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Hybrid learning--along with a little empathy--can open up a new mode of teaching and learning and help motivate students on a deeper level

The unbeaten path to hybrid learning

Hybrid learning--along with a little empathy--can open up a new mode of teaching and learning and help motivate students on a deeper level

Virtual learning, and the forms in which virtual and in-person education meet, have sparked controversy in the educational community. 

Often we debate what consequences this type of education has. We wonder whether traditional learning methodologies–with their big appetite for control and constant evaluation–are even achievable when classes are hybrid. But by focusing on impacts only, we overlook the essential issue: What’s the real purpose of education?

We should be primarily concerned with how education helps students achieve their personal and professional goals, whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid–a methodology targeting students’ development will help teachers capitalize on every lesson triumphantly.

Let’s unlock these learning methods and see what role technology plays in facilitating effective learning for everyone, including teachers themselves.

The real difficulties of the hybrid classroom 

Hybrid learning and mixing different types of connectivity is a challenge, but only because we haven’t had much experience with it until now. We have been relying on traditional forms of learning, and teaching innovations in the curriculum have been slow to seep in. Then, the pandemic hit us.

Let’s take frontal teaching as an example. It has been common for teachers to explain theoretical and factual knowledge, and the children were supposed to reproduce this knowledge in exams. For the longest time, frontal teaching has been able to stay afloat despite devastating results for students.

Now, with new virtual learning, this type of learning is no longer possible nor thinkable. Instead, our new purpose is to determine what lessons, methods, and crafts are best suited to achieve the best learning outcomes for students, regardless of the type of connectivity.  

Blending the classrooms–well

Virtual, present, synchronous, and asynchronous–these are the shapes hybrid classes can assume. Each of these forms has different benefits to offer intended for different learning phases and goals. 

Videos and online materials, such as question and answer sessions, are well suited for virtual classes. Group work and vivid discussions are for in-person events.  And videos and simulations are for home review, where students can study theoretical knowledge at their own pace.

We see that there’s value in each type of connectivity. So, instead of getting hung up on the difficulties of hybrid classes, what’s needed are mixed learning methodologies and the extensive use of different technologies to facilitate them.

Flipped learning: The world from above

Flipped learning aims at higher student engagement by guiding efficient self-learning outside the classroom. Presential classes are used to discuss problems, work with practical examples, and test solutions for the issues stated together. At home, the students study concepts and theories with the help of online tutorials, 3D simulations, internet research, and edtech software programs.

As a teacher, you save time by concentrating on students’ individual questions and guiding them through problem-solving.

Top universities in Europe have long offered online videos of their lectures, coupled with tutorial sessions where students apply and discuss study concepts consecutively. Flipping the classroom is simple and effective, and employable for elementary school students. First graders can quickly learn letters and numbers with the help of a video game and discuss doubts and learning achievements with their peers in class.

Project-based learning: a whole universe for education

A more sophisticated method is project-based learning (PBL). Using this method, students work independently on projects for several weeks, developing valuable social and team skills, higher-order thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Let’s walk through a whole hybrid project: urban planning for students’ hometowns.

In the initial virtual meeting, the teacher defines the project’s goal, poses key questions, establishes the stage goals, and assigns the groups. Virtual courses are also suitable for asking questions and defining frameworks before diving into the next phase.

Now students can begin to explore how to design urban planning, which objectives it follows (accommodate people, environmentally-friendly housing, public transportation), and what different planning proposals exist. With tech tools such as drones, students can explore current urban planning in their area or view simulations of how cities will grow in the future, making even the most abstract topics fairly easy to grasp.

In the following round, the student group meets in person. The goal is to agree on a planning method and give each student different tasks to fulfill (e.g., research, citizen surveys, graphs and visualizations, 3D simulations). They will work on these tasks asynchronously from home.

Children can interview their parents on growing up in the area, analyze city planning in the close neighborhood, and ask for evidence or research opportunities at the municipality. With such a methodology, children get access to a whole new universe of knowledge and skills.

Lastly, the whole class comes together to share ideas for optimized urban planning. Here, students should work with videos and powerpoints or other design and presentation tools, making their urban project engaging to their audience.

Finally, teachers can assess the project portfolios instead of the usual evaluation test to distribute fair grades. Grading is not about evaluating snapshots but about observing and recording a student’s development.

Tech improves educational communication 

Let’s imagine you are a student again: We ask a question regarding our homework, and without delays, we receive an answer. How many headaches could this have saved us growing up? 

What’s needed is a central communication platform, allowing students, teachers, and family members to connect. Those students who get little support from home can rely on the internet and tools like MS Teams for professional help within a few clicks.

We’ve seen that hybrid learning is pretty manageable, but it requires remodeling and thinking outside the box. Luckily, there is a secret formula that makes it so much easier: empathy. Why do students have difficulty concentrating for several hours of virtual instruction? Why do many teachers feel overwhelmed by the new virtuality?  Technology-driven and innovative learning methods are obligatory for motivating students. At the same time, teachers should also have the opportunity to evolve, make better use of new tools, and connect learning methods with the spirit of the times. 

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