible for all. Make the videos only show one video (second button on the left on the top right-hand side) and slide it to the upper left. Move the controls to the bottom of the window.

With live hacking they have to use one of my browser windows. Logins are of course not stored, so they should make sure they have their password memorized or written down on a little card they destroy afterwards.

I noticed that I was so busy concentrating on the technology and the didaktics that I forgot to keep the windows open and wipe the keyboard after every use...


This is the hardest part. It may be simple for university lectures with no interaction, but at universities of applied sciences in Germany we use seminaristic instruction, that is, we encourage questions and discussion. The simplest solution is, of course, only to discuss with the students in the room. Groups in the room and groups with breakout rooms in Zoom are easy, but reporting back to plenum is difficult.

I tried attaching a microphone to my Mac (you need a Y-whiplash thingy to split the jack into microphone input and speaker output), but I forgot to switch the microphone on Zoom, so the distant students didn't hear very well.

I had more questions from the room to those in presence, the distance students barely asked anything.

Group work

I normally have a few questions that students are to discuss with the people sitting nearby, as a mumble group. I bring the attention back and select a few groups to tell us what they think the answer is, and then I show how I would solve the problem. I tried this out having the distance students go to breakout rooms while the students in the room mumble as usual. It worked fine in the room, but it took so much time to get the students out into the breakout rooms and then bring them back, we were unable to do more than one of these during the session. So it is possible, but one needs to calculate more time for such an activity.

Whiteboard work

I'm sorry, I can't write on these whiteboard thingys that come with the video conference systems. My handwriting is bad enough on the board. But I have a solution that doesn't cost much. I purchased a Jourist DC Document Camera and Visualizer for 129 €. It connects to my MacBookPro via USB. I can share this, so that it is visible on the beamer and for the distance students, although it is a pain as it doesn't quite fit on our tables because of the visualizer that is glued to the table. I have tried every which way to get that visualizer to go INTO my laptop, but it is directly connected to the beamer. 

I use the pads of DIN A4 paper that I have collected over the years from conferences. I remove the cardboard backing and slip it between the page I am writing on and the rest of the pad, I use the back sides and I put the pad in landscape mode. I bought Stabilo Pen 68 markers in my favorite colors and use these to write. They are legible at home and in the back row, often better than writing on the board. Added bonus: After class I can shove the pages through a scanner, and we have everything I put on the board in a nice, tidy PDF!