The concept of blended learning or a ‘hybrid’ model of learning has been in existence over the last decade, but it got its share of the spotlight in the last few months, due to the unprecedented global crisis brought about by the pandemic. Sometime last year, if someone had suggested that all learning in the months to come will happen online and students (and teachers) will not be coming to classrooms at all, it would have seemed like a far-fetched idea.
Covid-19 truly did the impossible. It forced educational institutions and educators to test out ‘online’ as an option in imparting education. There was a lot of learning in the process. Different models of online learning were tested and evaluated and approaches that seemed most effective were zeroed-in upon. Hybrid learning is one such approach.
What is Hybrid Learning?
Hybrid learning is an approach to teaching & learning that combines face-to-face classroom instruction with online activities. Although mostly used interchangeably with ‘blended learning’ (including in the first line of this write-up), there is a subtle but important difference between ‘Hybrid learning’ and ‘Blended learning’. In a blended learning environment, online learning is meant to complement the in-person classroom learning through additional resources like videos, articles etc that are meant to create an enriching learning experience. In a hybrid learning environment, online learning is meant to replace an element of the in-person class. The online material is designed as an alternative to in-person material and is meant to bring in flexibility to the learning experience.
Advantages of Hybrid Learning
For the hybrid learning environment to be truly productive, it needs a specially designed curriculum that involves a different set of strategies from those deployed in a physical classroom. It can be safely said that in the future, there is room for all models of teaching and learning to grow, namely in-person, online and hybrid learning. However, it cannot be argued that hybrid learning is poised to grow significantly. Hybrid learning powerfully combines the advantages of personalization with convenience to offer a learning environment that is best suited to address the changing needs of students in the present times. Below are some unique advantages of the hybrid model of learning:
Personalized Learning: The hybrid approach to learning makes it possible for every student to learn at a pace that is comfortable for them, thereby increasing retention. Students can participate in a variety of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities that are aligned to their learning styles, thereby helping them gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Due to a smaller group, teacher – student interactions can be much more personalized and effective.
Increased flexibility: A hybrid approach gives control to the students over the time, place and pace of learning. This flexibility often translates to increased attendance and participation in the classes.
Sophisticated assessments and reporting: Comprehensive student evaluations, peer benchmarking facilities and granular reporting are all made possible through the use of technology in the Hybrid learning model.
Instant Feedback: Customized assessments, participation in live lectures, live chats with teachers are ways of providing immediate feedback to students that is very valuable for learning.
Use of technology to increase scope of personalization and engagement: Use of Artificial Intelligence will help to customize learning to suit different learning styles, that eventually leads to better learning outcomes. Gamification, self-paced learning, short videos with inter-leaved exercises are different ways in which technology can help make the hybrid learning environment more productive.
- Saves precious time, money and energy spent on commuting long distances
- Students become self-directed learners: In a hybrid approach to learning, the learner has considerable responsibility to accomplish the learning task. This helps the student to gradually move to a self-directed learning style – a style of learning that is very effective in the long run, particularly for higher studies.
Hybrid learning is here to stay. It is upto us as education technologists to design learning environments that combine the best of both the in-person learning environment and the online learning space. Below are some points for consideration that will help make the hybrid learning model a successful one:
- Use of Technology – To keep track of where students are slackening and to make the teaching-learning process more interactive
- Taking steps to overcome the ‘Digital Divide’ that may pose as a significant barrier for equality in remote instruction
- Course Design and Lesson Plan – The teachers will need to structure their lessons differently to make it more focussed and intentional as class time will be limited and teaching will have to be more purposeful.
- Parents and guardians become very important stakeholders in a child’s learning to ensure that the child is completing the work that is assigned to her
- Role of Teachers as ‘mentors’ – Teachers will be required to regularly engage and motivate students so as to help them navigate the unique challenges brought upon them in wake of the unprecedented pandemic.