The act of teaching in a hybrid learning environment is an art form. Due to the mix of in-person students and students attending class remotely and thanks to the assistance of distance learning tools, hybrid classrooms require educators to pull off a delicate balance of sturdy, historied teaching methods and modern, tech-savvy lessons all at once. Piece of cake, right? (Teachers, in unison— wrong!)
While this past year saw a lot of schools pivoting back and forth between remote, in-person and hybrid learning, in March of this year 30.6% of K-12 students attended hybrid schools. With the increase in reliable remote learning tools available to school districts, as well as the high success rate of hybrid learning environments, it looks like hybrid classrooms will be here to stay.
Kindergarten teacher Mackenzie Adams went viral on TikTok for her innovative hybrid teaching methods for her young students. She uses paddles to visually show when students should have their microphones on and off and includes a fun background in the classroom for students learning remotely. Almost 10M likes on TikTok (and counting) later, her videos are resonating with students, caregivers and fellow teachers who are figuring out “this whole hybrid thing” together.
Anyone can master the art of teaching in a hybrid classroom when they have the right mindset, classroom setup and access to the necessary tech tools. Read on to learn tips on how to get comfortable teaching in a hybrid school environment, including how to set up your hybrid classrooms.
A hybrid classroom is any learning environment where educators teach a combination of in-person and remote students. There is no standard ratio of in-person and remote students required for hybrid classrooms. Instead, each hybrid learning environment is composed of the number of in-person students that the classroom can safely accommodate and the number of remote students that distance learning technology can support.
For new teachers, diving right into leading a hybrid class can feel like performing a juggling act in the world’s first educational circus. You might be asking yourself, “How do you keep on-site students engaged without neglecting virtual students?” Or, “How do you make sure you are meeting the needs of students participating in classroom activities electronically without ignoring the needs of the students sitting at their desks right in front of you?” With a little bit of creativity, a whole lot of preparedness and the expectation that things will never go according to plan, you’ll be on your way to becoming a hybrid teaching ringmaster.
The key to successful hybrid lessons is: engagement, engagement, engagement. When students are unable to engage with classroom activities and lessons, they aren’t learning or making the most out of their educational experiences. Unfortunately, keeping students engaged remotely, in-person, or hybrid can be a challenge on its own. Sprinkle in the hybrid element and your students (especially the younger they are) are more likely to disengage during class. To keep their attention and their eyes on their education, try some of these engagement boosting tips for hybrid classrooms:
Successfully leading a cohesive hybrid classroom lies in the community you are able to build between yourself, your on-site students, and your remote students. Without cohesion between those three parties, you may have a hard time conducting engaging lessons. The first thing to remember about your new hybrid classroom community is that if something is new to you, it is probably new to your students as well. Whether that is a hybrid activity, classroom setup, or piece of technology.
To create a proactive learning environment, take the time to build a supportive hybrid classroom community based on trusting relationships and open communication. As long as your students feel safe and comfortable communicating with you and each other, you will be set up for success in your hybrid classroom.
Students can have a number of different home environments, so it’s important to be conscious of what may be going on in the background at home. Students are being placed out of their comfort zones just like teachers may be— this year teachers’ roommates, significant others, family members and kids have popped into a Zoom unexpectedly, and students have also had to reveal their home setups and figure out how to attend live classes amidst their busy lives.
In a hybrid classroom this means treating all students equally, regardless of where they are located. If you greet your in-person students individually each morning with an elbow bump or wave, be sure to greet your remote students individually as well with a direct wave or thumbs up.
The success of your hybrid classroom relies heavily on your classroom setup. Due to the inclusion of increased tech tools with hybrid learning, classroom organization is one thing that does not directly translate from fully in-person classes. Instead, you’ll need to rearrange your classroom setup to support your in-person and remote students equally. Like our favorite TikToker Mackenzie, consider updating your background in your physical teaching space to give remote learners an engaging frame (or wearing a baseball jersey from your favorite team!)
The exact setup you use will depend on the size and shape of your classroom, your class size and the tech tools you use. When rearranging your hybrid class to optimize productivity and collaboration, keep these things in mind:
Speaking of hybrid tech tools...teaching in hybrid classrooms is dependent on the strength of your technology. Depending on the age of your students, you may need to opt for tools with increased levels of user-friendliness. But for the most part, every hybrid classroom will incorporate a combination of these tech tools:
Once you have all of your hybrid learning technology picked out and set up in your classroom, you can design your room to best support the use of the technology. It’s important to remember that no matter which tech tools you choose to support your hybrid classrooms, taking the necessary time to teach your students (and possibly caregivers) how to use the tools is essential. Treat the hybrid classroom tech as an extension of your lesson plan. The first step for any assignment should always be training your students on how to use the virtual communication and collaboration tools they have been provided. And importantly— giving them extra time to work through it and ask questions.
Tech in classrooms is not new, but it has taken on a new life in recent years. To learn more about how to optimize your classroom for hybrid learning, here is How Tech Has Changed the Classroom.