What is hybrid learning, and why is it all the rage?

If you’re in the market for a new car, you may be considering a hybrid. It’s the next-generation automobile, running on a combination of gasoline and electricity. Why are hybrid cars so popular? They’re clean, eco-friendly, and fuel-efficient alternatives. Though not fully electric, a hybrid isn’t completely gas powered either. It’s the best of both worlds, switching between gas and electricity (depending on speed and other factors).

Hybrid learning works on the same principle. A combination of in-person classroom education and digitally based, remote learning powers hybrid learning. As an educational approach, hybrid learning isn’t entirely new. For years, colleges and universities have offered hybrid programs for distance learning.

Now, schools are turning to hybrid learning in a big way. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, hybrid learning is proving to be both a necessity and a powerful alternative to traditional educational models.

Let’s look at what hybrid learning is and why it’s the ideal solution for school reopening during COVID-19.

1. Hybrid learning is flexible and adaptable

There’s no standard approach to hybrid learning. Educators can adapt it fit to any model or structure that combines in-class attendance and virtual learning.

States, cities, and districts are reopening schools in different ways. In some areas, schools are staggering attendance daily or weekly to reduce the number of students on campus at any given time. Other schools teach older grade levels at home in virtual classes and bring the younger grades to campus in pods of limited size.

Some teachers like to use the “flipped classroom” model. Rather than present a dry lesson to a virtual audience, the teacher provides learning material to students in advance for individual study. Then, the class meets online to discuss and explore the topic together.

Hybrid learning is flexible enough to accommodate any of these styles and schedules. What’s more, students can access hybrid learning with an internet connection, laptop, or even mobile phone — which means that most students today can participate in a hybrid classroom.

2. Hybrid learning supports creative, interactive learning methods

Creating virtual classes is more than delivering a lecture online. Hybrid learning supports all kinds of original teaching methods, including live simulations, project-based learning, group chats and study sessions, gamification tools (such as quizzes and contests), video-based learning, and more.

Recent years have seen a proliferation of creative online resources in the education space that make virtual learning a richer and more engaging experience.

3. Hybrid learning always incorporates online tools

Hybrid learning always has a virtual component, so it demands the use of internet-based tools and software — hence the rise of EdTech (educational technology).

There are endless EdTech tools on the market — with no limits to the kind of virtual classroom teachers can create. Teachers can conduct and record classes online with virtual meeting software like Zoom. Classroom portals, such as Google Classroom, provide centralized zones where students can access classwork, assignments, video recordings, and messages. Learning management software helps teachers develop and share online programs with content authoring and editing tools.

EdTech makes hybrid learning easier and more effective, so teachers definitely favor it. In fact, 96 percent of teachers surveyed said that EdTech improves student engagement.

4. Hybrid models can extend to school operations

During the pandemic, teachers and students aren’t the only people who must socially distance. Administrators, counselors, and other staff must also practice COVID-19 safety, and that means limiting their physical contact with students, parents, and colleagues.

Using digital forms and templates is an effective way to digitize an educational institution’s operations and communications. For example, schools can collect online coronavirus self-assessment forms from students attending in-person classes. Parents can complete school reopening feedback surveys online to express their concerns and needs for hybrid learning. Administrators can even conduct a school reopening risk assessment digitally by sharing questionnaires and checklists online with all relevant parties.

Hybrid is the new normal

This year, school-based education has irrevocably changed. A perfect storm of events brought hybrid learning front and center — a boom in digital tools and apps, a massive increase in the use of mobile devices, and the global COVID-19 pandemic. These factors have contributed to the acceleration of hybrid learning as a viable choice for school reopening. And as the pandemic shows no signs of letting up yet, hybrid learning might be here to stay.

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