New Standards

"Technology Is the Means to an End in Hybrid Learning Situations"

Inga GeislerOverath/Karlsruhe, May 2024 - Trainers have already developed a variety of methods for both onsite and live online training and feel comfortable in "both worlds". However, hybrid training and workshops are viewed as the new standard. This presents everyone involved with novel challenges in terms of communication, interaction, technology, tools, and motivation. The presentation "Turning 2 into 1 - Designing Hybrid Learning Worlds" will deal with the central question of how to create a learning world in which both online and face-to-face participants feel integrated and goals are achieved communally.

What is the difference between a "hybrid learning world" and the current blended learning concept?

Inga Geisler: In order to describe the differences, clarification of the terminology is necessary. Hybrid learning formats involve face-to-face training, seminars, and workshops in which other participants are connected simultaneously via a virtual classroom or a web-conferencing system. This brings together people who are on site with others in various remote venues. Everything happens at the same time. This is the most striking difference to the blended learning concept, which generally mixes face-to-face and digital learning formats. The whole thing takes place in succession in a predetermined sequence. Of course, a blended learning concept can also include a hybrid learning format.


What is the biggest challenge here?

Inga Geisler: Trainers and facilitators tend to be more aware of the people in their immediate surroundings than those connected via a camera (proximity bias). I view this as the biggest challenge. Suitable methods have to be developed to unite the two groups and promote exchange among them in the interests of learning success.


How do you maintain a balance between the use of technology and the human need for personal and individual contact?

Inga Geisler: In the hybrid learning situation, technology is a means to the end of getting participants in touch with each other. The focus should always be on people and the desire to support personal and professional exchange. Flawless audio and video transmission has to be guaranteed so that online participants can concentrate on this in a relaxed manner. In addition to the functions of the virtual classroom, other digital tools are usually used, such as collaboration boards or survey tools. These should be kept within manageable limits and, ideally, be tested in advance.

From the perspective of trainers and moderators, it should be noted that managing digital tools while simultaneously leading the event is a major challenge. Here, I recommend the support of a co-facilitator or a person participating in person. To achieve this, digital tools should be deployed as much as necessary and as little as possible.


What is the greatest strength of a hybrid learning setting?

Inga Geisler: Hybrid learning formats are useful when a face-to-face format is planned, but not all participants can be onsite. If there are significantly more participants online than onsite, I recommend switching to a purely online learning situation. An exception to this is machine based systems. If these are unavoidable for the training, a hybrid setting is always the better choice.


In your opinion, will hybrid learning environments become increasingly technically differentiated?

Inga Geisler: A very categorical YES. At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw how quickly everyone got used to the virtual situation and today can hardly imagine it any other way. It will be the same with hybrid training and workshops. The technology "grows" with the experience gained from current procedures. We are currently still in the experimental phase to a degree.

I have observed that technology is being purchased for further- and continuing- education students with the help of IT managers, a process that generally happens without the managers having any background didactic knowledge. As a result, although the room equipment works, it sometimes achieves less-than-satisfactory effects: For example, onsite participants are only visible to the online participants with their backs or not at all.

I would like to see greater involvement of the trainees here. This is the only way to ensure that the technology supports the methodological and didactic approach in hybrid training - and that acceptance of this form of learning and confidence in it grow.


What influence do you expect artificial intelligence to have in this realm in the future?

Inga Geisler: In general, the use of AI in continuing education opens up many opportunities for us. Of course, this also applies to hybrid learning environments. We are already getting meaningful results for technical and methodological-didactic design when we use targeted prompts. Now it is up to learning facilitators to further expand their expertise in AI and adapt methods for hybrid learning environments.