Demystifying Dual Delivery
Dr Miriam Firth is Director of Teaching and Learning (Strategy) for the Manchester Institute of Education (School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED)). We interviewed Miri about her experiences as an ‘early adopter’ of Dual Delivery following the installation of the supporting equipment over the summer of 2021. Here she explains in practical terms what it is, the benefits of adoption, and shares her top tips for making it work well.
What do we mean by Dual Delivery?
Dual delivery provides simultaneous teaching to both on-campus and off-campus cohorts, avoiding the need to teach these two cohorts separately. In terms of the University’s Flexible Learning glossary, it is a form of hybrid flexible delivery, meaning “Each class session and learning activity is offered in-person, synchronously online, and asynchronously online. Students can decide how to participate.”
Why do we need Dual Delivery?
All courses have now returned to in-person teaching this academic year, but with some disciplines also offering remote study to students who are unable to travel to Manchester. In the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE) we are allowing all students to pick one of two options for their location of study to ensure that there is equity of access to teaching. They’re either going to be studying with us on campus, or studying remotely in another location, and that remote location could be thousands of miles away or alternatively, just down Oxford Road. It’s crucial that all our students have access to teaching – and also to their peers for group discussion and debate – as the long-term effects of the pandemic play out.
You first used Dual Delivery methods over the summer: to set a little context, what were you using it for?
Over the summer, we were trialling it with colleagues and volunteer students to see how it would work. We were really well supported by our e-Learning team in getting access to Dual Delivery rooms as well as remote kit.
In the MIE, where I’m the Director of Teaching and Learning, we have over 24 programmes of study, so we’re quite a large department within SEED. We teach all levels – from traditional undergraduate programmes through masters to professional doctorates. We also have the contracts to deliver initial teacher education training – the PGCEs – for the University and our local area. We also have our worldwide distance learners, such as those on the Digital Technologies, Communication and Education MA and the Educational Leadership in Practice (ELiP) MA. So, it was our information technology colleagues, in particular, that required access to and early testing of this dual teaching technology so that they could not only teach with it, but teach our students about it!
I teach on the undergraduate Management, Leadership and Leisure programme, but because we have so many large programmes in MIE – both traditional and non-traditional, on-campus and distance learning – we had lots of training provided specifically for our department to access and test it with colleagues and students on campus and remotely.
In a podcast episode for Humanities Teaching Academy you summarise dual delivery as “a classroom with a web camera”, which gives an idea of how it differs from ‘lecture capture’ (aka the Podcasting Service) which some staff will be familiar with. Could you expand a little on the differences?
I think the key difference is in the flexibility and control that the lecturer has over the technology. Okay, colleagues can use QR codes to pause the lecture capture, but in my own experience I didn’t often consciously think about the technology or implications of lecture capture – I would walk into my classroom, turn the computer on, settle the students in the group, answer key questions, and then I would just run that class as it was planned.
With Dual Delivery you are more conscious that, “I have this technology in the room”. That, to me, isn’t a negative or burden – it actually provides more flexibility and control in my use of the technology.
One thing that I found really useful is that in most of the dual teaching rooms we have two camera angles. There is the single speaker, front-focused camera angle that we’ve all become used to on Zoom. I like using that when I’m delivering straight lecture content with a slide behind me, because I can both focus on the students online and talk to the students in the room. I find that angle particularly useful in that context, because I can have direct eye contact with the students, and I think that’s really important.
I switch to the whole room camera angle if I want the online students to see the students in the class, so that in class students can present from small group discussion to all in attendance, or so the online students can feel part of the whole group discussion. The room angle also enables online students to see if another peer wants to raise a question in line with the content being discussed.
I do still feel it is simply an extra webcam in the room – just like we’re on Zoom today, having a discussion, but with that extra webcam angle.
How easy did you find the pieces of Dual Delivery kit to use?
I found it really easy to use. All teaching colleagues have been through significant changes in the last 18 months. In a crisis moment we had to move to a completely different mode of teaching. I would absolutely argue that we are all experts at using Zoom now regardless of whether we have previously evaluated or researched online teaching. We can manage our classes and support our students with online technologies, so I found this transition a lot easier than I would have done if we hadn’t have had the experiences of the pandemic. It was stepping ‘aside’ rather than stepping ‘up’.
The students tell me if it works or it doesn’t work, and I constantly talk with them about what they’d like to change, or how it works for them, and any changes that can help them further.
Did you find Dual Delivery was all about getting to grips with some new technological equipment? Or did it have implications for how you designed and structured your teaching?
In our department we don’t usually have the traditional Lecture/Seminar format. Instead, we tend to have a mixture of mini-lectures and small group discussions in one session, and you might have students getting up and writing things on a board – we have such blended methods in our teaching, and it was those bits that you did have to sit back and think, “Well, how will this work?”
That said, I haven’t had to change much of my lesson design. What I have had to do, is add in time for me to check in with the students at points during the session that it’s all working for them.
I think if you have the more traditional Lecture/Seminar format your teaching would work really well in dual delivery. What’s facing you are both in person and online groups, and then you can split them into smaller groups where necessary.
I’m delighted that I don’t feel teaching with technology means I can’t do some things or have to do others – I still think there is a lot of flexibility for learning design.
Have you had any feedback from your students about their experiences of this delivery method?
I’ve had some really positive experiences, particularly because our students were particularly interested in seeing how it would work, whether as students of education or events management.
It’s a new experience for them as well, and the positive things that students have said is that they’re delighted they can still see their peers – because they can see people in the classroom, they still feel part of that learning community. They can all access the information and use skills that they’ve developed on using Zoom and presenting to each other, because their IT skills have improved as well.
Where there have been negative comments, it’s been around the noise from the classroom itself. That is something that the in-person students need to be more aware of, but it does not seem to detract from the overall learning experience.
Can you envisage yourself using Dual Delivery in the future?
I think size is a major factor: classes of around 50 students work well. When I’ve got 100 – 150 students it’s a lot more to manage. For teaching those larger groups, I think it might work better to change the format to be a Lecture / Seminar and do synchronous and asynchronous delivery.
I can see myself adopting Dual Delivery, depending on the unit of study and the content. It does need to be something that is appropriate for the unit and the particular group of students.
Miri’s Top Tips for Dual Delivery:
- Ensure that Blackboard is set up clearly so that all students working remotely have the link to the session, and on-campus students know how to find the room
- Get to the classroom on campus early to check everything’s switched on and ready to go
- Remind the students how Dual Delivery works, to allow for remote participation as well as that in the room
- Reassure them that we’re all getting used to this together
- Ask a student to be a champion to look out for the online/remote learners feeding back through the chat, as another pair of eyes for you
- Quick FAQs about Dual Teaching (Humanities Teaching Academy) for more on the specifics of Dual Delivery and how to integrate it into your teaching
- Miriam’s podcast, where she is interviewed by the Humanities’ Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning & Students, Becki Bennett, as part of the Humanities Teaching Academy Good Practice in Teaching Podcast Series (10 minutes)
- Media Services’ Dual Delivery Teaching Space User Guide (pdf, 9 pages)
- ITL’s Dual Delivery Guidance (pdf, 7 pages)
- Humanities Teaching Academy’s Dual Teaching pages