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Hybrid teaching

Hybrid teaching at WU means:

  • All courses take place on-campus and are simultaneously streamed online.
  • Students participate either on-campus or online.
  • Hybrid courses are marked "HM" for hybrid mode, both in the room and the course catalog.

The contact hours between teachers and students correspond to the credit hours allocated to the respective course. The required attendance, both for on-campus and online courses, depends on the course type.

In general, the hybrid mode is suitable for:

  • Teaching formats that specifically target international students (e.g. BBE, MA programs, Engage.EU Courses).
  • Courses that enable all students to participate, regardless of their individual limitations (e.g., care responsibilities, quarantine, limited mobility).
  • Courses that focus on acquiring digital competencies and aim at merging physical and virtual study environments.

Tips for hybrid courses:

How to design hybrid teaching/learning?

  • Plan from an online learner’s perspective
    It is best to plan a hybrid course from the perspective of the online participants. This way, you will not forget to include those following online and can be sure that the content and methods you use are suitable for an online format.
  • Activate your participants by using different work forms
    You can foster a productive learning atmosphere by alternating short inputs phases and activating exercises using different work forms (such as individual, pair, or small group work, exchange with others through mini online exercises or discussions in plenary). For activation in hybrid teaching, try to adapt existing methods used in face-to-face teaching with digital tools (e.g. Mural, Mentimeter, interactive applications in MyLEARN/Canvas, Microsoft Teams/Zoom).
    Here are some examples:
    • Icebreakers: Mini exercises (introduction/warm-up exercises) allow the students to get to know each other, help to identify technical problems (e.g. with the mic) and reduce the fear of using the microphone.
    • Think-Pair-Share: For hybrid "pair work“, breakout rooms are a suitable option. You can use different methods here; the students could for example have a discussion using the chat function ("think-chat-share"). For "sharing", you can either let the students discuss in plenary or introduce a flashlight round (e.g. by using digital polling tools, digital note pads, digital whiteboard notes, chat including one post per group, etc.).
    • Fish bowl method (“Kugellager”): The on-site participants build the inner circle ("fish") of the discussion (they discuss a topic) while the online participants just listen to the discussion as they build the outer circle ("bowl"). Switching roles is possible.
    • Presentations: For presentations given by online participants, it is advisable to project the presentation slides in the auditorium in order for the on-site participants to follow.
    • Discussions: Discussions can first take place in groups. The results of the group discussions can then be posted online (e.g. on MyLEARN/Canvas, Mentimeter, Mural etc.) and discussed in plenary.
  • Give clear (time) specifications
    Unclear tasks cost valuable time as students become demotivated. To avoid this, formulate brief and precise tasks and define a clear time limit for submission (e.g. by setting a digital timer in the activation tool). When planning activities, keep in mind that interactions with students must be planned accordingly as the type of tool and classroom may vary (see also "Tools for Teaching 22/23").
  • Use digital resources
    If you use digital learning resources (e.g. in MyLEARN/Canvas, Microsoft Teams/Zoom, Mentimeter, Mural) for your learning activities that work both by on-site and online, equally involving both online and on-site participants will be easier. For this purpose, on-site participants need to bring their own technical devices (laptop, tablet or smartphone). Alternatively, you can also prepare additional analog material for them (e.g. printouts, moderation cards, pens, adhesive strips, etc.). Consider creating specific framework conditions for online participants if necessary (e.g. breakout rooms, chat, additional digital material, etc.).
  • Plan more breaks, teach less content
    Breaks counteract cognitive overload and are particularly important in hybrid courses. A hybrid course should not last longer than 3 to 4 hours. Keep in mind that you cannot teach the same amount of material in hybrid mode as you would if all participants were on-site due to a higher number of breaks and the increased organizational workload.
  • Give information about the teaching/learning format
    Clearly indicate in the syllabus that your course will be held in a hybrid teaching/learning format and explain what this means. Due to the format being relatively new, students may not yet know what it means and questions may arise.
    Example for the description in the syllabus: The course takes place in hybrid mode. This means that the class is held on-site in the auditorium at the Campus WU and simultaneously streamed via Microsoft Teams. Both, on-campus and online participation complies with the attendance requirements. For a better course experience, on-campus attendance is recommended.
  • Explain the different participation modes
    Address the two different modes of participation directly and make it clear that neither on-campus nor online attendance is preferred. Also, talk about the challenges and advantages of the hybrid mode with your students.
  • Establish communication rules
    Define clear communication rules and discuss them with the students on the first course day. Clarify how (on-site/online) students can raise questions and make requests to speak (by raising their hand, directly starting to speak, or writing a chat message). Explain how you will respond to chat questions (e.g., by looking at the chat every 15 minutes or at the end of a thematic block, or by being informed by a selected student that there is a comment, etc.). You can collect the questions from students in the classroom via a Q&A feature many digital tools are equipped with (e.g., chat in Microsoft Teams/Zoom, Mentimeter, or MyLEARN/Canvas). This way, the questions are visible to all students.
    Also, talk about how and when to use the camera. Encourage students to switch on the camera as learning is more motivating and effective when people can see each other. Together with the participants, define in which settings to use the camera (e.g. introductory rounds, presentations, discussions, etc.).
  • Lay down rules for on-site/ online participation
    There are often concerns that in hybrid courses the majority of students tend to participate online while the classroom remains empty. Point out the benefits of on-site participation to the students (e.g. personal contact, structured daily learning routine). You can decide on an arrangement that best suits your course in advance:
    • Rotation system: On-site and online participants rotate on a weekly basis, e.g. in alphabetical order. This allows you to better plan your teaching activities and distribute the number of respective participants. In addition, students are able to experience the course both on-campus and online. However, this arrangement is not flexible and does not take into account the students’ individual limitations (e.g., care responsibilities, quarantine, or limited mobility).
    • Flexible system: Students can decide flexibly and on short notice how they would like to participate in the course. They do not have to inform their teachers about their decision beforehand. With this arrangement, you leave the mode of participation completely up to the students, giving them maximum flexibility. However, this also means you have to plan and adapt your teaching plan spontaneously. How do you handle situations where the auditorium is overcrowded? Who is allowed to stay in the classroom, who is not? What options do you give students who can no longer get a seat in the classroom? Or what if it occurs the other way around: What do you do when no one shows up physically and the classroom remains empty?
    • Special courses: Courses with a high number of international students are an exception. International students can participate online, and national students on-site. This ensures the participation of international students, while at the same time promoting on-campus attendance for national students and ensuring planning security for you as a teacher.

  • Know your hybrid classrooms at WU
    When planning your class, pay attention to the specific room conditions (space and technical equipment) so that you can implement your ideas accordingly, also in the hybrid mode. At WU, there are specially equipped classrooms for hybrid teaching with tracking cameras and ceiling microphones. If you are not sure how to use the equipment, you can always test it  before the class takes place, read up on it in the media guide (“Medienguide”) or use the qualification offer for  auditorium technology (“Qualifizierungsangebot  zur Hörsaaltechnologie“) provided by the Digital Teaching Services. Preparing the auditorium will make hybrid teaching much easier for you.
  • Use the right microphone
    Even if ceiling microphones are available, it is recommended for teachers to use a traditional headset microphone, as it guarantees the best audio quality for the online participants (it can be borrowed from the Service Desk). Ceiling microphones capture the comments in the classroom and transmit them to all online participants. During group work, however, online participants should turn off their sound so that they do not get distracted by listening to other group discussions. If participants who are physically present in the classroom also participate in the web conference using their own devices (laptops, tablets or smartphones), the microphone and loudspeaker of these devices must be switched off, otherwise there will be unpleasant feedback noise.
  • Get a second screen or device for a better overview
    A second device (e.g., your work laptop) placed next to the podium or at the teacher's desk helps you not to overlook the online participants (you can, for example, use it for keeping an eye on the chat or the gallery view showing the online participants).
  • Offer a technology check for online participants
    Carrying out a technology check for online participants on the first course day may be advisable in courses with a high number of participants. Online participants can conduct the check-up ten minutes before the course starts (e.g. test camera and microphone, get information about necessary documents such as websites, breakout rooms, etc.).

In hybrid mode, online participants can quickly become isolated from the rest of the course group. Compared to on-site participants, students connected online have a shorter attention span and get distracted more easily by carrying out activities such as surfing on the internet or emailing. Also, teachers tend to overlook online participants due to the physical distance. The following tips help you to involve these students more actively:

  • Maintain eye contact
    Pay special attention to online participants and try to look into the camera as much as possible.
  • Announce transitions
    Clearly announce transitions to the next activity so that all students can follow the course adequately (e.g., "Let's look at the presentation again").
  • Directly address students
    Directly address and actively encourage all students to participate and ask questions (e.g. "What do the online participants have to say about this? ", "Are there still questions from the participants in the room?)
  • Get feedback
    Give enough space for feedback and ask the students if they are/ were able to follow the course (e.g., "Were you able to follow/get involved? ", "If not, where did you have problems?", "What information/ support do you need?"). Plan for short breaks so that online participants can ask questions in between (calculate enough time for the participants to think about their questions and turn on the microphone).
  • Increase interaction
    In order to strengthen the students' sense of community, you can let the two groups of participants interact with each other (e.g. saying hello at the beginning of each course, online participants wave to the presence participants in the classroom and vice versa). If you want to intensify the exchange between students, you have to support them in doing so. It is usually not enough create a forum or chat. Try to provide the students with guiding questions and encourage them to reflect, this is as simple as it is effective.
  • Plan breaks
    Actively invite online participants to take a break. A "coffee corner“ breakout room offers the students room for exchange, strengthens their sense of community, and enables networking and discussion.
  • Support the students
    When teaching hybrid courses, it can be challenging to create a pleasant atmosphere, manage the technical aspects without and simultaneously take into account the different needs of both on-site and online participants. In addition, there is the challenge of communicating through two channels: the direct communication with students participating on-site, but also the communication with the online participants (through the raising hand function or chat function). Thus, a certain routine is needed to successfully teach hybrid courses. It may be helpful to use the students as a support, e.g. by having them take over certain tasks (such as moderating discussions in plenary, keeping an eye on chat messages and open questions or checking facts during research tasks).
  • Use group work
    Group work provides social interaction and reduces the feeling of social distance. When you plan on working in groups, be sure to divide the students into groups as efficiently as possible. Present the results of the group work to the plenary for a final exchange. It is a good idea for participants to use their devices and make notes of what they discussed already during group work.
    The following group constellations are possible:
    • According to participation mode (on-site and online groups): On-site participants work on a printed assignment or a task provided in MyLEARN/Canvas online while in the classroom. Online participants work on the assignment in MyLEARN/Canvas using the group chat in MyLEARN/Canvas or communicating in breakout rooms.
    • Mixed groups: If online and on-site participants constitute one group you can counteract potential problems by removing technical obstacles through using breakout rooms and, if necessary, other digital tools (e.g., Mural, assignments in MyLEARN/Canvas, digital whiteboard). Students can communicate in a written or oral way. When using the latter, suitable options for exchange must be ensured (e.g., by providing project rooms, study areas, or similar) so that the noise level in the classroom and other technical issues (e.g., feedback noise, delays, problems adjusting a suitable camera perspective, etc.) can be minimized. On-site participants need to bring their own technical equipment (laptop, tablet or smartphone, headset with microphone). It is easier to group the participants if the students already know each other. This increases the students’ commitment and, on the other hand, supports the group in finding a good flow. For you as a teacher, it can be helpful if the students working together in breakout rooms add an acronym to their names indicating if they are participating on-site or online (e.g., “P” for presence and “O” for online).