Hybrid learning is an approach to delivery of information that combines face-to-face instruction with online activities and learning modules. During in-person instruction, students can often be seen engaging in hands-on, highly visual learning experiences or discussion-based learning. The online components generally act as supplemental learning or can include multimedia-enhanced content such as videos and quizzes.
In November 2020, Splashtop — a worldwide leader in remote access, collaboration and remote support solutions — conducted a survey that found that 55% of global institutions currently deliver either entirely remote or hybrid learning models.
The survey also found that approximately 53% of surveyed institutions, “feel that remote learning is more effective or on par with in-person instruction.” Those who found remote learning less effective cited reasons such as lack of technology or technological issues during remote learning sessions.
Adapting to Hybrid Learning During A Global Crisis
The technological issues that schools have faced are understandable as EdWeek says, “Pulling off an instructional approach that’s completely new to most U.S. schools during a pandemic is no easy feat.”
However, EdWeek found that in November 2020, approximately two-thirds of school district leaders were conducting hybrid learning across the nation.
Schools such as the Santa Fe Public Schools in New Mexico and Marshall Public Schools in Michigan tested out hybrid learning in 2020. Santa Fe Public Schools emphasized in-person learning for special education students and English-language learners while Marshall Public Schools tried out rotating groups of elementary, middle and high school students either three or four days per week in person with one or two days left for online learning. The sentiment from both schools was that quickly adapting to a hybrid learning model is both challenging and rewarding.
Historical Context on Hybrid Learning
Though challenges have been clear, hybrid learning has soared to the top of education leader’s priorities. Schools are quickly transitioning and changing course to provide quality lessons to students — and hybrid learning is only at its infancy. New technologies and resources are bound to be developed in the near future and it is essential for education leaders to prepare for the possibility of a hybrid-learning option or fully remote model.
In 2010, the United States Department of Education conducted a meta-analysis of online learning and found that, “Online learning—for students and for teachers—is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology.” And that was before a global pandemic.
Additionally, the USDE wrote “The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
While these results were written to be taken as tentative rather than concrete findings, the USDE provided initial research to suggest that online learning can be effective — and is likely to the be used in the future of education.
Similarly, the American Psychological Association published a 2013 meta-analysis of face-to-face, blended/hybrid and remote learning and found that, “The advantage over face-to-face classes was significant in those studies contrasting blended learning with traditional face-to-face instruction.”
Studies from over ten years ago emphasized the importance of hybrid learning and predicted it would become an educational phenomenon. While researchers certainly did not predict that this would come true due to a global pandemic, the research in favor of hybrid learning is a solid foundation for educators and administrators alike to begin planning a new future for K-12 and higher education learning solutions.
The Future of Hybrid Orientations
Kathryn Hultman-Schlabach, Director of First Year Experience and Student Leadership at the University of Saint Francis – Fort Wayne (USF), is one of many administrators who branched out in early 2020 to create an online orientation. Hultman-Schlabach participated in a Comevo case study and her findings along with her personal experience in organizing the school’s new student orientation was informative of how hybrid can be a better way to conduct orientations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hultman-Schlabach found herself in a race against time to recreate USF’s in-person orientation in an online version. However, after making the transition with Comevo, she realized she was able to receive and include significant amounts of information from different offices across campus making USF’s online orientation more comprehensive than before.
Comevo’s online orientation platform gave USF a new lens to view their orientation through and new changes are set to unfold for their future new student orientation events. Hultman-Schlabach says she would like to see in-person orientations shift their focus to orienting students with campus and focus less on administrative material that could best be covered online.
“Though in the future we intend to use the online orientation as a supplement to on-ground events, I think we will cut costs for on-ground events by making them shorter and/or less frequent because we won’t need to cover as much information as we have in the past,” said Hultman-Schlabach.
As for other schools, transforming orientations to an online format is an effective way to initially cut costs and test the waters of implementing hybrid solutions in the future.
The Benefits and The Future:
Doctors from Pearson Education published a research paper in July 2020 detailing several best practices to consider when implementing new hybrid learning solutions.
- Build around what your students want to learn
Pearson says that successful hybrid courses fully integrate online and face-to-face instruction, planning interactions based on good teaching practice. This includes building your courses with objectives lined out in your syllabus and not thinking of your hybrid course as a direct translation of a previously conducted in-person class.
- What is best done in-person compared to virtually?
- What needs to be in real time versus asynchronously, giving students more time to work off of their own schedule?
- What needs to be facilitated by an instructor versus through learning materials?
- Plan effective interactions
- Emails, announcements, discussion boards
- Class discussions, collaborative group work and peer review activities
- These can happen in person, online or outside of class time
- Synchronous: creates a sense of spontaneity and connection but may lack participation
- Asynchronous: Encourages participation by all, reflection and flexibility but may result in procrastination
- Activities, readings, watching videos or working through problem sets
- Integrate the experiences
Similar to our review of Kathryn Hultman-Schlabach’s decision to split up the University of Saint Francis’ future orientations into whatever format serves each section best, Pearson recommends designing your courses into sections that holistically support each other.
This can include assigning challenging and engaging online learning activities and then reserving in-person class time for robust discussions and inviting questions.