Hybrid wine courses: simultaneously online and face-to-face - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Joining together online wine courses with simultaneous classroom-based face-to-face learning is already here in the world of hybrid delivery. But is the wine world is ready to move on to this all-in-one method?

Hybrid wine courses run by a hybrid teacher may not be terms you've come across but they work in a similar way to hybrid vehicles in that they have two ways to make them go - cars use both an electrical motor and an engine while hybrid courses work by being taught both in the classroom and online at the same time with one teacher.

Pioneered by universities as a response to the pandemic, hybrid courses allow students who would normally travel to a lecture room the choice to attend remotely, while other students are still able to listen and learn while siting a few metres away from the lecturer - potentially disenfranchised students can still be involved by attending online through Zoom or Microsoft Teams. But does this synchronous, or hyflex, learning method have a place in the practical world of wine courses?

Online wine tastings and online wine courses have flourished over the past 18 months - check out the range and number of listings shown on virtualwineevents.com, Jancis Robinson's Calendar and on individual provider websites (Check out my Short Online Wine Course) - but their future may be limited post-pandemic unless they adapt, once again, to learners' desires. While some want to return to what they know and learn face-to-face in a classroom, there is a realisation that learning online can also be great as you don't have the bother of balancing almost empty bottles and dribbling wine glasses with the worry about how to get home after imbibing.

Being labelled a hybrid course is really only a concern for the course provider - students only see their one chosen method of delivery and so there's still a teacher in the classroom and one at the end of a webcam for those online.

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Things get more complicated for the instructor - hybrid working turns them into presenters and IT technicians. You can't just teach a class as you would normally do as there are now two areas of focus - the classroom and all the online technology.

Expect to arrive up to 2 hours before the appointed start time if you're new to a venue as preparing the room for hybrid delivery needs precise room arrangements and plenty of electrical sockets.

You can just use the single webcam and microphone built into a laptop to capture your teaching method but using multiple visual and sound inputs allows you to be seen as more than just a thumbnail head on the distance learner's screen as well as capturing roundtable discussions and questions from learners who are sat away from the tutor's main microphone.

At the present time online software like Zoom and Teams assumes there's only one camera and microphone. So, if you want to use multiple camera views and microphone choices you'll need to use interfacing software like CamTwist that does all the clunky switching between inputs for you.

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Echoey classrooms is a problem that is more difficult to solve. If you don't want your teaching to sound like it's coming from a cathedral then the venue needs to be as acoustically dead as possible - this avoids the issue of hearing your voice twice, once as you speak and then a partial second later as it bounces back off the wall back at you. This can be solved by using soft furnishings - have cushioned seating, carpets and closed curtains to absorb the sound. You may not want to go as far as radio presenters who put a duvet or blanket over their head if speaking from home rather than a specially designed radio studio.

The future looks more practised and slick as tutors and teachers become experts in presenting while the technology catches up with better sound quality and flexibility in camera views and outputs.

Hybrid courses require a hybrid mentality - online and face-to-face. But many of us wine professionals are there already with video social media channels, audio podcasts and the time-honoured way of answering questions in the wine aisles of supermarkets and on the phone to our relatives. Hybrid teaching may just be another of those things that we slip into without realising it's happened.

Related articles:

How is an online wine class different to the classroom?

Who gets in the wine for an online wine tasting?

BOOKING NOW: Short online wine course with Paula from WineUncorked


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