Best Practices: A hybrid classroom for the modern workplace - Creation Networks

It is important for companies to balance the needs of remote and in-person employees.

For the foreseeable future, hybrid workplaces will remain popular. During the pandemic, organizations focused on providing training to a fully remote workforce; now, they must provide adequate training to employees in the office and working from home. AV designers and integrators are responsible for deploying the technology needed to support hybrid employee training, who reimagine what a corporate classroom should look like today.

The good news is that remote learning isn’t entirely new. Higher education institutions have been forced to adopt hybrid learning models since March 2020. As a result, they are a great source of guidance on how these spaces should be deployed in a corporate setting. It's important for the enterprise world to learn from the educational world, said Christopher Jaynes, founder, and CTO of Mersive Technologies Inc., a Denver, CO-based provider of collaboration and presentation software. It's a rich community of users, a rich community of people in technology and information that are thinking very specifically about the way students learn.

The issue of maintaining equity in hybrid meetings is one that organizations across the globe grapple with. In the corporate classroom, the same concerns apply. Jaynes is concerned, because "equity" often means compromised in-person experiences or substandard remote experiences. Several examples were given of on-site employees attending hybrid meetings in the corporate conference room only to be instructed to take part via laptops - while sitting next to their remote colleagues - in order to ensure their remote colleagues were on equal footing. This is not the best way to provide the best experience for either group, he argued.

This is not to say that remote participants should be ignored, Jaynes said. A multi-camera system should provide them with a clear view of the room and its occupants, as well as the ability to hear what's going on inside the classroom. In addition, it should also be possible for everyone to get their attention when they have a question to ask.

Physical learning spaces should also facilitate engaging in-person sessions. The reason people went there was because they didn't want a remote experience, they wanted an in-person one," Jaynes explained. “That’s what you’ve got to design for.”

Expanded Audio and Video Needs

As Jaynes suggests, Holger Stoltze, director of product management at Yamaha Unified Communications in Sudbury, MA, encourages AV designers and integrators to look to higher education for inspiration. Specifically, he mentions how universities have configured audio systems to support hybrid learning. For many corporate classrooms prior to COVID, the design goal was to deliver a one-to-many experience. There was a mix and recording of the trainer, but not of the audience. Hybrid scenarios need to be taken into account in more detail. For remote participants to get the most out of training sessions, they must be able to hear not only the trainer, but also their colleagues during the more interactive sessions.

The venue's size will determine which types of microphones (ceiling or tabletop) should be used for interactivity. A DSP or audio switching is also required to prioritize the microphones according to who is speaking, with the trainer having the highest priority at all times. During any meeting, Stoltze explained that it is imperative that people in the room are able to record everything that is said by anyone in the room.

A hybrid corporate classroom should also expand the video to include everyone present, not just the trainer. There will be a greater need for cameras when the space is larger. As part of the planning process, it is necessary to determine whether the cameras will be operated manually, or if they will have automatic tracking capabilities. Again, this will be determined by the size of the space and the sophistication of the training session itself. A dedicated camera operator may be necessary in some sessions, while others may not require this type of investment. Irrespective of the distance, it is important to have a clear visual of everyone, including their facial expressions, for remote participants.

Additionally, Stoltze recommended adding more video displays to the corporate classroom. One or more displays should be within line of sight so that on-site participants can see their remote counterparts. In addition, the trainer must be able to see the remote participants to address them or answer their questions when they raise their hands or signal, via the conferencing platform, that they wish to speak. Depending on how many people will attend virtually, this will often require at least two displays.

"You need a second display at the far end to allow the trainer to see both the participants in the room and those participating remotely," Stoltze said. Although hybrid learning is a comparatively easy solution, it costs money and can double some of the investment. However, in order for instructors and participants to enjoy natural training sessions, additional investment is necessary.

Training for the Trainer

There will be a need to train clients on how to use the technology that will be used as part of their collaboration and training sessions so that they will understand how to use it effectively. Many of the training Creation Networks offers is offered in virtual format, because many organizations are in various stages of getting back to work-and, of course, many have adopted a hybrid work strategy as well. Creation Networks offers training sessions that can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, in order to make users more familiar with the technology once they're on site through a series of refresher courses and new training sessions.

In many cases, it's been 18 months since folks have been in the office, so setting some remote or virtual sessions is a great way to familiarize them with the technology before returning to the office. The technology they may have been using has changed or must be updated in many cases, so they have gotten away from it.

With Creation Networks' in-person and on-demand training, users have access to flipbooks, quick-start guides and videos to supplement what they learn in class. The same material can also be accessed by QR code for those who prefer not to touch a "communal" flipbook. Edwards encourages clients to distribute these digital resources on their organizations’ intranets so that employees can easily access them. Creation Networks provides resources via QR codes for several years, but the pandemic has made the solution more popular.

It remains a work in progress for both higher education and corporate learning environments to determine how best to approach hybrid learning environments. It won't be a moment in time when we can say 'we've accomplished some new model', Jaynes explained. Honestly, it's never been the case anyway, to be honest, since everything is constantly evolving at the moment."

What has changed is that the trends that existed before COVID-19 have been pushed to the forefront. He added that the process had been accelerated as a result of this. During the pandemic, I heard customers say, 'I don't want a control panel on my table anymore', and the reason for this had nothing to do with, 'I don't want people touching my stuff'. People just wanted to use their own devices instead of the ones that had been provided by the company. This trend has just accelerated in the past few years.

To learn how a hybrid classroom can bolster your Team, contact us for a demo!

Read more: What Does it Take to Set Up a Conference Room in a Hybrid Office?

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