The ongoing pandemic has meant that many educators have had to quickly incorporate the ability for students and teachers to teach and learn off-campus – whilst also ensuring that the traditional in-classroom setup is maintained for those that need it. This dual approach is what is known as hybrid learning.
Hybrid learning is a concept where some students attend class in-person whilst others join the class virtually – with teachers teaching both sets of students using video conferencing hardware and teaching software.
Whilst we initially saw a scramble from clients in education to allow for this functionality on a temporary basis, is it likely to continue once the vaccine has been rolled out?
How the schools can re-open
Before COVID struck, hybrid working had a limited uptake – whilst yes you could attend a course online or in the classroom, very rarely did the two cross-over. However, the great worldwide on-boarding of remote working/learning technology has raised a few questions as to what life looks like for us all when we go back to normal.
With many looking to re-open schools properly once allowed, hybrid learning may be the most realistic options for those schools that want to stay open no matter the situation.
Traditional classrooms are not going anywhere, of course, however, educators may now see the need to have multiple learning channels available going forward.
Without being morbid, what if a new pandemic were to hit us? Or a third or fourth wave of Covid-19? Having hybrid working in place straight away minimises the day-to-day disruption of any new potential global disasters that may come up in the coming years.
There are other examples, such as making learning more accessible for the differently-abled, also allowing people who live in remote areas to get an education – also situations like snow days would be a thing of the past (sorry kids!) if you could quickly switch to a virtual classroom.
For students who are not able to attend classes in-person, hybrid learning can have a momentous impact.
What are some of the challenges?
As with any new approach, there are some challenges to think about. Not every student has superfast broadband connections or a laptop at home – which makes it hard to take part. Learning materials may not all be online yet or may only work with expensive software – again making it hard to deliver the full, required experience.
There is also a conversation around accessibility needed; how do you ensure the deaf and hard-of-hearing students can understand what is being said during online lectures. Live captioning may work somewhat and is available on most video platforms such a Zoom & Teams.
One of the biggest challenges pertains to mental health – how do you make students who tend to shy away feel included? If students are behind a screen, you may not be able to assess if they are feeling left out or excluded. Therefore, you should implement policies that include regular 1-2-1’s and use software that allows for group conversations and message boards.
Is hybrid a long term solution?
Clearly then, whether you have a sustainable and successful hybrid learning environment will boil down to a couple of elements: technology and inclusion. On one hand, you will need the right technology in place – with connectivity, safety (a big one not discussed here) and software being key cornerstones. Then the human element that ensures accessibility and inclusion are at the forefront of your strategy to ensure that no student is left behind.
Educators are waking up to the fact that a more flexible approach to teaching can have benefits post-Covid-19. However, it is hard to get right and does require a lot of thought to ensure you tick all the boxes.