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I’ve talked before on this website about how ‘Online learning is here to Stay‘, but what will that look like exactly? We can pretty much be certain that we won’t be going back into any form of lockdown or remote learning. So how is this going to work? In this article, I’m going to look at hybrid learning. This I believe will be the new form of teaching, that teaching will evolve into (particularly in post-primary, Further Education and Higher Education).

I have also discussed about how aspects of remote learning have changed teaching, and that there are parts of this that we won’t want to lose because they benefit our learners.

What is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning is when we combine the conventional face-to-face teaching with an online or distance learning approach, like experiential learning or remote course delivery. The aim here is to use the right combination and blend of learning strategies to efficiently teach content while still meeting students’ learning needs. The additional learning strategies that are used are intended to supplement rather than replace conventional face-to-face teaching. If a class meets two days per week, for example, a hybrid learning teacher can schedule one day for an in-class session and the other for a hands-on lab or online assignment.

Hybrid Versus Blended Learning

While we can use hybrid and blended learning interchangeably, it’s important to understand that there is a distinction between the two. Blended learning focuses primarily on combining distance learning with standard teaching, while hybrid learning focuses on using any available learning methodology to better teach the material, whether online or offline. Hybrid learning is 100% pragmatic to best use whichever approach suits the needs of the learners. Another distinction is that blended learning emphasises an equal mix of distance learning and conventional instruction, while hybrid learning emphasises online or non-traditional instruction.

Benefits Of Hybrid Learning Methods

1. It’s flexible

Hybrid learning offers three main experiences for its learners. First, students can always learn in a classroom. Secondly, it offers experiential learning objectives and allows instructors to deliver eLearning courses that are available outside of the classroom.

That said, hybrid learning is more of a tool that can help learners and instructors control their learning. With this learning approach, students can become flexible with their time. And that enables learners to learn more efficiently. But when applied in a post-primary setting, it allows teachers to have an extra learning opportunity as learners can revisit the lesson and refresh their memory on a part they might have forgotten, or not fully understood during the lesson.

2. It’s affordable

Many of the tools needed for hybrid teaching already exist and many of us have the skills needed to get started. Online learning platforms are already being used by schools from lockdown.

YouTube or Vimeo can be used for hosting video content.

Anchor; PodBean; or SoundCloud can be used for podcast/audio content.

Note taking apps like OneNote or EverNote can be used for sharing curriculum content (that can also embed video or audio content).

Using these apps to share lesson content or curriculum theory allows students to access learning outside of the classroom. Of the apps I have mentioned, the podcast platforms and Vimeo come with a cost, but there are other ways to share audio content for free.

3. It gives greater freedom

Pupils and teachers are thankfully back in class. ‘Normal’ lessons are resuming. Exams are happening again. But we can’t leave what we learned in lockdown as an exception to the rule. Our teaching styles evolved and this should continue to be the case. By embracing hybrid learning, we give students the ability to learn outside of the classroom when they are ready. There are one hundred different valid reasons why a student doesn’t learn during class: events at home can affect their ability to concentrate; family illness; additional needs; distraction in the classroom; the list can go on. But if that is their only chance to learn, then they have missed it. Hybrid learning solves this – the lesson content is available online and they can visit it when their mindset is more open to learning. This helps their own development, their ability to learn independently and gives them freedom to learn when it suits them.

4. It has greater efficiency

This is a logical conclusion to the previous point. Where the student has greater freedom and control over their own learning, they will learn that it gives them greater efficiency in their learning. The teacher may recognise in the class that a hybrid learning approach may benefit the learners outside of the class and so changes and improvements are made to make learning content available outside the classroom.

5. Greater time management

With hybrid learning, your curriculum content is also available through other online platforms, so both the teacher and learner can manage their learning and use of time. Less time is required for face-to-face instruction (explaining new material) as it can be accessed online before the lesson and so more time can be given to applying the learning or correcting error. This all contributes to more time being given to the individual student rather than whole-class teaching.

Reasons to Implement Effective Hybrid Learning

There are 5 major reasons for implementing hybrid learning as an effective learning framework. Hopefully it won’t surprise or disappoint you to learn that each of them focus on the student. What the student is able to get out of this learning model is yet not fully explored, but as a merging of online and classroom teaching, it takes the best of both frameworks for the benefit of the learner:

1. Students Get The Convenience Of Online Learning Combined With The Regularity Of In-Class Sessions

2. Some Students Perform Better With Hybrid Learning

3. Students Get To Interact With Professors And Classmates Face-To-Face

4. Students Have Ownership Over Their Own Learning

5. Student Learning Is Equitable


Obstacles to Hybrid Learning

Are there obstacles to overcome before hybrid learning can be fully realised? Yes, but they are not so great that they cannot be overcome:

1. Teacher training

Existing teachers need time to be trained in this model, the underpinning theory and time to implement it into their classroom pedagogy. New teachers being trained into the sector need to be trained by lecturers who have current, relevant and appropriate skills in putting this learning framework into place, but also: understanding the why and how: ‘why are we doing this?’ and ‘how do we ensure the learner benefits?’

2. Technological infrastructure

The hardware needs to be in place before we can build it – but by and large I would consider this to be one aspect that is mostly complete. It will of course depend on your location and your opinion on your local school context, but in Northern Ireland, we have a decent infrastructure (but one that could always be better!). From this, we ma also require extra training for the infrastructure to stay up to date and safe from hackers, but again that is probably a local school area issue and an issue that is resolved at the state/national level.

3. Course design

 Back to the teachers! We need to look at our courses and assess how they can be redesigned to become fully hybrid – it’s not enough to tag on a video explaining what you have done in class! Teachers need specific training in course design and what is being required of learners. I know a great many teachers will know much more than me about course design – but we’re not talking about normal course design. We’re looking at a hybrid course design. Teachers will need time and planning to implement this and embed it successfully into their daily practice.

Concluding Thoughts

Hybrid learning is the next step in the long term recovery from lockdown and COVID. The truth of it all however is that it is an exciting time for our classes – they get the best of what we do in the classroom, plus the lesson material that can be made available online to help learning take place outside of the classroom.

 There is a distance between where we are and where we would want to be, in terms of having this approach implemented. The major aspect is time. It will take time to create these resources and store them appropriately. But within department teams, plans can be put in place to bring about a hybrid learning approach in schools. This process may have already started in different ways, but a systematic, planned approach will be of greatest benefit to learners.

In the words of the immortal Rob Schneider from The Waterboy…

You can do it. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you will quickly realise it is a big task. But one that is totally worth it. It provides better learning opportunities for students and gives them an active role in their learning.

Make your plan. Prioritise which curriculum areas are most important. Or easiest to tick off. I’ve found quick wins build better momentum than big wins. Assess your plan. Can it be more efficient/effective?

Don’t look at the mountain (the task). Look at your next step. Then the one after that. And so on. Keep going. You’ll quickly realise that each steps builds a bit more momentum. Then check your data analytics – how many pupils have accessed a learning file or video? That’s how many you have helped that would have been missed had you not created that learning resource.

Split the work across your department. Make use of your colleagues expertise and knowledge in different areas of learning. Many will have years of experience teaching a particular subject. They may love that topic – make use of these skills! Be cynical and shameless in achieving this goal-use teachers’ skillsets to your advantage (but only this once and in this context!).

Now keep going! You can do it! (Rob Schneider accent optional).

Now It's Your Turn.

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