On the 12th of May 2023, we interviewed Mr. Matthew Moran, a teacher at the Oulu International School also known as Oulun Lyseon Lukio in Finland. It is an authorised IB (International Baccalaureate) school with a mission to develop well-rounded individuals who can respond to today’s challenges with optimism and an open mind. The international school is renowned for being one of the schools that led distance teaching in Finland. They started distance teaching in the early 2000s at Sotkamo high-school (Sotkamon Lukio) and Lyseonpuiston high-school (Lyseonpuiston Lukio) and progressed with excellent records that continue today at Tyrnävä.
Mr. Moran teaches English language acquisition, English literature, and film studies at the upper secondary level. He has over fifteen years of experience in distance teaching. His successful distance teaching experience extended his opportunity to remotely teach in a classroom in another IB branch school (Lyseonpuiston Lukio) in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is located about 300 km away from his school. His teaching mode is also a hybrid because a teacher guides a classroom online, but students gather together face-to-face (f2f) in a classroom, or some of them attend online. This is one of the formats of hybrid learning defined by Lázár et al. (2022) – “all the learners in the same physical space with the teacher connecting remotely” (p. 23). Although this mode of hybrid learning is different from the current definition used in the Hyb-IT-up project, his practical experiences and tips are valuable for the target of the project. Hence, we decided to interview him about his distance/hybrid teaching strategies.
Over the years, he has utilised different technological tools and online platforms to teach, including Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams. However, the pandemic has accelerated the implementation of distance/hybrid teaching. His working station is a set-up room in the school where necessary equipment such as a computer, displays, and microphones are prepared; thereby, it was easy for him to switch to digital spaces.
He buttressed that it was easy for students to get distracted during the pandemic and also, teachers felt demotivated because some students did not switch on their cameras. Some students said their cameras were not working and some were not actively participating. This triggered worry from teachers, particularly him because he could not see the faces of the students and was unable to track whether they were merely attending, concentrating, or actively participating in class. Although it was difficult to adjust to the new realities, teachers needed to be prepared to teach in any situation given the uncertainties in events and the plethora of technological tools. He emphasised preparedness as a vital key to smoothly running such a distance and hybrid classroom. The key points are:
1) Teachers’ and students’ digital literacy
It helps before and during teaching and learning processes and in unanticipated occurrences- e.g. technical failures, etc.
2) Sufficient equipment
He suggested having at least two screens on the teacher’s desk and two large screens in the classroom. On both sides, one screen can be dedicated to showing learning materials and the other one is to show the teacher’s face (to the learners) and a bird’s-eye view of the classroom (to the teacher).
3) Provision of well-structured instructions and learning materials
He stressed that the learning platform (LMS) should be very organised e.g. where to find the pre-reading/tasks, where and how to submit the assignment etc.
4) Prior preparation
It is very important to prepare well-written and structured modules, easily accessible, organised learning outcomes, learning activities, assessments, dynamic group formation, etc.
5) Dynamism in delivery
Teachers should provide learning materials in different formats e.g. video (and audio as a by-product of video), word document, PPT slides, etc. so that students do not get bored and have the liberty to choose the best way to learn each content (according to their preferences).
6) Entertaining atmosphere
Make the teaching exciting to keep students focus and control vocal pitching to change the atmosphere.
7) Encourage and facilitate collaborative learning
Introduce break-out rooms-change grouping rosters weekly and inform students ahead for transparency.
8) Be assertive and consistent in your teaching approach
For example, request students to turn their cameras on to mark and accept their attendance, Also, ask students to respond to the teacher’s questions in the chat during the class to confirm their active participation, etc.
9) Introduce reward
For compliance with classroom instructions.
From the feedback he gets, he revealed that some students find hybrid learning very beneficial. For example, there is flexibility to join at convenience, irrespective of geographical location and time zones. Also, shy students find hybrid sessions convenient as they can ask questions using the chat function (no need to raise his/her hand or speak out loud in front of the audience). Mr. Moran revealed that for him, hybrid teaching (remotely teaching a classroom) is better than having a pure online session. This is because he can see better how students are working both individually and collaboratively through the camera which is integrated into the large screen capturing a whole classroom from a bird’s-eye view. In an online learning situation, it is difficult for a teacher to observe students’ interactions with their learning materials and peers.
Despite the benefits of hybrid teaching and learning, he revealed that teaching both classrooms and online simultaneously is very difficult and can be chaotic. Although many teachers started online teaching during the pandemic and successfully managed it, some still find hybrid teaching too demanding and difficult. However, teachers, school administration, and government policies could help lessen the workload and burden attached. He said that teachers also have the responsibility to be very organised, so they are not easily stressed or overloaded. In addition, both teachers’ and students’ personalities, skills, and cultural backgrounds impact the realisation of hybrid and distance teaching. For example, he has found it easy and exciting in Finland owing to the autonomy given to teachers, respect for the teaching profession, and most importantly, school funding (necessary equipment is provided by the government). However, it could be more difficult in other countries depending on resource accessibility, educational policies, societal structure, etc.
It was refreshing to hear a practically different dimension to hybrid teaching and learning. Thank you for telling us about your experience and very useful practical tips to organise hybrid and distance learning!
The writer of this blog: Faith Ilesanmi (Master’s student in the Learning, Education and Technology programme)
The editor of this blog: Azusa Nakata (Project manager and doctoral researcher at the LET Lab)
Lázár, C., Galambos, A., Váczi, D. & Péter-Both, E. (2020). Learning While Doing: Hybrid Workshops in Romania and 10+1 Conclusions Relevant for School Education. In L. Jõgi, J. Leoste, S. Väät, M. Tuul & C. Lazar. A Flexible Framework for Hybrid Lower-Secondary Education (pp. 23-30). Tallinn University. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FO4-TpgVJKVGJTbSSaglPTGeYjjuFwJg/view