Dual-Mode Teaching at Cégep Limoilou
For more than a year, I have been experimenting with dual-mode teaching at Cégep Limoilou. In the fall of 2020, my CEGEP entrusted me with the responsibility of equipping my fellow teachers to help them take ownership of dual-mode teaching in order to make their courses functional from the first week of the semester. In this text, I discuss dual-mode teaching, Cégep Limoilou’s journey in this format of hybrid learning and my role as a mentor.
Dual-mode or HyFlex teaching
HyFlex education means “hybrid flexible.” In other words, it is a combination of 2 teaching modes: face-to-face and distance learning. The idea of dual-mode teaching is to maximize the student’s presence in his course. Each week, the student has the choice to follow his course:
- at a distance, synchronously
- at a distance, asynchronously
By multiplying the ways in which the student can follow his course, it is easier for him to adapt learning to his reality.
But why offer choice? To answer this question, I would like to share an anecdote from my colleague André Tessier, an anthropology teacher. In the fall of 2020, as part of his Intercultural Relations and Racism course, students were connected from home through Microsoft Teams instead of being in class. He asked them about the reason for their physical absence and the following answers were given:
- a baseball tournament outside the region
- a quarantine to be completed before attending class in person
- a foot injury sustained at figure skating practice
- a positive COVID-19 test in the student’s immediate family
In this particular case, if the class had been offered face-to-face only, the 4 students would have missed their class and fallen behind the rest of the group.
First steps in dual-mode teaching
I have always been passionate about technology and I have never been afraid to integrate it into my teaching. In the winter of 2019, I taught a course on advertising tools to 2 small groups (1 online and 1 face-to-face). This course finds its strength in the exchanges between the participants, which is why I wanted to optimize the discussions by bringing my 2 groups together.
This dual-mode experience made me realize that the dynamics of my group were just as interesting as in a 100% in-person course. Moreover, this way of teaching my course has favoured the exchanges between me and my students. The screen did not prove to be an obstacle to teaching and learning.
Dual-mode teaching has emerged as a very human mode of teaching where the characteristics of face-to-face teaching, such as non-verbal language and humour, find echo even behind a screen.
Then, with the agreement of the academic dean and the Business Administration department, in the spring of 2019, my colleague Jean-Philippe Joncas and I tested dual-mode teaching in the Business Law course taught by Jean-Philippe Joncas and in my e-Business course.
Armed with a lavalier microphone and a webcam on a tripod that, in August 2019, we truly experimented with dual-mode teaching for the first time.
Technical characteristics of dual-mode teaching
Dual-mode teaching is much more like a filmed in-person course than an online course. The spectrum of content transposition in a distance learning context is less imposing for a teacher when adopting dual-mode teaching than when teaching in synchronous and asynchronous hybrid formats.
However, the pace of a dual-mode session is slower than a fully face-to-face course, as it is a slightly less spontaneous learning process that involves navigating between students in the classroom and at a distance.
To avoid time wasting during a session, I advise you, among other things, to centralize all the elements of the course in the same place. You should refrain from jumping from one document to another to limit the number of technical manipulations to be performed.
The debate persists between wearing a lavalier microphone or using an omnidirectional microphone. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter which option is chosen, as long as it yields good sound quality. Initially, at Cégep Limoilou, we had opted for a lapel microphone, but that slowed down the pace of the class considerably. We had to repeat each student’s intervention in the classroom and then formulate our response to ensure that those at a distance could hear all the discussions. Eventually, we decided to adopt an omnidirectional microphone to capture the atmosphere of the class. This way, the remote students no longer feel excluded and can experience the course as if they were in the classroom. That said, the omnidirectional microphone picks up all the noises, even the unwanted ones. Therefore, time should be set aside before each session to properly calibrate the sound.
As for the choice of camera, after our first tests with a tripod webcam, Cégep Limoilou opted for a wide-angle camera fixed to the ceiling. This way, remote students have the feeling of being in class.
Once the equipment has been chosen and properly calibrated, all that remains is to teach.
Jean-Philippe Joncas, a teacher at Cégep Limoilou, teaching in dual mode. (Photo credit: Cégep Limoilou)
Maintaining contact: a dual-mode teaching challenge
Many teachers who are familiar with dual-mode teaching have the impression of teaching 2 classes at the same time: 1 at a distance and 1 in presence. The main challenge is to put these 2 classes into action together. There are several tricks to do so:
- use chat to increase classroom interaction
- share collaborative note sheets and answer sheets
- invite students to present their work to their peers.
- frequently question online students by name
- schedule teamwork between online and classroom students
To discover different active learning strategies to implement in a dual-mode course, Guillaume Bourbeau suggests the following article: Active Learning in Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classrooms.
The chat advantage
The goal of dual-mode teaching is to maximize student presence, whether in the classroom or online. One way to do this is to use the chat options offered on videoconferencing platforms. Chatting allows all remote students to interact with the instructor without fear of interrupting the course. It is both lively and much less intrusive for the student. Whether it’s small questions or comments of any kind, these interventions allow the teacher to connect with his students and enrich his explanations.
According to Julie McCann, educational advisor at Cégep Limoilou, it can be very useful to appoint a moderator in the classroom to monitor the chat and to indicate to the teacher that a new question has been asked online. This allows the teacher to focus their attention on the material to be taught without fear of omitting important elements of the chat.
In addition, screen sharing and whiteboard options on video conferencing platforms ensure that all students can see what the teacher is sharing.
Similarly, interactive whiteboards are also an interesting technological tool. Personally, I’ve gotten into the habit of duplicating my videoconference on one of the whiteboards in my room to allow students in class to see the remote students.
Besides, students want to succeed and the vast majority will be there to help and support you if you experience technical glitches, because there will always be technical glitches at some point or another.
To take the concept of dual-mode teaching further and to encourage interaction between students in the classroom and those at a distance, they should be involved in collaborative activities together. However, in order to carry out such activities, a majority of students must be connected to the course platform. For a question of technological stakes and to democratize teaching, Cégep Limoilou does not require students to have a laptop computer when taking a course in class. It is up to the teacher to evaluate this possibility according to the equipment his students have.
To describe my role as a mentor to my fellow teachers, I would say that I am like an “anti-stress pill.” The idea was to help them get their classes up and running in the first session. By freeing my colleagues from the stress of technology, I allowed them to focus on the pedagogical aspect of their courses, because the gap between dual-mode teaching and face-to-face teaching is technological rather than pedagogical.
To help the 50 or so teachers that I accompany, I created video capsules and tutorials to help them take ownership of dual-mode teaching and the technical elements related to it. Before the beginning of the semester, I met with each teacher to understand their expectations and to better plan the beginning of the semester.
Whether it was Zoom or Teams, the choice of videoconferencing platform was at the discretion of my colleagues. The most important thing was that they were comfortable with the selected platform.
I found it very rewarding to attend the first dual-mode classes of my colleagues who teach in various programs. It gave me a lot of ideas for improving my own courses.
Physical distancing rather than social distancing
With the confinement that we experienced in March 2020 and the second wave that hit us in the fall 2020, the impacts on our students are very real. In any case, physical distancing does not rhyme with social distancing. Let’s emphasize the fact that the dual-mode approach allows our students to create links between themselves and with their teacher, which is not always possible with 100% online teaching.
In short, in the unconventional semester that is Fall 2020, dual-mode proves to be a teaching method worthy of interest that allows both students and teachers to rediscover a bit of the community spirit that comes from teaching and learning in person.