Hybrid University: Digital transformation through educational innovation – Nebrija University

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For the past 16 years, the Catalyst Awards program has honored innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community. In this series, a group of 2021 winners from across the globe shares their success stories and best practices.

This post was guest authored by Cristina Villalonga Gómez, Director of Global Campus Nebrija at Nebrija University.  

Dr. Villalonga’s professional and research activity revolves around two axes: Educommunication-media and digital competences, as well as the methodology of teaching and learning in virtual and hybrid environments. She is a member of the Group in Cognition, Education and Individual Differences (CEDI) at Nebrija University. As Director of Global Campus Nebrija, the digital education department of Nebrija University, she has designed and implemented an educational model focused on active methodologies, collaborative learning and the dialogical construction of knowledge in virtual and hybrid contexts.   

Nebrija University is a 2021 “Leading Change” Catalyst Award winner. 


Nebrija University, in its commitment to an innovative approach to education and academic excellence, has designed a hybrid educational model applicable to the entire organization. This model combines the potential of face-to-face teaching with digital environments. It is based on the digital transformation of classrooms, the methodological redefinition of teaching and educational innovation and training in digital and media skills for both teachers and students.  

Project description: Hybrid educational model 

This project was born out of the university’s educational concern and commitment to innovation, which has enabled it to provide a comprehensive quality response to the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. The “Hybrid University” project is based on the implementation of a new teaching model based on the transformation of classroom spaces, turning them into totally convergent environments with digital scenarios, as well as the ways of teaching and learning in this new framework, in which Blackboard is a fundamental ally. Nebrija University has been working for more than ten years in the design of online and blended programs and researching and implementing teaching methodologies suitable for digital media. All this previous experience, focused on quality digital education, has allowed us to go further and propose a change of educational model that, despite having a high level of digitization, focuses on teaching, learning, and training processes.  

This hybrid model, implemented in 2020, allows the total convergence of digital and face-to-face spaces. Classes welcome, in the same learning space, the students present in the physical classroom and those connected virtually from off-campus, with whom we connect through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Both enjoy the same experience: the teacher is in the classroom, with technological means that allow them to share the content with the students in the physical classroom and the virtual classroom. These students can also see each other and interact with one another thanks to technology. The aim is to maintain the same experience of teaching excellence that characterizes Nebrija, regardless of where the students are located. In addition, this experience is expanded through the institution’s digital ecosystem, the virtual campus.  

Regarding technology, the hybrid classrooms have a system of microphones and cameras that allow connected students to interact with both the teacher and their classmates; technological devices that facilitate content management by the teacher (interactive panel and tablet); and screens located at different points in the classrooms that bring present and remote students closer together so that the experience is more immersive. As for the educational model, the design is framed in a pedagogical supra-concept focused on methodological renewal, aligned with the academic premises of the university. That premise places the student as the protagonist of the E-A-F process and the class is a participatory environment, presided over by collaboration, closeness, and personalization of the educational experience. Autonomous and collaborative work is promoted, combined with a high component of reflection, focusing on practical aspects and interaction. In addition, this model is based on the acquisition of both academic and transversal/interdisciplinary competencies, such as teamwork, communication, leadership, languages, etc. 

Project promoters 

The project has been promoted by Nebrija University which, through the Department of Digital Education, Global Campus Nebrija, has worked on the techno-pedagogical definition of the model, as well as on the training of both teachers and students. It has also been promoted by the Department of Digital Transformation and Systems, which has designed and equipped all the classrooms and workshops of the university (more than one hundred educational spaces) with state-of-the-art technology. 

Beneficiaries 

Although the project has had an impact on the entire university community, as a teaching innovation project, the direct beneficiaries have been the students of the 27 undergraduate and 21 graduate programs. That is a total of 3,623 students! Plus, the professors (all 626 undergraduate and 252 graduate students) have benefited greatly, as well. Therefore, the project has had a direct impact on more than 4,500 people. One of the differential values of this model is the support and training received by the beneficiaries in digital and media skills. The departments involved have worked on techno-pedagogical support both in-person and virtually. Fifteen people from the field of digital pedagogy have provided this support and another 15 people from the Digital Transformation and Systems Department have offered technological support in the classrooms. In addition, the university has developed support materials in digital format available through the Digital Educational Resources Portal for students and the Teaching Innovation Campus for faculty, such as Guía Interactiva sobre la Presencialidad Híbrida [Interactive Guide on Hybrid Learning.

Scope and impact 

The “Hybrid University” project has had an institution-wide impact. The model has been implemented in all undergraduate and graduate programs (hybrid, face-to-face) of the university, in the five faculties (Languages and Education; Communication and Arts; Social Sciences; Higher Polytechnic School; and Life and Nature Sciences) and all campuses of the institution (digitization of more than one hundred spaces). In addition to teaching, the hybrid model has also been transferred to other academic activities. In this sense, more than 60 hybrid events have been held (from September 2020 to March 2021), with the attendance of some 7,700 attendees connected virtually.  

Results achieved 

Through this project, the university has managed to implement a change in the educational model based on academic excellence and supported by taking advantage of the potential of digital tools and platforms.   In this way, the digital transformation of all undergraduate and graduate courses (a total of 48 degrees) has been achieved. In addition, the level of digital competence of faculty and students has been improved. In the case of the teaching staff, more than 300 training workshops have been given between July 2020 and March 2021, which translates into more than 400 hours of training. 


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