I’ve written about this topic before (here), but as with many things, you can’t cover an entire topic in one post! Hybrid Learning has much to offer teachers in all classrooms in a post-pandemic world. How we did school changed and it can’t go back to what was. I think in many ways this is a good thing – there were aspects of teaching that simply existed because that was how they were always done. The pandemic forced us to change this quickly, but now we need to embed the change in a more meaningful and more thought-out way. To simply look at what pupils ‘have missed’ by not being in class and focusing our attentions on what they can’t do, is too simplistic and narrow a view of recent history. Not to mention that it completely ignores what our pupils can do.
Hybrid learning looks to provide a solution on recent events, but also provides learners with the means to access learning when they need it – not just when the pupil is in the classroom. When we think out the logic of this, for too long we have been saying that the pupil can only learn when they are in front of the teacher – how can we build self-sufficiency, independent learning and many other skills that are needed in today’s world if we are keeping our students hanging on our coat tails?
It takes time to embed a hybrid learning approach in your classes. I wouldn’t even suggest you try it with all of them. There will be classes that might be more pressing than others (exam classes for example), and there will be classes who don’t take to it well immediately (junior classes maybe?) but as a process, it will move students towards the ability and skills development of self-directed learning. This allows them to benefit by accessing your teaching when not in class, but being able to still benefit from face-to-face teaching sessions.
Step 1: Build the Foundation
Every course, regardless of its format, will have a course description, goals, and learning aims (or objectives). These will create the overall picture of the course, and should drive the course’s entire development process, from why it exists to what students should be able to know and do by end of it.
So, for many, the end goal of the course will be clear – a final exam, coursework etc. But the major question to ask here is: “at the end of the course, what do the pupils need to know?” This answer will move you to our next question: “What do they need to know, or do in order to get that level of knowledge?” It will be this learning destination that will then give you the required learning points that need to to be present in the course – a lot of which will be present in any exam class but is still a helpful process to investigate as it will need to be presented explicitly when it comes to our online content.
Step 2: Plan Assessments
By deciding what major assessments you will use, will allow students to demonstrate mastery over the learning objectives. These should be both the major, summative assessments (projects, portfolios, etc.), as well as smaller, formative assessments (homework, discussions, etc.). These do not need to be created just yet; but if there are planned out what they will be and what students will be asked to do. Taken together, your assessments should address everything in step 1.
Step 3: Create a Course Map
We now know what the overall goals of the course are, and how these will be assessed to prove student learning. Now you can begin laying out how students will get from the beginning of the course to ultimately achieving its end goals. Create a chart (course map, table, etc.) that sequences what the units/modules will be, the order they should go in, and what resources and activities you plan to provide along the way within each module.
Step 4: Plan Activities
Identify activities that capitalise on the strengths of each type of environment (online or face-to face), and include those in your course map. While these activities may work better in one environment compared to another, several of the activities can be adapted to work equally well in both environments.
Step 5: Create/Find Content
Developing online content is the most time-consuming aspect of embedding hybrid learning into your teaching. Plan to spend the majority of your course development time at this stage. It is here that you will be designing & creating assignments, locating resources, deciding on required readings, writing the syllabus, etc. You have already completed the planning for what all of these items are, and the order in which they will appear in, so once they’re completed, just put them in their appropriate place in the course. You may be able to use or adapt parts activities and resources that you have previously used in other courses. If you decide to do this, be very careful to ensure that it integrates well with the rest of what you are doing; don’t ttry force the foot into the wrong-sized glass slipper – we now how that story ended!
Step 6: Ensure for Quality
At this point, you should have completed a ‘first draft’ of your course. Now comes the editing and refinement. Consider the following options for this step:
- Have colleagues (preferably, you would like to be talking to those who have taught online and/or hybrid courses in the past) and ask them to look at your course for a friendly, critical eye to help spot any errors , but also to make positive suggestions for improvement.
- Go online and find some checklists from locations or people you would trust, that apply specifically to hybrid courses and use them to “grade” your course.
- Talk to some of your current students and ask them to give you feedback on your description of the course. They will be the people using your course so their feedback will be valid and useful.
- If possible, pilot the course with some willing students or colleagues, and ask them to provide you with written feedback.
Whatever the case, don’t skip this step! Especially if this is the first or second time that you’re developing a hybrid course, it is extremely important that you go through some kind of quality review process.
This type of post might be more suited to aKey Stage 3 class (ages 12-14), or Further or Higher Education setting, as very few post-primary schools will have any say on the content that is found in an exam course in the UK (GCSE or A-Level). But the principles of hybrid learning can still apply, it might just be that certain stages are already mapped out. The biggest task here might be to create tasks that work well online, as the classroom-based tasks will largely be quite well refined.
Providing online content for your classes can have several positive effects on student learning. I am currently putting together part of an online course that will speak to this very topic. If you’re interested in Digital Teaching, then check out the course on tdni.org. The course is 100% online, self-paced and designed for educators. There is a host of material that will be useful in your development as a teacher, with a nice section on hybrid learning.