In a short period of time, the search and use of technological and digital resources have become essential for Higher Education centers. It has been necessary to keep the attention to their students, and adapt the methodological approaches. Most of the universities went from face-to-face classes to the virtual modality or, on some occasions, to teaching modalities that until now were a minority, such as hybrid teaching, using virtual platforms such as Zoom or Meet for both . In the Latin American context, even media such as WhatsApp or phone calls were used.
This makes us see how access to technology has been a barrier when it comes to having more or less success in adapting teaching. At Nebrija University, for example, in the 2020–2021 academic year, the use of the virtual campus doubled and almost 138,000 videoconference sessions were held, a historic increase in the use of the educational digital ecosystem.
However, it is not only about having the technology, but about knowing how to use it. In this sense, there are many university teachers who did not have the necessary level of competence and have had to train in this area in a self-taught way, through their own resources or with training plans promoted by the universities themselves .
This training goes far beyond the instrumental management of technology. It requires thinking about the most appropriate teaching methods and strategies for these “new” hybrid spaces.
The emergence of ‘active’ methodologies
Learning in these environments must be enhanced with active methodologies. They are the methodologies that make the most of the strategies that are developed both in person, in physical spaces, and virtual, through digital platforms. Inverting the classroom, applying the flipped classroom , can be an appropriate and ideal strategy for hybrid teaching.
Incorporating forms of multimedia teaching based on ICT resources into traditional instruction allows us to develop practical work synchronously with the teacher, face-to-face or not, leaving the theoretical content to the autonomous work of the students.
Two ways to invest
The hybrid model allows its use in two different ways . Either through a disruptive model, managing a distance education platform, in which case the classes are offered in the format of recorded educational pills of a few minutes, and with very few and specific meetings. Or following a blended model, which is the most used in Higher Education centers.
This hybrid blended model maintains the characteristics of the master classes, but using technology that allows activities to be carried out virtually and providing a greater degree of interactivity. Within this blended model, we find the inverted class modality, whose advantages and potential compared to purely face-to-face or online classes are significant.
More flexibility and versatility
In the first place, the virtual environment offers more autonomy and flexibility to the student, while the face-to-face medium allows a more human and real communication with the teacher and the rest of the classmates. That is, in this hybrid model, both ecosystems complement each other.
Second, students can make the most of their time, since they not only receive lectures asynchronously, but must first seek knowledge and then carry out activities in class. In this way, the doubts that arise during the preparation of the tasks can be resolved directly. In addition, the debates that take place in the execution of an exercise can become even more enriching, as the students have previously dedicated time to reflect on the issues independently.
Finally, the inverted class can be a great advantage for the faculty, since the classes they prepare can be used on more than one occasion. Thus, teachers have more time to look for new materials, or correct activities.
Maintain it after the pandemic
This proposal is applicable to the new scenario in which we find ourselves, with many universities returning to the face-to-face model. We will be able to take advantage of the experience that has been accumulated in these months.
However, it must be borne in mind that technology is important, but teaching methods and learning strategies are even more important. Therefore, a deep pedagogical reflection is required. A review of the teaching methods and the skills required to carry them out and that all this translates into adequate teacher training for this environment.
To promote the application of the flipped classroom in the university environment, teacher training is necessary. To do this, as explained in the Competency Model Teaching Digital ( Digital Competence Framework for Educators, DigCompEdu ) prepared by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission , must take into account different dimensions and areas.
Content creation, evaluation methods
On the one hand, it is essential to address the professional commitment between teaching teams, favoring collaboration and reflective practice, as well as co-teaching. In this way, sharing good teaching practices, making inverted class success stories visible to the entire teaching community, can bring important advantages and serve as inspiration for all teachers.
Another key area is the creation of digital content. Inverting the classroom means working the virtual spaces adequately, providing them with quality content, either by making use of open online digital resources or by creating their own resources (videos, podcasts, interactive presentations, infographics, etc.).
It is also important to train in the methodological aspects, so that the hybrid class is satisfactory. What is the role of the teacher and the student, what type of activities are developed, with what times, etc., are unknowns to take into account.
Finally, training in new assessment methods is necessary to ensure the learning results in the hybrid space, as well as to enhance the students’ own digital competence, promoting their empowerment and critical spirit.
Make the most of the experience
Investing the classroom in new hybrid spaces requires applying new approaches. Rethinking which technology is more appropriate, but, above all, how it is carried out methodologically.
The months of confinement and the return to presence with health security measures have driven the digital development of teachers. With this experience, it is time to reflect on how all this knowledge, accompanied by adequate training, can propose a model that takes full advantage of the hybrid context.
Author Bios: Mª Beatriz Juárez Escribano is PDI, coordinator and PhD professor of students of the ICT Master for Education and Digital Learning at Nebrija University, Cristina Villalonga Gomez is Director of Global Campus Nebrija. Professor of Communication and Education in Digital Environments also at Nebrija University and Diana Valero Errazu is Doctor Assistant at the University of Zaragoza