Hybrid learning as a tool of inclusivity and collaborative digital practices

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master of Arts Euroculture: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context. An international Master degree programme that focuses on the complex interplay of politics and culture in European society, set in a global context. Partners Universities include: Universidad de Deusto, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, GeorgAugust-Universität Göttingen, Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, Université de Strasbourg, Università degli studi di Udine, Uppsala Universitet.

Author: Patricia Eunice C. Miraflores, EMJMD Euroculture student. See contributors page

Due to the pandemic, I resorted to distance learning for the first semester of my Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters programme in Euroculture. I was supposed to relocate to the Netherlands by September 2020 but strict travel restrictions and unprecedented calamities in my home country made it increasingly impossible for my trip to materialise. As such, it was a huge relief for me when my home university, the University of Groningen, offered classes in hybrid format. The term “hybrid” in this case was used to describe the classes that were simultaneously held online and

Maximising digital tools through experimentation and collaboration

A lot has been written vis-a-vis the theories on how people could leverage digital tools in the field of education [1] [2] [3]. In practice, the best digital practices tend to reveal themselves through a combination of experimentation and collaboration. This was especially true during the first year of the pandemic. For the hybrid classes in Groningen, students who were not physically present participated in real-time video conferences (e.g. Blackboard/Google Meet). Initially, this process was rather tedious since technical difficulties interrupted the flow of discussions. With time, we
developed a more effective system such that professors set up and synced two laptops, one projector, and one speaker. The students who were present offline helped streamline the flow of information between those in the classroom and those participating online.

Learning experiences and limitations

This raised my overall learning experience since I was able to participate in the classes as normally as possible given the circumstances. Although there were obvious limitations in terms of in-person interactions, the professors designed the classes to maximise interactive learning. For example, big-group discussions were interspersed with small group discussions. During these SGDs, students self-organised separate video conferences with those of us online to discuss and debate the learning material. These SGDs were less prone to technical issues and helped deepen our
understanding of the lessons. To culminate our key learnings during the first semester, we had our annual Euroculture debate, research paper presentations, and professional development sessions using this format. When travel restrictions eased and I was able to travel to Groningen, I found that the lessons I learned from this semester remained intact until I completed the programme.

Reflections on inclusivity

To conclude, my Erasmus programme succeeded in providing an alternative option for those of us who cannot physically come to Europe. Despite the physical and digital barriers, I found that my needs as a non-European student were accommodated. Through this experience, I realised that the best practices for digital learning ought to make the current system more equitable. The University of Groningen’s hybrid system exemplifies how technology could be a tool of inclusion when applied deliberately to bridge such gaps. More broadly, the goal is to not make technology the only option for all students; rather, the goal is for technology to broaden the options of students whose access to basic resources is limited, in the name of inclusivity.

For more on online group discussions and other pre-loved practices in online teaching check out JPROV's (Aalto.fi) Online Teaching Digital Toolbox.

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/back-to-school-a-frameworkfor-remote-and-hybrid-learning-amid-covid 19#%20https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/publicand-social-sector/our-insights/back-to-school-a-framework-for-remote-and-hybrid-learning-amidcovid-19#
[3] https://www.brookings.edu/research/beyond-reopening-schools-how-education-can-emergestronger-than-before-covid-19/

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