Sitting on the fourth floor of the Chaloem Rajakumari 60 building next to hustling and bustling Pathum Wan, nearly two dozen students are busy receiving their lessons. Nothing unusual, but these are unusual times. COVID-19 has led to a global panic pandemic, and the term “scare” is no longer restricted to horror movies.
But the teens in this teaching hall are different: they are pursuing a program that is a unique hybrid of arts and science, and this semester, all of them are engrossed in learning deep tech. Amidst the corona outbreak, the School of Integrated Innovation (ScII), where they are enrolled, has moved to a hybrid teaching model.
“We have moved away from both the traditional classroom and the online teaching model, and our courses are now being offered in hybrid mode,” reveals ScII Executive Director Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai. The classroom mode huddles all students together in a restricted physical space, while the online mode lets them sit in front of their computers in remote locations.
“In the online teaching mode, the content remains the same, whether in the classroom or on the computer screen; but the hybrid model is a leap ahead,” Prof. Worsak says.
This way we are able to convert a crisis (COVID-19) into an opportunity (by adopting the hybrid delivery mode to support those students who feel more comfortable studying from home or from remote locations), Prof. Worsak adds.
In the hybrid mode, the physical classroom still has students, but those who prefer studying remotely are in a virtual classroom. All students are present at the same time, and they are listening to the same instructor and performing the same task. Group work may involve one student sitting in the library, another in the classroom, and a third may be ensconced in the home environment. This allows all students to actively participate in the classroom activity without having to be physically present. Similarly, group assignments and brainstorming sessions can be included in regular lectures, discounting a time lag of a few milliseconds, which acts as only a minor irritant.
For faculty members like John Loewen, who has been working on Learning Management Systems (LMS) for over two decades, the hybrid learning system is an appropriate fit in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. “It allows for collaboration between instructor and students and vice-versa, primarily because interactivity is a key component of the system,” says Dr. John.
The adoption of the Microsoft Teams platform has been crucial, and ScIIfaculty members use it to integrate workplace chat, video meetings, file sharing, and collaboration along with all the traditional features of an LMS.
Terry Clayton, who teaches science communication, was among the first to implement the system in ScII. “There is always a learning curve, but our students are smart. It didn’t take long before both educators and learners discovered the features and adapted them to their own individual environments.”
“It took a week of soft testing, and all of us are now implementing this hybrid mode,” says Dr. Warinya, academic coordinator of the Bachelors in Arts and Science in Integrated Innovation (BaScII) program. “We are probably the first school to adopt hybrid learning in all the subjects we offer this semester,” she adds.
“I’m sure there will be more challenges as we gradually seek to incorporate other features in our hybrid model,” says Prof. Worsak. “But with all faculty and students having adopted the new environment, if the situation demands it, we can pull the shutters on our classrooms, and yet both teaching and learning will continue at the same, if not faster pace.”
Details about ScII and the BaScII program are available at this link