By Holmén, Irgang & Sanchez 

How to ensure co-pilots in your course know what to do with minimal fuss 

Remember how you struggle with getting others to understand when 

The situation is not unfamiliar to most teachers. You are to teach in a course where you don’t know the aim, content, and pedagogical setup. Of course, the examiner is unwilling or unable to clearly provide instructions. Surely, the examiner could do better? Or you have a course that will reach a broad range of students, with whom you need to interact frequently. To manage the situation, you bring in other teachers and supervisors but unfortunately, they are unable or even unwilling to spend time and effort to properly fulfill their roles. And even if your best efforts ensure you can manage one year, the next year you have a new setup of teachers or trainers, which means you have to repeat the work. 

What should a poor teacher do? While the situation rarely is solvable once and for all, the good news is that you can manage the situation by creating a train-the-trainers guide. Such solution comes in different forms, here we show how to do it for blended learning courses, containing a group project where students may have many different backgrounds (engineers, scientists, business, social sciences, etc.) and where familiarity of at least two disciplines, such as business and engineering, are required to successfully finish the course. 

In this article, we will explore best practices in training teachers to teach a hybrid course. These practices are described along 5 principles for creating a train the trainer module. 

Principle #1 Contextualize the course 

Lots of mistakes and annoyances can be avoided with simply a short and crisp description of the purpose of the course and how it’s organized even if a teacher is only involved in a part of the course. It can be very difficult to understand the red thread in blended learning courses having students with widely varying backgrounds. 

If you organize your course in modules or chronologically, you can explicitly show what the different modules are about, and this also shows the shift from e.g. ensuring students familiarize themselves with a topic to actively applying methods and frameworks to a particular problems. 

An important lesson is not to overdo the contextualization in terms of time and effort. Keep it simple and just focus on the sensemaking of the course. You may provide the logic in terms of writing but can also make a short recording or video outlining the logic. 

Principle #2 Demonstrate the rules of the game 

Nowadays formal requirements tend to stress the importance of learning outcomes. Make sure to explicitly show the teachers and explain which of them they are to cover in their supervision or teaching. However, just like any humans, teachers differ and a great answer relative to a learning outcome for one may be a poor reply to another. There are three important aspects here. First, if you are in charge, make sure to show how well different answers respond to the learning outcomes. Second, sometimes your teacher co-pilots do need to make the decision, and not you. Make sure that the division of responsibility is clearly formulated. Third, you may remind people that in rare instances it is your responsibility to overrule an action or decision by a teacher. This is your prerogative and is a part of being professional. 

Principle #3 Just in time “offline” assistance 

Teachers have been known to procrastinate and do not really prepare in advance, which may force you to spend time to help them just prior to their sessions. Unfortunately, this may be a bad time for you. You can mitigate the issue by providing explicit instructions. These instructions need to be located at a place where the teachers can find them. For example, you can provide short teacher notes in a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the purpose of the slide, additional information and links to other resources. These offline explanations can be extremely helpful as the instructions are there just when the teachers need them. 

Principle #4 Clarify examination activities and outputs 

While rarely the favorite topic of teachers and students, the examination is in many ways the most important learning event in a course, and often different modules are examined separately. Typical information teachers need to know is the grading system, who grades and who can overrule grading, how much of the final grade each student output contributes to, and what the examination activities are. Additional details such as expected time to completion for the students, and whether it is individual or groups that will do the work should be outlined. 

Principle #5 Transparency and time management

Set up all the material available to all teachers. Make sure you clearly have a ‘pointer’ explaining what the material is about, such as module, learning outcomes, form of teaching (seminar, recording, lecture, projects) and expected student effort in time. 

Both the teacher and the student are expected to put in more time and effort in hybrid courses. When educating students in a hybrid course, instructors should receive training on time management skills. They should create a schedule that accounts for the time needed for both in-person and online instruction, as well as grading and giving feedback to students. 

Teachers should also give their students advice on how to use their time wisely. Students should be aware of the time commitment for each online activity, as well as the dates and times of scheduled in-person meetings and deadlines. As a result, they will be better able to manage their time and stay on track.

Teaching a hybrid course requires a different set of skills and strategies than teaching a traditional face-to-face or online course. By contextualizing the course, demonstrating the rules of the game, offering just in time “offline” assistance, clarifying examination activities and outputs, and emphasizing the importance of transparency and time management, higher education institutions can ensure that their teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to deliver effective and engaging hybrid courses that meet the needs of their students.

Magnus Holmén is a Professor in Innovation Sciences with a focus on Industrial Management. He has been teaching in Sweden and Australia for more than twenty years. Recently he has been creating courses combining innovation, business and artificial intelligence for practitioners on the master level. 

Luis Irgang is a Doctoral Candidate in Innovation Sciences with a focus on Industrial Management. He has background in Business and experience with social innovations and research projects involving the inclusion of people with disabilities in organizations. Deycy Sanchez is an Assistant Professor in Industrial Management and Innovation. With over 20 years of expertise, she possesses extensive experience in designing courses and teaching subjects like Technology Management and Knowledge Management.

Article HU – Best Practices in designing train the trainers toolkit