UvA Economics and Business (EB) is using hybrid live lectures in the ‘Hybrid Learning Theatre’ to make active participation and interaction possible for 1500 first-year students.
Normally, professor Maarten Pieter Schinkel explores all facets of the joint course ‘Principles of Economics & Business’ using guest speakers and the course is usually given in a setting such as the Carré or DeLaMar theatre. But due to coronavirus measures, this wasn’t possible this year. So a solution was found to offer students an appealing learning experience in spite of the restrictions: during the summer, UvA Economics and Business built a professional ‘Hybrid Learning Theatre’ in the Amsterdam Business School building on the Roeterseiland Campus.
In the Hybrid Learning Theatre, lecturers can give lectures to all their students just like they did in the past. The students watching the lecture online are projected on a large Zoom screen and they comprise the online audience. A small group of students is also physically present in the theatre itself, where they sit at a distance of 1.5 metres from each other. During the lecture, there is interaction between this small group of students, the online students participating through Zoom, and the lecturer. Questions are answered immediately in this 'live' format, cases are discussed by all the participants, and students at home and on campus can discuss the course material. The lecture is recorded using multiple cameras making it easy to quickly switch from slides used in the lecture to video images. The Hybrid Learning Theatre enables UvA EB to retain dynamic interaction as a foundation for inspirational education, even for students watching at home.
The interaction we’re creating in this professional studio is very close to the interaction we would see during a regular lecture in Carré’, says Maarten Pieter Schinkel, one of the initiators of this project. For good education, it’s very important that there is direct communication that stimulates students to actively participate. Even the non-verbal feedback given by the students who are in attendance is a source of motivation and important for teaching in an academic setting. Project manager Maud Pols adds: ‘This is a new way of teaching that will be used in education in the future.’ Dr Pushpika Vishwanathan, who will be teaching Strategy & Organisation in the theatre, notes the cosy ambience the live broadcast of the Q&A sessions where she will sit in an armchair while discussing course material with students. Schinkel is enthusiastic about the hybrid solution: ‘With all the limitations we’re facing due to COVID-19, I think it’s great that UvA Economics and Business made this innovative approach to teaching and education possible. It was amazing to discover the expertise we have at the UvA to build something like this from scratch with a few enthusiastic people’.
For now, a few courses will be taught live at the Hybrid Learning Theatre. In addition to ‘Principles of Economics & Business’ and ‘Strategy & Organisation’, ‘Mathematical Economics’ will also be taught, using virtual whiteboards. The goal of the project is to gain experience in using this new educational approach, and to continue developing and fine-tuning this format. The project will be evaluated after the first period, and in the future, regular large-scale lectures can also be held here. This gives UvA Economics and Business the opportunity to benefit from combining live and interactive education by making it instructive and inspirational and able to adapt to the circumstances at any given time.
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