Along with uncertainty, 2020 brought many changes with it. Many of these changes were rushed, trying our best to keep everyone safe during the global pandemic. The pandemic caused schools to reformat and restructure how they taught their students. Schools had never dealt with this kind of situation in their lifetime, and they had to get creative on a solution. Many schools moved to a virtual format, while some went hybrid.
While virtual schooling is straightforward, schools teach their students online using the internet, hybrid learning is more complex. We’re going to take a deeper look into hybrid learning in this article; what it is, the benefits, challenges, and how to do it right.
What is hybrid learning?
Hybrid learning is an education model in which some students attend class in person while other students attend class virtually. Hybrid learning is not all virtual nor all face-to-face.
There are a few different approaches to hybrid learning:
- The differentiated model is when students at home and in-person engage synchronously in the same lesson. Learning occurs at the same time, and the two groups interact with one another as frequently as they would in the classroom.
- The multi-track model is a model in which students work on the same lesson together but are divided into cohorts. These cohorts learn the same lesson and objectives, but they rarely interact with other cohorts and are almost like their own, smaller classes.
- The split A/B model is when a school has a group of students meeting in person some days and virtually on other days. The split A/B model may look something like this:
- Group A meets in person on Monday and Wednesday.
- Group B meets in person Tuesday and Thursday.
- When they are not meeting in person, they are working on other school work.
- Students are learning synchronously when joining face-to-face, and asynchronously at home.
Benefits of hybrid learning
Hybrid learning, when implemented effectively, has many benefits.
- Increased accommodation. Hybrid learning is extremely flexible, providing students with options when it comes to learning. Students may choose to attend in person or virtually. Not to mention that the pandemic has not gone away. While we are still in the pandemic, many (if not all) schools are tracking exposure. When a student is exposed, they may be asked to stay home for a certain amount of time. The hybrid model allows for those students exposed to still join their classes.
- Reduced absenteeism. This benefit is often overlooked and goes hand-in-hand with the exposure point we made above. In today’s age, many students will still come to school when they do not feel well, which may lead to more students getting sick and causing them to be absent from school. On the other hand, when students do not feel well, they may be cautious and miss school. The hybrid model gives those students a way to stay home and still join the class.
- Students still have the social aspect. In hybrid learning, students still get face time with the teacher(s) and their classmates.
- The learning does not stop when students leave the classroom. Once students leave the classroom, they are actively participating with the teachers and students online in-between sessions.
- Hybrid learning is proven to provide deeper and more effective learning. The U.S. Department of Education has run over a thousand studies that measured the effectiveness of online, hybrid, and in-person learning. The evidence shows that hybrid learning is more effective than exclusive in-person learning and exclusive online learning.
- Financial benefit for school districts. A fact that many people outside of a school district may not know is whenever a student enrolls in a cyber school, their school district is responsible for paying their tuition. These tuitions typically range anywhere between $17,000 and $34,000 per year. That is a lot of money the school district may potentially save when they have a hybrid option in place to keep students interested in attending school at their district.
It is not all benefits to hybrid learning; there are challenges that we all face.
- Procrastination – Students may be more likely to wait until the last moment to complete assignments and online activities.
- Online temptations – As a student learns online, they may be tempted to browse the web and do things counterproductive to learning.
- Student engagement – One of the main challenges with hybrid learning. Particularly with having the online students and the in-class students equally engaged.
- Collaboration – It can prove challenging to facilitate collaboration amongst online and in-class students.
- An immersive classroom feeling – Students online may not feel truly immersed in the classroom, like they are not there.
The Solution – Learning Link, Powered by Xycom
Learning Link is a fully synchronous learning and instructional environment. Learning Link’s primary goal is for both students and teachers to feel as though they are all in the same room. Learning Link achieves this by using two smart displays, one in the front of the room and one in the back. The front display is for teaching, while the one in the back displays all of the remote students smiling faces. There are mics in the ceiling, so remote students hear the teacher and the students talking, giving them a fully immersive experience. When a remote student talks, their voice is projected through the speakers in the form display.
Another challenge of hybrid learning is collaboration. Collaboration is an important aspect of learning and Learning Link takes it seriously. Using two displays enables the class to have breakout groups, allowing the remote and in-person students to easily collaborate. Teachers can record the teaching sessions as well. The recordings may be used for students that we absent, for teachers to review the class, and for any other purposes.
One of the biggest fears of this technology is the learning curve. Schools already have various video conferencing software in place that the students and teachers are both familiar with and comfortable using. Learning new software is time-consuming and ineffective during the learning process. Learning Link has accommodated this by being software agnostic, allowing schools to continue using the video conferencing tools that they are familiar with, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meets, and others. By staying software agnostic, Learning Link has virtually eliminated any learning curve.
“The Penn Hills School District was looking for a solution that would bring our at-home students into the classroom. This solution had to be intuitive for the teacher and integrate with Microsoft Teams. After talking with Xycom Technology Group they introduced us to The Learning Link. This solution gives the teacher the ability to do what they do best, educate, and brings the at-home synchronous learner into the classroom. From the technical side, the solution was also easy to configure and customizable to suit our needs.” ~Russ Seibert, Director of Technology at Penn Hills School District.
Learning Link is also developing a video wall to see how it works with hybrid learning. The video wall would replace the smart display in the back of the room with an entire wall for video. The video wall is exciting, and we cannot wait to bring you more information.