APT ’22 Talking hybrid (aka HyFlex/ mixed mode etc etc…)

Friday 1st July 2022 is the in person part of the APT (Academic Practice and Technology) conference. In its 12th year, this conference, co-hosted by UCL, LSE and Imperial, re-emerges from online only with some interesting modalities of its own. The conference includes a mix of synchronous online, asynchronous content pre-recorded by colleagues from across the sector and synchronous in-person roundtables, workshops and hackathons. The opening event from Professor Cate Denial, ‘Pedagogy of kindness in action’ generated a huge amount of interest and ongoing discussion. The recording and information on all three keynoters is available on the APT site.

I will be chairing a discussion session that brings together three related papers and a panel of colleagues from City, UoL, Edinburgh Napier and Kingston, the outline of which can be seen below:

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I will also be co-hosting a roundtable on hybrid/ hyflex inclusivity tensions with UCL’s head of Digital Accessibility, Ben Watson, and my Arena colleague, Alex Standen, who will be doing a ‘sorry I can’t be with you tonight recorded performance! The slides including pre-recorded videos from Ben and Alex are here:

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Finally, recordings of speakers from the Hybrid symposium event at UCL in June ’22 are included below for convenience and quick reference. The videos below comprise recordings of Ruth Puhr, Fiona Strawbridge (with me chipping in) and Nataša Perović  Profiles page of speakers.

The hybrid/ hyflex co-pilot: flying by the seat of your pants

[listen 8m 4s or read below]

Warning: If you dislike mangled, mixed and over-extended metaphors, please place this safety notice back in the pocket in front of you, remove shoes and exit swiftly (or parachute to possible co-pilot roles and responsibilities below).

Once you have navigated through the sea of ‘keep out’ and other similar warning signs and committed to dipping your toes into the shark-infested hybrid waters (Whatever you call it, we’re talking simultaneous live face to face and online teaching- Zoom or Teams mediated), you will know that number 1 in the advice chart is: ‘Get yourself a co-pilot’. But what is a co-pilot? What role could or should they play? Should they, like the kind of co-pilot you get on a plane, be able to land the thing if you were to become suddenly incapacitated? Is it a good idea to recruit students to do it? The following suggestions are based on doing the hybrid thing a few times a year over the last 3 or 4 years and a dozen or so times in the last 3 or 4 weeks.

Do you even need a crew? Or will a passenger do?

So, you have your pilot’s licence and you want to get into the cockpit asap. Surely the last thing you need is someone else twiddling knobs, making unauthorised announcements and looking better in their reflector shades? There are all sorts of reasons why flying anything from the new Boeing Jumbo Lecturehall to the Cessna 6-seater Skyhawk Seminar is likely to be something you want or are obliged to do alone. Assuming for a moment that your airline (read: institution, faculty/ department) can fund a co-pilot then there are plenty of reasons why you might benefit from having someone by your side. If the plane is no private jet and there’s not the reserves to dip into you might still want to find a way to get someone in and give them a shiny badge with ‘co-pilot’ written on it, whether or not they could land the thing themselves. Whatever the size of your aircraft this is more than the flying you may (or often not) have been trained to do. Suddenly you’re being asked to carry on flying but also remote control a car (perhaps with all your loved ones in it) on the motorway 30,000 ft below you. How helpful a co-pilot can be will depend on a range of factors:

  • Their own professional training and subject expertise
  • Whether they are paid
  • Whether this is likely to be a one off event or a sustained new way of travelling
  • All the variables you can imagine

So in an ideal world an equivalently trained co-pilot is optimal (a close colleague perhaps to get you through the first time), an in-training colleague (such as a PGTA), a student quality reviewer (UCL colleagues look out for an announcement on this soon) or even one or more of the passengers (sorry, students) you are flying that day. Please note: In the latter case, you will need to think through the implications, limit or spread the load and note that co-pilots have reported intense concentration requirements leading to them not processing what the pilot has been saying. Whatever your situation and whoever you are able to work with the following are roles that you might want to consider for the co-pilot. Most important is to agree and delineate roles prior to the session starting.

pilot stands next to plane

Ready to fly?

(possible) Co-pilot roles and responsibilities

Most of the following would not be reasonable to expect from a student volunteer and ALL of them would be unreasonable for any co-pilot, however well they were remunerated! Where students are asked to help maintain connection between online and in-person participants it may be prudent not to think in terms co-piloting given the necessary limits to what they can be expected to do. In those circumstances it may be wise to have a few students with different responsibilities (eg. One simply signals when an online hand is raised, another paraphrases in chat the in-person contributions).

Pre-flight checks

  • Helping to check equipment works ahead of a session
  • Role playing as a student in physical or online spaces to identify potential issues (from font size on display which may be reduced due to additional elements needed on screen to audio levels of mics and speakers)
  • Sending reminders, fielding questions about joining instructions and/ or seeding persistent back-channel (if used)
  • (Immediately before take off) Participate in final checks, guide students to seats (for optimal acoustics), assist with registration
  • Post re-assuring notes in online space and/ or backchannel- tell remote attendees when to expect pilot’s mic to be unmuted
  • Reminding in-person students to mute both mics AND speakers on their devices if they access the remote participation link (note: the more in-person students who join the online space, the harder it is to set up breakout groups)
  • Have links to all in-session and post-session resources to hand to paste into chat or backchannel
  • Serving drinks is not advised


  • Welcoming in chat the online participants, by name if possible if group is not too large
  • If appropriate, facilitate connections between the two modalities- e.g. Volunteer students in the physical space waving over your shoulder into your webcam and the online particpants wave back.
  • Asking in chat if audio can be heard when pilot turns on their mic and be the point of contact if any technical issues are experienced
  • Reiterating participation protocols for contributions from online participants in chat (e.g. Raise electronic hand); how invitations to speak will work
  • Sharing links to or guidance about other channels of participation (e.g. Mentimeter participation link; PowerPoint Live presentation link and how to start simultaneous translation; guidance on starting subtitles in online platform)

Climb & Cruise

  • Flag ‘hands up’ to pilot at appropriate junctures/ pre-agreed times
  • Paraphrase in-room contributions in chat, especially where audio issues are known. Identifying the contributor (even initials only) helps online participants keep track of things
  • (If agreed) respond to questions arising in chat or at least acknowledge that questions have been received/ seen
  • Summarise/ theme remote contributions and questions
  • Open/ close and monitor breakout rooms
  • Send messages to breakout rooms that mirror in person instructions
  • In text-only collaborative spaces, add comments if appropriate and smooth facilitation between remote and in-person students

Descent and landing

  • Give opportunity to pose questions and commit to sharing responses if not addressed in session
  • Share links to resources, activities, follow up work or tasks to be completed ahead of future sessions
  • Seek evaluative comments (on connection/ access/ accessibility etc.)
  • Signpost preferred media for communications between live events and ahead of next session and where/ how to access any session recordings

What have I forgotten? What have you tried that smooths hybrid/ hyflex sessions with or without a co-pilot? Let me know!

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying. There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Douglas Adams

‘Basic Hybrid’ Teaching: Recommendations

[Listen 6m 50s or read below]

The recommendations below were synthesised from thoughts and experiences of colleagues from the Arena Centre and Digital Education teams at UCL.  Last update 6th October 2021. The recommendations are of course targetted at UCL colleagues but we hope there is plenty here that is generalisable to colleagues across the sector.

At UCL we are supporting approaches to simultaneous in-person and online teaching because we know that some programmes will have significant numbers of students who are unable to attend taught sessions on campus. As an instituion we have veered away from using the term ‘hyflex’ and opted for ‘basic hybrid’ to reflect the limitations of what is ultimately a compromise and compensatory approach in a time of ongoing challenge and crisis. Where possible we hope colleagues will be able to use alternative approaches.

Please note that the following relate primarily to basic hybrid that uses Zoom or Teams. Where Lecturecast Live is used to stream sessions there will be a lag and consequently very limited scope for interaction with those who are remote.


Most important: Ensure the decision to use a ‘basic hybrid’ approach is likely to be the most appropriate one and that other options have been explored / discussed

  • Familiarise yourself with the log in and technical guidance and attend a workshop if possible
  • Trial log-in in the room that will be used if possible; if not, any equivalent room (not all rooms have the same configuration).
  • Try sharing screen and organising the screen in different ways- remind yourself what happens to your view of participants (in either Teams or Zoom) when you share slides or other content.
  • If possible, too, imagine yourself teaching in that space and think about where you will stand, where the mics are and what the implications are of movement.
  • Discuss availability with your department for PGTA/academic co-pilots (this should be a formal arrangement). Alternatively, look at building this role into the student experience, agree pre-session the responsibilities and protocols. Asking for a volunteer ‘chat champion’ from the in-person group is better than no support!
  • Recognise that any kind of hybrid is likely to slow the pace of the session so plan accordingly.
  • Plan to keep it as simple as possible, at least the first couple of times.
  • Plan opportunities for thinking/ processing time and (valid and useful) questions for students to respond to (via chat or via Mentimeter, for example).
  • Important: be consistent with and share the joining instructions (Moodle recommended) and include a comment about what to expect – remind participants that we are doing our best to support all students in challenging circumstances and, even with the huge upgrading we have done, our ‘basic hybrid’ approach is something we need to work together to get the most from it.
  • Remember: New students may also need some of the prompts about how to use Zoom/ Teams and even 2nd year undergraduates attending in-person may need support/ reminders about ‘ways of being’ in physical spaces.
  • Think about the affordances of secondary devices if you have them. A laptop logged into your Zoom account shows you what your online participants are seeing, can act as as a camera of sorts to show the room or objects and is also a camera that can be used for close ups of you as the presenter (note: the same does NOT work in MS Teams- only one camera shows up if you log in twice to the same account).
  • Wear clothes with pockets for the base unit for mobile mics where available.

In session:

an ink sketch of a griffin (or Gryphon)

Griffin by Gordon Johnson via Pixabay

  • Use ‘share’ function to share slides but, before doing so, consider opportunities for in-person students to see their colleagues on the whole of the main screen.
  • If you want to maintain a visual connection between in-room and online attendees you’ll need to partition your screen with some care and remember that if slides are smaller, fonts may need to be larger.
  • Online attendess will only see in-room peers if there is a camera open in that space- think carefully about limitations, policy and related issues before doing this (and seek in-room attendees’ permission if you do).
  • Use ‘spotlight’ function in MS Teams to focus on your camera if using a ceiling mounted camera (otherwise you are very small on remote participants’ screens). In Zoom this fixes the camera but also turns off ‘gallery view’ for online participants and does not enlarge the view so is less useful.
  • Remind all attendees that whilst circumstances may not be ideal, we value their contributions via chat, from the floor or via polling tools such as Mentimeter. The main thing to remember is one voice at a time unless in breakout discussions.
  • Value both groups equally – make a point of acknowledging online participants and their contributions.
  • Ask students to mute mics if joining online and if anyone in-person is also connecting to the Zoom/ Teams space they will need to mute both Mic and speakers. In-room students who join the online space need to be told to mute their mic AND speakers several times (!) or there will be audio feedback, echoes or other interferences. In-room students cannot simply turn on their mic to speak!
  • When online participants speak on mic it is prudent to mute the lecturn mic to avoid echo for online participants if using MS Teams (Zoom seems to cope fine).
  • If taking contributions from the floor and you have a mobile mic then moving towards the speaker may help in-room participants (but removes you from camera view and offers little benefit to remote participants)- better to paraphrase or ask co-pilot to do this  in chat.
  • Whole group (verbal) discussion is very challenging in this context and may be dependent on mics, bandwidth of participants and other factors. It will likely slow things down and feel awkward – find other ways to give all students opportunities to contribute (e.g. using a collaborative space like a Padlet, Jamboard or shared document/ slides.
  • Consider using an ongoing backchannel to connect in-person and online students (Teams does this but  Zoom chat ends when meeting ends). You may decide to use a Teams backchannel to support a Zoom meeting, for example.
  • Switching cameras to use, for example, a visualiser can be awkward so it may be better to use a tablet if you have one separately logged into the meeting which you then share from when whiteboard is needed.

see here for latest thinking on hybrid/ hyflex:

Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.). EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex