4 tips on getting started with the hybrid classroom

As decision-makers assess how to safely and effectively reopen schools following the coronavirus pandemic, many international school leaders have turned to the hybrid model, where teachers deliver a blend of in-person and online courses, but how do you choose the right technology for a hybrid...

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As decision-makers assess how to safely and effectively reopen schools following the coronavirus pandemic, many international school leaders have turned to the hybrid model, where teachers deliver a blend of in-person and online courses, but how do you choose the right technology for a hybrid classroom and where do you start with the approach?

Advantages of a hybrid model of teaching and learning

The hybrid model of teaching and learning combines online and in-person learning into one cohesive experience. Although the model has been around for many years, interest has been on the rise in recent months because it gives teachers the flexibility to design their courses in a way to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and give students ownership over their learning. Another advantage of the model is that it can be the ‘best of both worlds’ by giving students and teachers the in-person and social interactions they need while also taking advantage of the benefits of technology.

Where to start with hybrid classes

Successful hybrid courses fully integrate online and face-to-face instruction, planning interactions in a pedagogically valuable manner. Build around what you want students to learn:

  • Don’t: think of your hybrid class as a direct translation of your face-to-face teaching. Common pitfalls are to directly translate the online or to add online components onto a face-to-face class. In fact, many blended courses are not successful because they end up as “a course and a half”.
  • Do: build your course by starting with the learning objectives in your syllabus. Then, as you’re building your course, select and align the delivery method, technology, and assignments that will best help students learn the objectives and content.

Consider three things during this process:

  1. What needs to be done in-person versus online?
  2. What needs to be in real-time versus giving students flexibility?
  3. What needs to be instructor-facilitated versus facilitated by the learning resources?

1. Integrate the experiences

Melding in-person and online classes doesn’t need to be disjointed. You can incorporate them in such a way that they support each other. For example, assign challenging and engaging online learning activities and then discuss them in-person, inviting questions. If you’re encouraging online discussion, reference these discussions in class to confirm their value.

2. Choose the right technology for you

Technology also has benefits that can improve learning, such as immediate feedback and monitoring progress. Rather than starting by shopping for educational technology, start by understanding the problems you experience. Then evaluate whether educational technology can help solve those problems.

The SAMR Model is one way of thinking to make the most of student interactions using technology. Augmentation, modification, and redefinition have the potential to add value beyond traditional in-person instruction, while direct substitution is the least effective option.

3. Plan effective interactions

After you’ve identified the learning objectives, think about the interactions you’ll use to facilitate learning and which mode you’ll use. Hybrid learning enables a lot of flexibility in how the students interact with each other, with you, and with the learning materials. Interactions can be categorised into three types: Instructor-Learner, Learner-Learner, and Learner-Content.

4. Craft a learner-centered approach to learning

In a hybrid model, encourage older students to take control of their learning. Start by enabling students to choose how they engage with the materials. Hybrid models allow students to chose in when, how, and what they engage with. Although there are real-time aspects of a hybrid course (either face-to-face or online), much of the learning occurs on the students’ own time.

  • Students can flexibly choose when to study and learn based around their own schedule and obligations.
  • Flexibility in how to study is important, too. Being able to seamlessly switch their learning between a computer, a tablet, and a mobile device makes learning more accessible.
  • Depending on the material, students can be offered a choice over in what they engage with. If the content can be modular and stand alone, offer some choice in what learning objectives to take on first. Additionally, let the students decide when they want to practise familiar content, or take on some new learning. Sometimes content must be sequenced in a particular way, but if there is room for it, offer your students some choice.

Students will need a different kind of help to succeed in a learner-centered approach. Their own independence should be encouraged and they’ll need support to take ownership of their work.

  • Throughout the class, give clear instructions, manageable assignments, and support for students to learn outside of class. Communicating about how the class design works and your expectations, such as online participation, is key for student success.
  • Make sure they can use the tools by doing a technology “onboarding” session about how to use the tech and where to go for help.

Importantly, prompt them to monitor and reflect on their learning, and then act on their new understanding.

Read the full evidence-based paper on hybrid classrooms

The advice in this article is taken from this paper on hybrid classrooms which covers where to start, a model for integrating technology, how to plan hybrid interactions with students, what a learner-centered approach is and how to support it, advice for online assessments, as well as an example of a hybrid implementation.

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