As schools attempt to open back up this fall, one strategy to get kids back on campus is to conduct hybrid learning, during which students spend a portion of time on campus and another chunk of time at home using remote learning technology. Hybrid learning is a compromise, as the name implies, to get students back to a partial sense of normalcy on campus while also recognizing that some subjects are ideally suited to teaching online. The goal is to minimize student interaction, or the interaction between groups, and thereby reduce community spread of COVID-19.

Hybrid learning is evolving as a flexible idea with no specific or rigid model in place. Some schools try to set up a roughly 50/50 system with students being at school only 50% of the time, but every school is different. Sometimes a single course works well entirely online or entirely in person, but in other cases a course may be broken down into two components, one better suited for classroom instruction and one for online instruction. A common strategy is to reduce the number of students physically meeting in-person at school, which can be accomplished in many ways, such as scheduling cohorts of students to attend school at alternating times of day or days of the week.

In some instances of hybrid learning, students aren’t going to their schools at all but meeting in some other location that allows face-to-face instruction without sacrificing social distancing guidelines for that city and state. Education pundit Jesse Stommel suggests that the place-based component of hybrid learning “doesn’t have to be a classroom. The students can do work on their own ‘in the field’ at a safe distance and asynchronously. Their attendance can be ‘required’ and also self-reported. This is an ‘in-person’ class.” Stommel is a Digital Learning Fellow and Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies at University of Mary Washington.

The coronavirus is forcing education to reinvent itself, and this may ultimately be a silver lining of sorts.

The coronavirus is forcing education to reinvent itself, and this may ultimately be a silver lining of sorts. Just as we’re seeing in the business world, where employees can work remotely and still be effective, hybrid learning is showing that students don’t need to be together in a classroom 100% of the time to learn well. Students and teachers have successfully demonstrated that learning can thrive in an asynchronous environment without in-person interaction.

Personalized learning is another way of organizing learning that might be better served with hybrid learning models. With the wide variety of student personalities, attention levels, and knowledge, some students may excel in an online environment where they can reduce social distractions and learn at whatever pace they need. Other students may thrive in a face-to-face environment where they are seated in the same room with other students and have regular social interactions. Stommel continues, “it’s important that we rethink neat and tidy distinctions between online and on-ground.” The most important goal is to create safe, effective educational experiences for students and teachers.

Photo by Kylie Lugo