This is the next post in a series of posts that are focused on aspects of hybrid learning. In two previous posts, I wrote on Hybrid Learning: Adopting the Approach; and What is Hybrid Learning? and in todays’ post, we continue that theme, looking at specific ways to implement it in your teaching in a more thorough way.
Take it easy!
In order to work hybrid learning into your teaching effectively, it’s really important to start the entire course development process early — at least 3-6 months in advance of your intended start date, but if it’s possible, allocating a greater time period of around 9-12 months would allow for a more thorough planning and preparation process (plus less stress in getting everything ready). This will also allow you to develop learning units that meet the specific learning goals of your curriculum and can also make the assessments/tasks easier to manage and mark.
Redesign and editing must be an incremental, iterative and recurring process in developing your hybrid learning classroom. It’s important to try to not include too many new activities at first. If you plan purposefully and start small, this will allow you to build the course one piece at a time. This will help keep any errors to a minimum, but also allow you course correct quickly and with a minimum amount of editing work. Ultimately, small corrections will require small amounts of time to fix.
It’s also important to keep to a mindset of experimentation and learning as you go. Do not be afraid of unfamiliar technologies, but keep your use of technology simple in order to avoid turning the course into a support nightmare and gradually add more advanced technology. Starting small and keeping your goals simple will help you in this goal. If we view mistakes as teachable moments, then our attitude towards the whole process will be much more positive. If something didn’t work with a class, you have tried that and know that it doesn’t work for that class. You move on to the next tool and see how they react to that. There is less personal feelings in the process this way, so a rejection of a learning tool is just that – it’s not a rejection of you as a teacher.
Remember also here that as you increase the number of assignments or opportunities for feedback, you also potentially increase your own work load. It’s vitally important to manage your workload effectively and not burn yourself out. The workload of a teacher is pretty hefty no matter where you are right now, so we’re definitely not trying to make it heavier! The workload up front will be intended to make life easier later on (or so the theory goes).
Focus on design, not technology
It is critically important to re-examine your course goals and objectives and consider carefully how they can best be achieved in a hybrid learning environment.
Your course should make use of learning activities that allow you to capitalise on the strengths of both the online and face-to-face learning environments. These are both distinct environments and the activities for both should not be repetitions of the same task. I have said two things repetitively on this site that ‘using technology for the sake of using technology is never desirable’ nor should we use technology to replicate an analogue task
Avoid the common tendency to try to cover too much material or too many activities in the redesigned course. The can result in a “course and a half.” This will leave both the teacher overworked and the learner saturated with the same content.
Resist the temptation to overload the course: online activities will probably take longer than you think they will.
Focus on the integration of the online and face-to-face components. Connecting what happens in class with what is studied online is critical so instructors do not end up teaching two parallel but unconnected courses, or worse, replicating what happens in the classroom in the digital. Value needs to be gained from what is online.
Use resources already available
With this advice, comes a caution (which may also be understood as common sense): look online for all the resources you can, but remember that not all resources are created equally. Resources are also not created for any kind of usage you decide, so it’s important to check what you are allowed to do with it. There is a movement that believes education content should be free called Open Education Resources (OER). You can visit the OER Commons site here. There is a repository of content that can be used, but also requires caution. On a cursory review, the setup follows the American school system and not much that I have seen would map easily to what I teach in Digital Technology. That of course, doesn’t mean it wont be of use to you – the categories cover all aspects of school life (from Primary up to University level content) and if you find one resource that helps you teach a topic in a different way, then has it been worth it?
Where this resource might be of more use to teachers, is the textbook section. We all love a good textbook, but with paper copies being increasingly expensive, e-textbooks may be the way to go for a lot of subject areas. Using an e-textbook allows students to download on multiple devices, access anywhere and reduces cost to the school to zero. The obvious point here is that the textbook needs to match your requirements, but there is also the option to create your own e-textbook, using a web app like Book Creator.
To get started with this search, I would suggest the following points:
- Search for discipline-specific Web sites for available content.
- Search MERLOT, OER, Educause, and other flagship education websites.
- Look for publisher content available online, especially in lower-level courses.
- Use online help resources such as facilitation of group work, managing discussion forums, etc.
Don't go it alone
This is an easy trap to fall into, but try to remember that you are not setting this up alone. Talk with and get advice/feedback from experienced hybrid course instructors. This might be colleagues in your school/setting; teachers in other schools, or lecturers in FE/HE who have experience of this. Digital Learning teams in these organisations can also be of help. Joining online groups that are focused in these skills would be a good place to start: Facebook and LinkedIn definitely have these sort of groups that you can join and learn from and Twitter would have lists that you can follow (yes, social media isn’t just for cat videos or arguing with people).
In this groups, you will find a wide range of discussions about issues in these areas. You can ask for help with issues you are facing, but remember this is an area to give and receive help. I’ve found in groups that I am part of, people are happy to help and also appreciative of help you can give.
Search out feedback and support from professionals who have taught hybrid courses. Local Further Education and Higher Education centres can be of use as they will most likely have a dedicated digital technology team and so could be a useful resource to get occasional guidance (but remember their job focus is their organisation, not yours).
And as always, use the internet! There are several pages of search content that will help you, YouTube videos that will cover what you want to do. There are no new ideas remember, so everyone will have experience of the issues you face and have potential solutions. It’s just a case of asking the right question, of the right person that will get you through the issue you might be facing.
Remember that no matter what problem you are facing, you are not working on your own, there are people online who will be able to help you.
In terms of expectations, I’m talking about your expectations and the expectations of your students. Setting up hybrid learning can be work-intensive at the beginning. Creating tasks online is not the same as setting tasks in a face-to-face setting and so it’s important to be very realistic about what you can achieve in a given timeframe. Especially when balancing this against your other teaching responsibilities, as well as life outside of school.
You are most likely a teacher. You will most likely teach in a primary/post-primary setting (UK) or elementary, middle or high school setting (a lot ofother countries!). Regardless of your school setting, setting up hybrid learning will take time, thought and plenty of hours to make resources, refine resources and
It is important to draw your students’ attention to any special technical needs, and how to resolve them. If there are particular assignments that may require additional resources: you will need to think about how these are completed. Step-by-step guides may be needed and once again, this is a time consideration as they will need to be setup and accessed. During lockdown, neither my wife nor I could access our daughter’s Google Classroom (the detaisl were correct, but something wasn’t working). We contacted the school and they told us the guide was available…on Google Classroom! An obvious fail, but no matter how much we asked for it, it would not be sent to an email account, the school maintained that teachers did not want parents having their email addresses – despite both my wife and I being teachers. The whole debacle meant that we had to rely on other parents sharing the homeworks through WhatsApp.
It is important to make all assignments and other expectations of the course to be made as explicit as possible right from the start. In particular, make sure that the schedule of in-class and online work is clear to the students, and that due dates are stated explicitly and repeatedly. In a previous role, I had a student who claimed she could not complete a piece of coursework because she did not have the correct software. The claim was dismissed as the coursework was set for week 7 of 15, and it showed that she had not been completing any work at home as she ony ‘discovered’ the issue in the week of the deadline.
Identify and develop plans, materials, and activities to help students with the technology and time management challenges many encounter. Remember that content for online consumption will take longer to create than for classroom teaching – the surrounding information of a task needs to be included, but will need to be thought out, scripted and explained clearly forthe online class. This all takes time and so managing your expectations of how much can be produced in a certain amount of time is important to avoid frustration or delay in setting up the course.
Prepare for anticipated problems
In this section, we are thinking of all the things that could go wrong, in order to prevent them in advance. As a result, our courses should be better constructed, engage learners more and challenge participants to learn.
Here are some quick tips that you may find useful to bear in mind:
- Use simpler technologies to reduce risk and complications.
- Break down and phase in longer assignments.
- Provide time management tips for students.
- Be very clear about what students are expected to do, and how they will be graded.
- Prepare technology help sheets.
- Identify place to go for live technology help.
- Develop a test plan for conducting course activities when technology fails. For example, keep a backup copy of all your files, documents, resources and links on a home computer (offline) so you can e-mail relevant information to students.
The little things count!
Things will occasionally (and sometimes unavoidably) go wrong; but with some careful planning and flexibility about making adjustments where needed, the mistakes that do happen should be minimised.
It is a scary part of teaching, but ask for feedback from your students often and take their responses seriously. They are your audience, where possible, we should make the changes we can to improve their chances for learning.
Don’t organise your course too tightly (course and a half syndrome). There will always be some “slippage,” and so you need to leave room for any adjustments that you think necessary. By keeping a tight rein on what you want your learners to learn, but a flexible approach on
During the course, falling behind or sloppy record keeping can be fatal: stay current and keep copies of everything. Set aside time to focus on the online components, including reading student postings and assignments. Like in ‘normal, classroom teaching’ organisation is key.
Use the tools found in the course management system to get organised and stay organised. Platforms like Canvas have inbuilt reminders to help you to remember to mark assignments after a set time – use this to keep on top of our workload.
There is a lot to think about in implementing a hybrid learning style in your classes. At the beginning it can seem very overwhelming, but once you get started, and create a list of what you need to do and set to work. Achieving little goals (working little and often) will get you through your tasks and with caeful planning and reflection on the tasks being created, resources being developed and learning journeys being mapped out, it should conclude that your hybrid learning course be successful and engaging for your learners.