Since 2020, the landscape of formats in training and further education has expanded by leaps and bounds. We are talking about interactive online training, video seminars that can be accessed whenever AND also hybrid training. This latter format is not just a mix of face-to-face and online training, but a very unique form that also needs a very unique mix of methods and an expansion of trainer skills.

Because many large companies recognize that this format will be part of their future training, I have put together some essential factors that must be taken into account for successful training:

Social interaction between geographically separated groups

Enabling social interaction for all participants in the hybrid format almost borders on art. The seminar group is not only inhomogeneous due to its expertise, experience or hierarchical positioning, but also due to its division into an ONLINE and an OFFLINE group.

  • It is not enough to simply switch on the online participants and watch what is going on in the seminar room as if on a TV screen.
  • It is not enough to let each of the two groups work separately in small groups – the online group in breakout rooms, the face-to-face group in the seminar room.
  • And some options that can be used wonderfully online for active participation, such as chat or the whiteboard, can either not be used in this format or only with very specific exceptions

Why? Because training always depends on group dynamics. The participants learn from each other and need the feeling of being “in the same boat”, to be able to trust each other, to be connected. Only then can everyone open up and get involved.

In order to promote social interaction between geographically separated groups, the following points must be taken into account:

  1. The agreement not to use the chat in the online group.
    • The presence group cannot read the chat and therefore automatically feels excluded.
  2. The attendance participants are equipped with a smartphone or notebook
    • In this way you can connect to the exclusively online participants for small group work. The groups can therefore be mixed
  3. The online participants have analog material available
    • Paper and pen as minimal equipment.
    • If the seminar is embedded in a more extensive training program, then it is worth considering sending the online participants a seminar package containing, for example, moderation cards and three different colored markers.
    • One task could be, for example, to express the essence of a topic in a word or a symbol. All participants in both groups write their respective word / draw their symbol on a moderation card and hold it at the same time in the respective camera.
  4. Camera setting
    • A camera setting that records all participants in the presence group AND at the same time the trainer AND, if necessary, the flipchart, the pin board, etc. is essential.
    • A webcam is therefore not sufficient; at least two video cameras must be used.
  5. Audio setting
    • Being able to understand each other without annoying background noises is already a must in online training, and an even greater challenge with the hybrid format.
    • My attempts with the most varied of micro or loudspeaker variants have resulted in a clear winning solution: the Jabra hands-free systems offer the best audio quality in rooms of up to 50 square meters. The advantage is that everyone in the room can hear, speak and move at the same time.
    • What always applies is the discipline of the conversation – both online and in the room, only one person can speak at a time.
  6. Screen / projector
    • For smaller rooms of up to 30 square meters, a large screen can be sufficient to bring the online group into the room
    • however, the use of a projector is always an advantage, because the presence of the online participants in the room is reinforced solely by a larger image.
  7. Virtual backgrounds must form a clear contrast to the person
    • the distance to the screen often makes it difficult for the trainer to recognize the online hand signal immediately. It becomes even more difficult if colorful virtual backgrounds are chosen, which are also distracting.
    • It is therefore essential to point out to the online participants that they should rather choose monochrome, calm backgrounds from which they stand out well, but from which the “reaction and interaction icons” stand out well so that they can be recognized quickly can.

Enable orientation in space

This is one of the other points that fundamentally differentiate hybrid training from online and face-to-face. Both in the online room and in the presence room, the participants can relate to their surroundings without any problems.

    • In the online space, the world is two-dimensional, everything takes place on the screen.
    • In the presence room, on the other hand, the participants can use all their senses to orientate themselves quickly.
    • In the hybrid room, however, it is impossible for online participants to know where they are in relation to their offline environment (unless they know the seminar room).

The basic need to orientate oneself, that means “to arrive” and to “settle”, is so important that the participants are simply too busy at the beginning of the training and they are likely to miss out on some important information. I have had this painful experience once and it was one of the most important findings in relation to the hybrid format.

So you need to take the time to show online participants around – by the help of a/ the camera/s – and let them see where and how they are located in the room in relation to the participants in the room.

What is the hybrid format suitable for?

From what has been said so far, it becomes clear that the hybrid format not only has technical requirements, but above all the trainer needs to be even more agile – both in dealing with inhomogeneous groups and with the technology – and enormous caution and attention is required to include all participants equally.

I therefore identify two areas in which hybrid can be used well:

  1. if “normal” face-to-face training is not possible, but participants could profit from observing the interaction of other participants – for example, in role-playing exercises, which would then also serve as learning examples for the online participants. Very often not all participants are able to carry out a role play themselves, even when they are present, but instead take on the role of observers and feedback providers. For certain topics – e.g. everything that relates to communication – learning takes place more effectively if you also have the opportunity to observe and analyze the WHOLE interaction and not just a sub-area (such as online)
  2. if there is both the face-to-face format and the online format for a topic and the online format could not take place due to the insufficient number of participants. Those interested in the online-format could then still take part in the training in a hybrid-form

AND I see another reason for myself personally:

it’s just fun to expand your own playground (in the truest sense of the word).

It’s fun to deal with new technology, new methods and the new possibilities of the virtual world and to use them properly.

If you would like to discuss with me personally about the possibilities of Hybrid or to learn more about the technology, I look forward to hearing from you by phone or email!

This post is also available in: German