As students make their way back into the classroom this fall, teachers, parents, and students are coming to terms with the ‘new normal’ of learning – the hybrid model. COVID and its variants still pose a threat to the safety of students across the country, especially those who are unvaccinated.
We may see more and more school districts, private schools, and after-school and vocational programs lean on a hybrid offering in order to ensure a successful teaching and learning experience. Doing so, however, requires a careful planning phase and the consideration of many details to achieve optimal results for a wide variety of student needs.
For example, reviewing both the accomplishments and shortcomings of a fully online learning environment is a great way to prepare for hybrid learning. Some tips, like mobile-friendly access and design and bug-free software that’s accessible to all users, are obvious. Below are three more characteristics of a successful hybrid learning environments for the school year and beyond.
1. Implementation technology actually designed for teachers and students
It is critical for schools planning on continuing the incorporation of remote learning capabilities into their curriculums, to have the right technology for long-term success. For example, when schools moved to virtual learning platforms in 2020, they found students struggled with offerings like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet since they were designed with adult employees in mind, not students.
To make online learning continuously engaging and enriching, schools must invest in student-first technologies with features like distraction monitoring, multiuser screen sharing, interactive breakout rooms, shareable lesson templates, and class notes. Additionally, educational learning tools that cater lessons to both younger and older students are essential. Education technology platforms designed with these offerings in mind will help smooth out hybrid learning transitions between at-home, online learning, and in-person classroom instruction seamless.
2. A strong sense of community
One of the largest challenges remote learning presents is the lack of student interaction and friendship bonds. However, with the opportunity for some in-person events and occasional visits to the classroom, it should be schools’ primary focus to capitalize on opportunities for students to connect and collaborate with their peers in meaningful ways.
Having a hybrid model will create a dynamic social environment where students will look forward to in-person opportunities, and teachers should be mindful of creating an online version of the in-person experience. Having the right virtual classroom tools are more important than ever to successfully achieve this and teachers should create learning-friendly social activities to keep students engaged in this new normal of learning.
3. Openness to feedback and offer flexibility
The 2021-22 school year will be another year like no other, again, as hybrid learning is a new concept for most students and teachers. However, the skills students have created from online environments such as self-pacing and independent learning should not be dismissed in the in-person classroom. These skills are not only useful for students to learn before college, but also as they eventually enter the workforce.
Teachers should work to continue to implement this kind of learning module in a hybrid model but need to be open to student as well as parent feedback. So much has changed since the last time everyone was in a classroom full time, so adjustments to ensure student success will have to be made. Just in the workforce, teachers need to have open-door policies and productive feedback assessments to make sure no learner is left behind or even too far ahead.
In conclusion, teachers have more tools and methods at their disposal than ever before to help students achieve success. As the year progresses and hopefully, COVID becomes less of a threat to everyone in the educational ecosystem, we can prepare to further advance the new normal of education in today’s modern world.