“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way” – Tom Freston.
In-person or virtual training? If you had to choose one, which would it be?
Hybrid learning is a form of education that blends two distinct elements, namely online and traditional face-to-face learning, to create a cohesive learning experience. The term “hybrid” refers to the outcome of this combination.
If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has shown us over these years, it’s that it’s possible to train learners both in-person and virtually – and even more so in a hybrid learning environment that combines the two.
Most facilitators who have run hybrid workshops will testify that while hybrid formats have potential, they are complex and come with challenges.
This article aims to answer the question: Can Hybrid Trainings Work? Although Hybrid learning could also be used to describe situations where learners complete some coursework online, then attend in-person sessions when it’s convenient for them, this article will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of combining Synchronous virtual training and traditional in-person training. The focus will be on understanding when it is a suitable choice and how to prepare for it.
Before you consider hybrid
Running interactive hybrid workshops is not simply turning on a video stream or videoconference call while some participants are in a physical room together. Technically, that setup is hybrid, yet having passive viewers does not help them build skills.
First, consider the option of having two separate training – one for in-person participants and the other for virtual ones. Although it may seem more time-consuming, the participants’ engagement and satisfaction are what matters.
It is also important to find out what the participants want.
Advantages of hybrid training
Hybrid training or hybrid learning, which combines online and traditional face-to-face learning, can offer several benefits. Here are some of them:
1. Flexibility and Accessibility
Hybrid training makes learning more accessible to people who have physical or geographical limitations. This means that trainees can participate from wherever they are and on any device including when they may be unable to attend physical sessions because they are unwell or running late and this applies to both the trainer and the trainee
2. Cost effective
The ability to participate in training programs from the office or home more frequently reduces the time spent away from work and ultimately allows learners and organizations to save money on venue, travel and logistics. Most of the activities and materials will be turned digital as well, which is a more cost-efficient solution than printing lots of copies and distributing them to everyone.
3. Preparation for the future
Hybrid training can prepare learners for the future workplace by equipping them with the necessary digital skills, adaptability, continuous learning mindset, self, teamwork, communication skills and the use of different technology tools.
4. Better engagement and participation
Hybrid training leads to higher engagement and participation, mostly because it adapts to everyone’s learning preferences. When trainees are in control of their learning method, the possibility of them engaging is much higher. It also enhances engagement by using a variety of teaching methods, including multimedia content, online discussions, and interactive in-person activities.
5. Works for Diverse Learning Styles
A hybrid training adapts better to different learning styles than an exclusively online or in-person session can. For example, auditory learners may benefit from the ability to rewind recorded lectures, while visual learners can study slides at their own pace. Meanwhile, students who prefer in-person meetings can physically connect with facilitators and fellow participants.
Disadvantages of Hybrid training
While hybrid training can offer several benefits, it also has some disadvantages. Here are some of the potential drawbacks of hybrid training:
1. Communication and Technical issues
Hybrid training relies heavily on technology, and technical issues such as connectivity problems, software glitches, and hardware malfunctions can disrupt the learning process. Sometimes. virtual communication takes more time as in-person attendees repeatedly wait for virtual ones to speak up, unmute, connect to apps, and complete breakout activities.
2. Uneven engagement
The virtual joiners may feel less involved if they don’t receive as much attention due to proximity or technical issues. They also may feel burdened by the more-extensive tech setups and activity instructions needed to participate.
3. Time and resources required
A hybrid session will likely require just as much (if not more) prep time as two separate workshops. It will require creating different sets of instructions, arranging tech and app solutions, and testing activities. Ideal hybrid workshops usually require a producer or co-facilitator, which is another cost that single-format workshops may not need.
4. Learning style preference
Hybrid training may not be suitable for all learners, as some may prefer fully online or fully in-person learning. It may not align with the preferred learning style of such learners, and this could affect their engagement and performance.
5. Requires Strong Organizational Skills
Some people struggle with the organizational skills required for virtual participation. they require greater time management skills and the ability to prioritize as well as the discipline to shut out distraction.
6. Cost of technology
Technology costs money and virtual sessions need technology. Interactive hybrid activities sometimes require solutions such as conference-style microphones, internet facilities, software programs or third-party apps.
Some must-have technology that needs to be a part of any training session includes:
• Microphones and speakers
• Visuals and displays
The success of hybrid training can be attributed to several essential technologies, including:
Microphones and speakers – Some audio solutions include conference-style speaker phones placed around the room to ensure all learners hear the other participants and facilitator’s voices clearly. In addition to physical devices, the facilitator will need to arrange participant mute, unmute, and volume procedures to avoid audio loops. An even more complex situation is when there are breakout groups (both in-person and virtual attendees) in a single room. You may need to check if the microphones for different groups are picking up the right audio and not disrupting other groups.
Visuals and displays – Displaying slides and content for everyone requires testing. Consider the following:
a) Will a webcam adequately capture a projector screen or TV?
b) Have the lighting conditions been tested?
c) Will the trainer need two computers to change slides for the two types of participants? or will the setting require an attentive assistant?
Shared apps and screens – Displaying shared apps and screens is another concern. It’s easy for in-person participants to see physical whiteboards and for virtual participants to see virtual whiteboards, but for true togetherness, hybrid workshops will likely need visuals that everyone can access.
For whiteboards, consider the following:
a) Would a physical whiteboard with a dedicated webcam pointed at it suffice?
b) Who will add the virtual attendees’ ideas on it?
c) Would a virtual canvas app be better? It may be if physical participants have smart devices to access the app.
Webcams – It’s beneficial for everyone if physical participants see the virtual participants and vice versa. So consider the following:
a) Is a second in-room display (TV or projector screen) needed for in-person attendees to see virtual attendees, and will that require a second facilitator computer?
b) Will displays be large enough to show people in virtual video boxes?
c) Will virtual participants clearly see the in-person participants through the videoconferencing platform?
d) Could second, third, or fourth webcams be set up to capture fewer people in frame? If so, how will those webcams link to the videoconference platform?
e) Will multiple webcam wires obstruct the walking area or activity space?
f) How much time and assistance will be required to test displays, visuals?
As the workplace dynamics shift towards hybrid environments, hybrid training can help learners develop the skills to navigate and succeed in both virtual and in-person settings.
Although susceptible to unexpected obstacles, technology trouble, and logistical missteps, when done right, hybrid training offers the best of both worlds by combining the benefits of online and traditional face-to-face learning.