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I’m grateful to Matt Reed for continuing the conversation on how we work together in academia.

In my formulation of Kim’s Law, I was trying to unpack why combined in-person and Zoom meetings are almost always frustrating and unproductive. The “law” states that the quality of a physical/virtual meeting is directly proportional to the status of the virtual attendees.

In Matt’s piece, he used the language of “hybrid” to describe meetings where some participants are virtual and some are in person. Matt’s post got me thinking about how the language we use to describe pandemic life has not caught up with reality. We need a more precise vocabulary to describe work and social life today.

“Hybrid” works when describing meetings where participants are distributed across physical and digital spaces. We know exactly what Matt means when he calls these meetings hybrid.

But in other ways, the use of “hybrid” to describe something that is not a class or a course (a meeting) is problematic.

For teaching and learning, we use the term “hybrid” to describe a course that has both in-person and online components. A hybrid degree program is customarily understood as one delivered primarily online and that contains some expectations of on-campus and face-to-face contact hours.

The closest language that we have for mixed in-person/Zoom meetings in a course setting is HyFlex. Students in a HyFlex course can choose if they want to attend physically (in class) or virtually (by Zoom or whatever platform is used).

“HyFlex” does not work well, however, when applied to meetings.

First, my interpretation of HyFlex for instruction is that the idea combines the flexibility of both place and time. Students can learn anywhere and at any time. Course materials can be interacted with both synchronously and asynchronously. This does not work for meetings.

Second, the notion of HyFlex learning remains hugely controversial across higher ed. While everyone likes the idea of flexibility and inclusion, anyone who has taught (or works with instructors) knows how wickedly difficult it is to design and run a quality HyFlex class. Not impossible, just hard.

So, where does this leave us?

If hybrid is problematic and HyFlex not tenable, what might be a more straightforward language to describe mixed physical/virtual meetings that might actually be adopted?

Some Candidates

  • xMeeting: What if we put an “x” before the word “meeting”? We let “x” stand for a combination of virtual or physical.
  • PolyMeeting: The prefix poly means “many.” Here the “poly” refers to many locations.
  • PanMeeting: Pan is the prefix for “all.” A pan meeting is where all people can participate, wherever they happen to be.
  • MaxiMeeting: “Maxi” connotes big, or as big as possible. Without the limitation of physical space or the need to travel, a MaxiMeeting could be as big as we want.
  • Blended: It is probably a mistake to conflate the language we use for teaching for meeting language. Blended learning has a particular and different meaning in education.
  • MultiMeeting: “Multi” means many, and in a MultiMeeting, there are participants from many places.
  • aCentric: The prefix “a” means not. So an aCentric meeting is not centered anywhere.
  • UltraMeeting (or uMeeting): If we say something is “ultra,” we mean that it is something extreme.

Mostly, office/Zoom meetings are dreadful, but if we work on our language, that may motivate us to work on meeting design.

What do you think?

What are mixed in-person/virtual meetings called on your campus?

How do discussions about language translate into use, diffusion and ubiquity?

What sort of meetings are you having?

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