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Fostering inclusivity and diversity: Best strategies for a hybrid campus

Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
March 14, 2023
Table of Contents

Over the course of recent years, hybrid learning changed from an immediate, short-term need to an established standard for the new era of education. With a growing number of students expressing a preference for at least partially online learning, it becomes clear that institutions need to adapt their campuses and educational offerings for the now-permanent requirement of hybrid and HyFlex learning [3]. The benefits are numerous: hybrid learning provides learners with a wider range of instructional modes and more control over the pace and location of their learning, thus making for a more inclusive educational offering. Especially for disadvantaged or working students, the option to participate in their courses asynchronously, from the kitchen table, is often invaluable.

The challenge of implementing hybrid learning lies in the implementation process itself. While hybrid learning has undergone a massive mainstreamization due to the pandemic, the efforts to digitize the physical classroom are by no means new. According to the 2019 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report, hybrid learning spaces have been actively championed even before the pandemic but were later deprioritized due to the rise of exclusively online learning [1]. Despite this long history of transitioning to hybrid, sustainable strategies for effectively conducting the transformation are still lacking. Hybrid learning spaces are costly and require new technologies and instructional approaches. This alone can give one pause, and the doubts are only amplified by the challenges in adoption – are the new technologies user-friendly and efficient or do they add more work to the faculties’ plates? Are the students actually more engaged, or do they have difficulties navigating the unnecessarily complex functionalities and user interfaces? In short: do new technologies act as tools that facilitate effective pedagogies, or as rigid, inflexible structures that limit the opportunities for learning?

In this article, we will address these questions by exploring the best practices, use cases, and strategies related to providing an engaging, inclusive hybrid experience that promotes well-being and resilience among the students, faculty, and administrative workforce.

Guidelines, practical strategies, and templates to help you implement inclusive pedagogy and UDL in diverse settings.
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1. Digital without divide

Hybrid learning technology has grown rapidly, offering creative solutions such as virtual labs, VR, advanced video-conferencing platforms, or live lecture streaming. But when selecting teaching tools for a hybrid course, it is important to remember the digital divide. The digital divide in higher education occurs when people of lower economic means cannot fully participate in a technology-driven learning experience, either due to limited internet access or lack of the necessary hardware. [2] While in-person education solves this problem by granting access to on-campus technology, the digital divide becomes amplified in remote settings. Connection issues, low-quality mobile experience, and inaccessible materials all contribute to the growing disengagement of online students whose access to technology remains limited. This, in turn, makes it more difficult and frustrating for instructors to provide a consistently high-quality learning experience for all their students.

In the long term, institutions must embrace strategies for closing the digital divide such as collaborating with governments to enhance the internet infrastructure, promoting a better mobile experience for mobile-reliant learners, and transforming licensing models to address the needs of remote students. [2] [4] [5] However, colleges and universities can also deploy more immediate solutions, which include:

2. Take in your surroundings

Building a hybrid classroom requires much more than a camera and a mic setup. Sometimes, what ends up being the biggest frustration is the constricting room layout. In their paper on HyFlex interaction, Marie Leijon and Björn Lundgren of Malmo University cite research, according to which instructors expressed that because of awkward placement, they did not feel as connected with their online students as they felt with their in-person ones: [6:1]

“McNaughton et al. (2014) found that the teachers experienced a conflict between the design of the physical learning spaces and their pedagogical goals. When the teacher moved around in the space only one-third of the room was used consistently; furthermore, the teacher felt disconnected from the remote students. That is, the design of the space and the framing of a video conference affected the interaction in both the campus space and online.“

To support faculty in the ongoing transition to full-time hybrid learning, hybrid classroom design has to be inclusive, engaging, and easy to navigate, in consideration of the following practices: [10]

  • Furniture should be easy to move and not obstruct the view of the participants or the displayed materials. Flexible furniture also enables in-class participants to move around easily, so the monitors displaying remote participants are not always in the front and center.
  • The setup should accommodate a variety of devices and technologies. Improving the mobile experience and integrating interoperable tools ensure that the experience is consistent and easy to navigate for everyone.
  • Students should be provided with multiple collaboration options. Tools such as cameras for whiteboards or chalkboards enable remote and in-class students to work together.
  • Both remote and in-class students should have equal access to information. Multiple video conferencing rooms and cameras placed in strategic places ensure that all participants can easily see each other and the displayed materials.

3. Make data-driven decisions

One of the defining characteristics of a hybrid campus should be resilience and agility. That is why it is crucial to track the success of and satisfaction with the new solutions, as well as draw actionable conclusions. Insights from the students, the faculties, and the administrative force alike can provide new directions for the future of the hybrid campus. [8] Some of the data strategies to improve the hybrid experience are:

  • Conducting student surveys to gauge preferences regarding course modalities. While on the large scale, online learning is becoming more and more popular among students, every course and every learner is different. Therefore, it is important to adjust the balance of modalities according to the specific current needs of the students and the faculty.
  • Implementing risk factors and student performance dashboards to measure the impact of the transition to hybrid on learning outcomes and student success. Faculties can leverage education technology to detect problem areas and pinpoint periods of decline to then draw conclusions for improvement. LMS-embedded solutions such as FeedbackFruits offer both instructors and instructional designers a big-picture overview of the class performance and help make timely interventions.
  • Using data and analytics tools to determine which elements should be moved online and which should remain on campus. Campus services such as academic advising, career services, or call centers can often be moved online, which saves time and provides flexibility for both the employees and the students. With data, institutions can easily measure the effectiveness of these transitions.

One of the institutions that uses data and analytics to improve its hybrid campus is Georgia State University. [7] Georgia State University updated its already existing set of risk factors to a hybrid environment and utilized them to reach out to students in case the flagged issues were detected. Whenever a risk factor, such as students not logging into their course or not completing their assignments, occurs, academic advisers are notified and able to contact the students in a timely manner and provide the necessary support. Furthermore, Georgia State University uses data and analytics to anticipate which students are having financial difficulties and provide aid directly without any need for in-person interaction.

4. Choose wisely

When making a transition to a hybrid campus, it is crucial to set clear limits and priorities, both in relation to the academic portfolio and employee concerns. It is both impossible and unnecessary to switch to a seamless, fully hybrid campus all at once, so the choices institutions are making should be strategic and not overburden faculties, workforce, or students. A collaborative, agile approach helps implement changes that make the campus experience easier and better, not overwhelming and restrictive. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Communicate with the faculty. When deciding on which courses or activities should be conducted online and which should be in-person, which asynchronous and which synchronous, it is crucial to involve the instructors and learn from their lived experience. Collaboration sessions and clear communication about the changes help establish a mutual understanding of the choice of modalities. Furthermore, instructors should be prepared to communicate the reasoning to their students and explain to them how the teaching will be constructed and why.
  • Offer professional development and training programs tailored to hybrid learning. Redesigning and teaching hybrid courses is no easy feat and the instructors and instructional designers will often require support with this transition. Online resource kits, asynchronous certification courses, and faculty discussion boards are effective in helping faculties create engaging, inclusive hybrid learning experiences. For instance, the University of Central Florida created a “mix map” that helps faculty members decide what is best to be delivered online, and what should be delivered in person. [8:8]
  • Study your modalities. It is important to provide both online and in-person participants with the same high-quality, engaging experience, but some activities can be harder to translate to online settings than others. For example, lectures or individual study materials are well-equipped for all modalities, while authentic, interactive activities remain difficult to implement asynchronously and/or online. Keeping these differences in mind helps offer targeted guidance to instructors and create spaces that encourage interaction in any setting. Tools for both synchronous and asynchronous interaction, adjusting authentic learning spaces for different settings, and designing “third-place” spaces [8:10] where students can access synchronous social learning experiences are good ways to make each modality work to your advantage.


Hybrid learning is not going away and the need to establish sustainable strategies for building hybrid campuses is becoming more and more pressing. A full switch is not going to happen overnight, but with a balanced mix of immediate and long-term solutions, institutions can introduce changes gradually, without overwhelming the faculty, the campus workforce, or the students. 


[1] EDUCAUSE. (2019) 2019 Horizon Report. 11. Link

[2] EDUCAUSE. (2021) 7 Things You Should Know About the Digital Divide. Link

[3] EDUCAUSE (2022) Modality Preferences. 2022 Students and Technology Report: Rebalancing the Student Experience. Link

[4] Friday, C. (2023) How Universities can close the Digital Divide in Higher Education. FE News. Link

[5] Instructure. (2022) Narrowing the Digital Divide in Higher Education. Link

[6] Leijon, M. & Lundgren, B. (2019) Connecting Physical and Virtual Spaces in a HyFlex Pedagogic Model with a Focus on Teacher Interaction. Journal of Learning Spaces. Link

[7] Selingo, J. & Renick, T. (2020) Institutional Transformation Stories: Innovation, Student Success, and COVID-19: Five Questions for Georgia State University. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Link

[8] Selingo, J. et al. (2021) The hybrid campus. Three major shifts for the post-COVID university. Deloitte Insights, Strada Education Network. Link

[9] Simkin, S. (2020) Creating the HBS Hybrid Classrooms: Collaboration, Experimentation, Equity, and Innovation. Harvard Business School Newsroom. Link

[10] Steelcase (n.d.) Three Concepts for Creating Better Hybrid Learning Spaces. Link

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