Originally published to Eschoolnews - January 4th, 2022
Over the past year and a half, “hybrid learning” has become quite the buzzword when it comes to education. With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting learners across the world, we’ve witnessed the growing need for hybrid learning, an education option that combines the benefits of a traditional in-person classroom and online learning. But the need for this option won’t just be a fleeting trend. The future of hybrid learning is bright, and the benefits are unmatched. I’ve seen it for myself.
As an educator for 10 years, I’ve worked in in-person, online, and hybrid classrooms. I’ve experienced the dos and don’ts of creating learning environments where my students can not only learn but be their best selves. When my colleagues ask me for my secret for success, here are the tips that I share:
1. Establish a positive hybrid learning culture and a strong learning community.
A strong community is at the heart of every good classroom. While we can’t hug and high-five our students through a screen, a hybrid classroom can still foster a warm community of connected learners.
A great way to accomplish a positive environment is by first highlighting the benefits of this teaching method. Hybrid learning has numerous benefits for your students, parents, and teachers, including increased flexibility, accessibility, and the ability to use innovative learning tools. If you are switching over to a hybrid learning environment, ease any questions or concerns by communicating these benefits and encouraging your students to get the most out of this valuable learning experience.
Your classroom community will act as the foundation of your learning environment. You can keep your community strong by using connectivity activities like daily or weekly check-ins, small group activities, and full classroom discussions. Don’t be afraid to use your creativity and have fun with it, like asking your students to use emojis to check in on how they are doing. A strong, unified classroom (in person and virtually) is possible when you foster conversations, encouraging innovation, and establishing a safe and open learning environment.
2. Use hybrid learning to enhance educational experiences.
A hybrid learning environment has the potential to improve the educational experience for your students. This method allows for creative, innovative, and fun lesson plans that employ the advantages of both remote and in-person learning. When designing learning layouts, you should facilitate both remote independent learning and classroom collaboration.
Remember how you made friends in the classroom? For in-person lessons, focus on student collaboration and socialization activities, like creating pairs or small group team building activities. This is the chance for your students to gain deeper connections with their classmates and learn to collaborate in the classroom.
When crafting online learning activities, this is the perfect opportunity to create lessons that encourage independent thinking and student choice. For example, allowing students to draw their response and show it on camera, rather than typing it out, or utilizing tools like survey sites and online polls to ask questions to your students can help them stay active and engaged. These lessons will allow for students to develop their thought processes, self-confidence, and independence.
3. Make independent learning a key component.
With hybrid learning, there will be days when students participate in online learning. These are the moments you can encourage independent learning lessons that are essential to your students’ growth. Asynchronous online activities allow students to analyze and absorb the subject matter at their own pace, helping them gain the tools they need to think independently inside and outside of the classroom.
When it’s time to reunite as a class, encourage students to reflect on what they’ve learned independently through engaging, collaborative discussions with other students.
4. Students should have consistency.
For students to succeed, they need routines, resource availability, structure, and support. The last thing you want your classroom to be, whether online or in-person, is unpredictable. Successful hybrid learning environments have a consistent schedule. Whether students attend in person learning on Monday and Wednesdays each week, or half of your school’s students go in person every other week, the schedule should always be consistent and reliable.
5. Maintain continuous communication with students.
Communication is always key, but especially when teaching from a partially online classroom. Keeping a strong line of communication with your students is vital in ensuring your teacher-student relationships are strong, as well as your classroom community. You should consistently communicate with your students, both online and in person, whether it’s through one-on-ones, messages, or email.
Students like to feel seen and heard. Using a tool like Google Forms or another survey tool is an excellent way to communicate with your students while receiving feedback to better your classroom. You can ask about their favorite activity, their preferred way to learn, and what they believe could make your hybrid classroom better.
Always communicate with your students collectively and individually, encouraging them to feel safe to ask questions and take risks to improve learning. Whether verbal or through a creative technological tool, communication is essential to making your students feel connected.