I am writing to ask if people in the community can post any noteworthy experiences they have had with hybrid online/in-person workshops. Does anyone have experience with these, as either organizer or participant? The hybrid aspect would of course be before the pandemic, but my institution is thinking towards a future scenario where in-person workshops can return, and how to capture some of the gains made in online workshops in the past year, with a twin goal of widening participation and reducing unnecessary travel. Of course if you have insights to share which have been gleaned from fully online workshops in the past year, please do share them as well.

I suppose the actual filming and streaming of the lectures is fairly self-explanatory, given enough resources. Has anyone had good experience moderating Q&A in a hybrid situation? How can one include remote participants on a similar footing to local participants? Thinking also about bringing people together to actually meet and discuss rather than just listen to talks, has anyone ever had an experience with discussing mathematics that was superior to simply discussing on Zoom? I have heard about a PI/Bonn conference where there were some screens and cameras set up for spontaneous conversations, but I am not sure how well it worked. That raises the possibility of clustered conferences, hosted in multiple locations in conjunction. Besides the PI/Bonn workshop have there been others, and did anyone attend one they thought was particularly successful?

If one imagined a budget to buy kit at the conference host -- but presumably requiring remote participants to interact on their own kit -- is there anything non-obvious one can do to make this more of a success? Any ideas/suggestions to ensure quality delivery of remote lectures?


1 Answer 1


I haven't participated in any hybrid workshops, but I have had some positive experiences with discussing math in fully remote workshops. Forgive me if this is all old news to you!

I ran a program last summer that used Discord as its main platform; this had the advantage that written messages (e.g. scheduling announcements, questions) were organized, saved, and in the same platform as the video "in person" sessions. Another advantage was that everyone could see who was in the voice channels and choose to join particular conversations themselves. Zoom now allows participants to choose their own breakout rooms, but this wasn't implemented yet over the summer when my program ran. To discuss math together, we used shared online whiteboards--one per voice channel to simulate each room having a blackboard.

I recently participated in a workshop where we worked together on mathematics in small groups in Zoom breakout rooms, and it went pretty well. People were mostly working on paper, but since we were all educators, many of us had document cameras and could switch our cameras or share our screens. This didn't have the same collaborative feel of working at the same board, but the discussions were still pretty good.

This semester, I am teaching a hybrid class, and I'm encouraging students to work together in groups. From day 1, the students who are attending in person insisted that they did not want to work with the people who were online. Understandably, they much preferred to talk to the other people in the room with them. The fully remote groups are working together on shared online whiteboards, and they're doing well (though still not as engaged or animated as the in person groups). My impression so far is that the remote students are having a good (or good enough) experience and the in person students are having a good experience, but the interaction between the two groups is minimal. Unfortunately, I don't have great ideas about how to make a hybrid workshop better, with both populations on equal footing.

One tool that people have suggested to me is gather.town. I've only used it for social events, but you can create a layout that simulates your favorite place to do mathematics, including having boards that people (or their avatars) can stand at together. You walk your avatar through the map and can only hear/see people who are within a certain radius of you. I've heard good things, but not used it extensively myself.

Good luck! I'll be interested to see other people's experiences.


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