In this post, Ros Claase, Sarah Thomas, Joe Arton and Jon Turner describe the genesis and mission of the Edinburgh Hybrid Teaching Exchange, a University website launched in June 2020 that provides resources and pedagogical insights to support hybrid teaching and learning at the University…
In June 2020, as Scotland moved into Phase 1 of the easing of lockdown restrictions, the University shifted from crisis response mode into planning for an adapted and renewed approach to our core activities – aptly named ‘Adaptation and Renewal’ (henceforth, ART).
Part of this work has focussed on how our educators can plan, prepare for and deliver learning and teaching in a hybrid format, which, in the words of our Assistant Principal Digital Education, Professor Sian Bayne, means that “courses and programmes […] can be taken by online and on-campus students working together as a single cohort”1. Hybrid learning is a new concept for many of our colleagues, however we shouldn’t forget that we also have extensive experience of delivering online education as well as an appetite and willingness to embrace educational innovations and continue to enhance our learning and teaching practices.
As part of the ART Students work, Dr Jon Turner, Director of the Institute of Academic Development, and Professor Bayne have sponsored the creation and development of the Edinburgh Hybrid Teaching Exchange site, a space where colleagues have been encouraged to ‘share work in progress, learning, insights, ideas, plans and resources’ as we prepare for the 2020-21 academic session. This site started life as an internal resource, intended to aid our colleagues’ thinking – and maybe experimentation – about how a hybrid learning experience might be created, delivered and experienced. We kept it behind a firewall (the University’s EASE authentication) to ensure contributors felt comfortable in sharing nascent plans, innovative ideas, as well as worries about how hybrid might play out. We ensured that the student voice has been well represented, through contributions from our Students’ Association elected sabbatical officers, featured blogs from student authors, and content co-created by students, including our hybrid learner journeys and personae.
Keen to make the site as engaging as possible for readers already no doubt inundated with online material and possibly suffering from ‘virtual fatigue’, since its launch we have endeavoured to make it visually appealing as well as full of relevant, thought provoking and inspiring written content. To that end, we have included considerable video and audio content – oftentimes as part of an interview or discussion format – and took the decision to work with a recent Edinburgh College of Art graduate, Kirsty Johnston, to bring our hybrid learner journeys to life through the medium of illustration. As well as bringing her artistic skills and creativity to this project, Kirsty was also able to bring us closer to the student experience of hybrid learning and teaching, having graduated in the class of 2020 and pivoted to online learning and assessment during lockdown.
As the resources on the Edinburgh Hybrid Teaching Site grew, so its original purpose and audience has extended, as it became apparent how some of the materials might help educators beyond Edinburgh navigate hybrid learning and teaching during and beyond the pandemic, and potentially also help students and their supporters to understand how the University has approached the development and design of new ways of engaging students in their learning. In early September, with the permission of its contributors, we took the firewall away to make the site an open, public site to therefore open its content to a much broader audience, whilst maintaining the option for contributors to keep content behind the firewall if their blogs were very much ‘work in progress’ reflections intended for internal audiences.
Ros is currently working as part of Adaptation and Renewal – Students, with a focus on student support and administration, and curriculum resilience. She has worked as part of the university’s change programme since April 2019, leading the review of Student Support and Personal Tutoring, and prior to that held a number of roles in Student Support and Administration since 2011. Before joining the University of Edinburgh, Ros’ experience has been in in human resources, recruitment and graduate development.
Sarah Thomas is the Engagement and Communications Officer within the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). She supports and advises on communications plans and strategies within the IAD to enhance engagement and offers support on a number of strategic University initiatives, including Teaching Matters, The Edinburgh Hybrid Teaching Exchange and the Festival of Creative Learning.
Joe Arton is an Academic Developer at the institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh, he is the co-editor of Teaching Matters and manages the development of The Hybrid Teaching Exchange. Before joining the Institute for Academic Development, Joe worked in HR Learning and Development, technology enhanced learning and as a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Virginia.
Jon Turner is Director of the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). Prior to setting up the IAD in 2011 Jon led the Postgraduate Transferable Skills Unit (transkills) at Edinburgh. He has a PhD in Geology.