Over the last two years, educators have had to become experts in not only traditional in-person learning, but also in online teaching methods. As lockdowns and restrictions were enforced and lifted, many teachers found themselves managing hybrid classrooms: partially online, partially in-person. Even now, while many districts and states have brought teachers and students back in person, hybrid elements have become integral pieces in the classroom. However, while hybrid and online elements were once frantically-assembled necessities, educators now have the time and knowledge to utilize the most helpful parts and search for what will be most effective in helping students achieve more. Here, the edtech professionals at SchoolMart provide a comprehensive guide to all things hybrid and blended learning.
What is Hybrid Learning?
During the pandemic, hybrid learning became a popular learning option for not only individual students, but entire schools or districts. In this educational model, teachers instruct in-person and online students simultaneously. This is typically done by using video conferencing programs, and often incorporate asynchronous assignments. In hybrid classrooms, the best aspects of in-person and online learning are combined to best fit the needs of students.
What is Blended Learning?
While hybrid and blended learning are typically used interchangeably, share certain elements, and are often mistaken for one another, they are two distinct learning models. Blended learning classrooms combine in-person teaching with asynchronous learning methods. In these cases, students are all in the same classroom, but complete online exercises and watch instructional videos during or after class.
While hybrid learning is defined by where students are learning from, blended learning focuses on learning methods. While some classes or students are still in the hybrid model, most have transitioned to a blended learning model at this point.
What Are the Benefits of Hybrid or Blended Learning Models?
Many teachers have seen the benefits of incorporating hybrid and blended learning features into their in-person classrooms. By combining elements, they were able to meet previously unmet needs and eliminate weaknesses in the learning experience. Review the list below for a summary of various benefits of utilizing hybrid or blended learning elements.
- Increase student engagement: According to several studies, blended learning enhances engagement for students, as it provides different opportunities for interaction and achievement. By incorporating digital activities and assignments, students who aren’t as comfortable sharing in-person have a chance to contribute in other ways. The resources available to educators can also help create more interactive and engaging lessons. Digital tools allow for variety in the presentation and supplementation of course materials, and can make class content more fun.
- Improve student comprehension: With higher engagement often comes greater comprehension of course materials. Blended learning sometimes utilizes a “flipped classroom,” where students learn the materials at home and practice applying those lessons in class with the instructor. In these cases, students have time to absorb the material and can take the presentation of information at their own pace; then, when trying to expand upon and apply that information, they have the assistance of their teachers. Consequently, many teachers who utilize blended learning tactics see greater comprehension among their students.
- Offer more student autonomy in learning: Blended learning models allow students to take initiative and control in their learning in ways a traditional classroom doesn’t always offer. Due to the nature of blended learning, students can complete the online portion of their work and review their class materials whenever and wherever they want. In addition to giving them the freedom to work when they’re most productive, it also allows them a chance to practice time management and balancing schoolwork with other obligations. This is a great opportunity for students to take autonomy and control in their education, and practice valuable skills that they will need in the future.
- Flexible learning experience: Blended and hybrid learning both offer added flexibility to teachers and students. Learning schedules, teaching schedules, teaching modes, opportunities for student engagement, and options for collaboration all become much more flexible to fit the needs of your classroom.
What Technology Do I Need for Hybrid Learning?
To ensure your hybrid classroom is equipped for optimal engagement and productivity, you will need certain technologies (and might choose to supplement the essentials with other helpful tools!) Consider which of the following you might already have, or what you might need to add. Further, while some necessities are physical pieces of technology, there are also plenty of digital collaboration resources that can be valuable in hybrid and blended classrooms.
- Computers and Laptops – For hybrid learning, both students and teachers will need access to computers. Students will need to use computers not only to write, take notes, or do research, but also to participate in online activities or assessments. In contrast, teachers will need computers to post lessons and activities, grade materials, and communicate with students.
- Video Technology – Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams provide the ability to not only teach a remote lesson, but save the recording to be shared so students can revisit it later as needed. These platforms also allow students a chance to communicate and collaborate from anywhere.
- Microphones and Audio Products – Many computers will include a microphone, but external microphones are also a great option if your microphone is broken or are looking for something of higher quality.
- Interactive Virtual Whiteboards – Large-format displays can be a great way to get students involved while working virtually. Programs like Stormboard, Limnu, and even Google Docs allow for collaboration, notes, link sharing, and more, which can be a great way to get remote students involved.
- Game Platforms – Using platforms like Kahoot and ClassDojo allow students to get involved in fun learning games from anywhere.
What Are Effective Blended-Learning and Hybrid-Teaching Strategies?
Now that you know what blended and hybrid models look like, and what technologies they require, you might be ready to start implementing them into your teaching plans. But what strategies are effective? And how can you make these new elements worthwhile?
- Be present when working with students. Try to personalize your teaching materials, show an interest in your students, and engage with them whenever possible while online, just as you would in the classroom.
- Make yourself accessible. Consider offering online “office hours” or times for 1-on-1 sessions to review difficult material.
- Foster spaces for conversation and feedback. Digital forums and polls are incredibly versatile, and can be useful for whole-class discussions, small group work, or direct feedback between teachers and students.
- Challenge students whenever possible. Students often feel more motivated when they’re being challenged, so don’t shy away from incorporating stimulating and difficult work as you see fit.
How Can I Enhance the Hybrid Classroom Experience?
When working in hybrid or blended classrooms, it’s important to provide certain things for students to succeed. Try to ensure your hybrid classroom includes the following elements to ensure student achievement.
- Clear and consistent directions and expectations for assignments
- Chances for ownership in the learning experience
- Ways to engage in class non-verbally
- Opportunities to participate in worthwhile small-group discussions
What Are Some Helpful Resources for Blended or Hybrid Learning?
While blended and hybrid models can be effective, engaging, accessible ways for students to learn, they also present their own sets of challenges. The National Education Association has provided an extensive masterlist of various resources that might be helpful for educators to ensure all students feel safe, included, and confident. The site includes resources under the Health and Safety, Communication, Equity, Community, and Technology umbrellas, and each group contains a variety of useful guides, checklists, videos, and surveys.
Contact SchoolMart for All Your Blended and Hybrid Learning Needs
Hybrid and blended learning models are often exciting and fulfilling, and many teachers and students alike are reaping the benefits of transitioning to these models. However, it can be overwhelming or confusing at first to make the jump. Whether you need more information on the necessary technology, advice on the most effective strategies, or input on the best resources, SchoolMart can help. Call 1-800-285-2662 or contact us here and talk to someone on our team today!