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EIU Faculty Development and Innovation Center

Best Practices for 
Mixed Modalities

There are many ways to mix the three teaching modalities (Asynchronous Online, Synchronous Online, and Socially Distanced Face-to-Face) for which we have provided separate pages of recommended best practices. Here are some general recommendations of how to better structure your courses for safety and pedagogical purposes: 

1. Combining Online and Face-to-Face

Consider combining both online and face-to-face modalities for your courses. Use online modalities, whether synchronous or asynchronous for certain activities, and maximize face-to-face meeting time for active learning. For example, passive learning activities, such as lectures can be easily moved online by recording mini lectures videos (asynchronous), or using web conferencing tools (synchronous using Zoom, Collaborate Ultra, or Microsoft Teams). Using face-to-face meeting time for hands-on activities or for problem-solving activities.

2. Alternating Online and Face-to-Face

If your course has been designated as hybrid, consider replacing face-to-face classes with a combination of online materials, and shorter synchronous online meetings with half the students attending each time.

  • Poll/Question Asking Tools

3. Labs and Studios

For labs and studios that require on-campus activities or equipment, if your class has been designated hybrid, consider replacing all instructional components of these classes with videos in order to reduce the time that students spend in the space. Consider which labs could be replaced with virtual labs or other activities to achieve similar aims and which require a hands-on experience. Also consider options that enable students to work together but retain physical distancing or ensure that closer work is for shortened periods of time.

4. Replacing In-Class Activities

If your usual assessment pattern involves activities that are done in class, consider whether alternative online modes would achieve similar aims, or whether a face-to-face assessment is necessary. Changes that you might consider include:

  • Replacing class presentations with synchronous online meetings with peer feedback. Video submissions plus online feedback tools (e.g., online discussion board in D2L) are also possible.
  • For group projects, if you plan to allow time in class for groupwork, use Zoom, Collaborate Ultra, or Microsoft Teams chats for groups.
  • For labs or similar where students usually do weekly or frequent activities, save face-to-face for the most important activities.
  • Use more formative assessments than summative assessments to assess student learning.
  • Tools for group projects (EIU-supported):

5. Communication

No matter which way your course is designed, make sure you communicate regularly with students about:

  • Why you designed the course this way.
  • How they should make use of the face-to-face, online and other learning opportunities and the benefits these will have for their learning.
  • Staying home if they are unwell and have a scheduled face-to-face class – clarify what students should do, and the alternatives available in this situation.
  • How and when you will communicate with them each week. For example, a summary announcement every Friday afternoon or Monday morning, summarizing the previous week and outlining expectations for the following week.
  • Announce any news related to your courses through D2L by using News or Activity Feed widgets.

6. Using Fishbowl Teaching Approach

To use Fishbowl as a teaching strategy, an instructor might select a subset of their students who cannot attend face-to-face instruction to be the “fish,” and discuss the topic at hand from their various perspectives, while the other students (the in-person students and any remaining students who cannot attend the classes) listen and observe and (optionally) take notes in a collaborative document. After the fishbowl discussion, the observers then paraphrase or question or argue as appropriate to the topic, perhaps using their voices, the backchannel, or one of the group work structures mentioned above. There are many variations can be done for Fishbowl activities. For example, an instructor can record the students who attend in-person discussion and post it to D2L course for students who cannot attend the in-person discussion to discuss asynchronously, and vice versa.

  • Tools for synchronous online discussions:
    • EIU-Supported Web Conferencing Tools:
      • Zoom (breakout rooms function is intuitive for the instructor)
      • Collaborate Ultra (breakout rooms function is intuitive for the instructor)
      • Microsoft Teams (breakout rooms can be established, but the function is less intuitive)
    • Notetaking tools:

Updated: August 13, 2021

Related Pages

Contact Information

Dr. Michael Gillespie, Director, FDIC


Kim Ervin
Instructional Designer


Faculty Development and Innovation Center

1105 Booth

David Smith
Instructional Support and Training Specialist


Keerthana Saraswathula
Instructional Support and Training Specialist


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