CfT: Call for Tips for Better Hybrid Experiences
We just passed our third year of virtual learning and relying on videoconferencing and we are grappling with the uneven emergence. “post pandemic” world. As an organizer of learning spaces at the GC, I believe hybrid is here to stay—events will be held over video conferencing, with the possibility of in-person. Below are some strategies to enliven virtual/hybrid spaces:
Turning off self view – I discovered too late that you could turn off self-view. It’s well documented that seeing yourself in a zoom window contributes to zoom fatigue. There’s a nifty function to get rid of self-view. It could be nerve wracking at first (my first time hiding my self-view, my face was only half in-frame until another participant DM-ed me to let me know to adjust my camera) but it helped me stay focused on the other participants, especially when I also turned on speaker view. This helped me feel less self-conscious. Instructions turning off self-view on Google Meet and Zoom.
Adding a support facilitator – when we teach GCDI workshops, we always have a support fellow in addition to the main facilitator who is giving direct instruction. The support fellow helps with answering or flagging questions in the chat, sharing links and resources, and if need be, troubleshooting bigger questions/issues in a breakout room. This helps participants feel like they can feel free to ask questions without derailing instruction.
Setting Norms – After three years of using videoconferencing platforms, some universal etiquette rules have arisen: mute yourself, one person speaking at a time, let people know if their screen sharing or their connection is wonky. That being said, communally setting ground rules (practice imported from creating safe spaces) also goes a long way to prevent alienation. This is a project that requires collective buy-in while allowing participants to get an understanding of what kind of virtual space works for other people—participants respond to the speaker getting interrupted by questions differently. Rules could include how to use the chat/reactions, camera off, etc.
Trying Geographic/location based icebreakers – almost every group I’ve facilitated has had the misfortune of my slightly sadistic ice breaker question: “what have you tried to avoid showing on zoom calls.” This question gently suggests shared vulnerability and especially reminds participants that we are all existing in our own spaces and contexts while joining this shared virtual space. Another good one is “share an item in your room that is meaningful to you.”
Acknowledging burnout – Everyone is suffering from some degree of burnout. The last three years have been unprecedentedly difficult for everyone, especially people who have taken on care work while remote. Now, as in-person events are trickling into people’s calendars, all the virtual commitments we made have come home to roost. Facilitators of hybrid spaces could lower the stakes of their space by acknowledging burnout.
Sending agenda/materials beforehand – It really helps a discussion when an agenda is shared before the meeting so participants can follow along with the programming and get excited about topics.
Clarifying what hybrid means – “Hybrid” still means different things to different people so being clear about what options are available under what parameters (frequency of meetings, synchronicity, etc) can give people the flexibility to commit to some in-person participation.
Ending with Action Items – Not only does reviewing and assignment action items consolidate the purpose of the meeting, this practice also reminds participants of the productivity achieved in the meeting. Of course, not all hybrid spaces “need” to be productive but tethering the hybrid experience to tangible outcomes could help combat video conference fatigue
This list contains suggestions from Di Yoong, PhD candidate, Critical Social/Personality & Environmental Psychology and Digital Scholarship Center Fellows at The Graduate Center Digital Initiatives.
Meme credit: Meme credit to Zachary Parlee of The Crimson Times of Everett High School (Everett ,MA); Bernie photo originally taken by Brendan Smialowski; and classroom photo from Betsy Eggart
If you have any good tips for facilitating hybrid/virtual spaces, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to keep this list updated!