In 2021, schools went back and forth between in-person and online learning, blended or hybrid classrooms, or some combination of the different teaching methods. In March 2021, 30% of K-12 students participated in class via hybrid learning, compared to about 50% who continued traditional in-person instruction.
During the pandemic, schools worked with the circumstances as best as they could, with support from government funding specifically dedicated to enabling hybrid learning, family and caregiver patience, and the creativity and endurance of teachers around the world.
So, how do online learning and hybrid classrooms impact students? And teachers?
Many have their concerns about how well students learn online, and the toll that having to support in-person learning and virtual learning simultaneously can have on educators. But others have now seen firsthand how effective online learning is, and students are thriving as they take advantage of the benefits of a hybrid learning environment.
For example, students who need extra time for certain assignments due to learning differences, or who need special tools or devices to be successful in the classroom, can access what they need on their own time. Other students prefer project-based learning or gaming, which has become more popular in the era of hybrid learning.
Hybrid learning was put to the test during 2020 and 2021. Now, K-12 and post-secondary educators, administrators, and families can see the impact of blended learning options, take advantage of the pros of online learning, and seek out solutions to the challenges, overall making e-learning more effective.
As a quick refresher, hybrid learning is a style of teaching and learning that incorporates in-person learning and virtual learning using hybrid classroom tools like learning management systems, video conferencing, and asynchronous (self-paced) learning. Hybrid classrooms incorporate a live streamed video of in-person class activities that serves as a two-way conversation, integrating remote and in-person students in a singular environment.
Blended learning, on the other hand, is a combination of live, in-person classes along with pre-recorded videos and online learning modules that are completed asynchronously and supplement in-person coursework.
A literature review on hybrid and blended learning revealed that hybrid learning increased student engagement, achievement, and a positive view of the learning process for K-12 students.
Hybrid learning also incorporates these proven student engagement methods:
Hybrid learning offers benefits to teachers, administrators, families, and students. During the pandemic, most school districts quickly adapted to new methods of education, and with the data from the past several years can determine what is working and what isn’t.
Benefits of hybrid learning include:
Hybrid learning offers accessibility to students and teachers, on a local and global level. During the pandemic, a short-staffed school district in Georgia turned to a company that supplied remote teachers who taught lessons virtually, while local students tuned in to live classes on their laptops in school. With hybrid learning, students can access lessons no matter their physical ability or location, and virtual learning is a more cost-effective option for many learners.
Teachers are excited by the idea of virtual and hybrid educational options, with 78% of teachers preferring virtual tutoring and enrichment programs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers want to know that their school district is prioritizing their safety and their students’ safety. 99% of teachers report that a “safe and healthy school” is their top priority, but 66% feel that their school isn’t taking enough precautions to prioritize their wellbeing. Hybrid classrooms provide the flexibility and safe option for teachers and students to stay home when they are sick, reducing the spread of infection.
Hybrid learning helps school districts maintain budget and helps students to access more cost-effective courses online. Hybrid learning staples like digital textbooks are also a more cost-efficient solution.
There is a shortage of over 100,000 teachers in the U.S, and hybrid learning provides more opportunities for teachers to reach more students and school districts to save budget with virtual instructors. When sufficient in-person educators aren’t available, virtual instruction is a live learning option that is more accessible to certain school districts.
Live virtual learning and class live streams that come with hybrid courses are a new option for caregivers and parents. With the ability to tune in to live courses with their child and see how they interact in the classroom, caregivers can be more involved with their student’s education plan.
Research shows that students perform better in school when they are engaged in the classroom. Hybrid learning presents a new way to engage students in class— using live video conferencing platform features like polls and quizzes, interactive virtual games, and a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning.
94% of teachers are in favor of hybrid learning if provided with adequate hybrid teaching resources, a curriculum, and support from their district and community. Hybrid learning gives teachers more insights on students than they’ve had before. A case study on a school district in Texas revealed that hybrid learning allowed teachers to more easily recognize when a student was struggling in class.
Teachers also report feeling that using hybrid learning, they are able to better hold students accountable, more easily provide alternate learning methods like providing captions or a recorded lecture for self-paced review, or using apps that help students gain confidence in public speaking.
In addition to providing more data and individualized information about students, hybrid learning helps teachers by:
Teachers— learn more about setting up and managing a hybrid or blended class environment with this guide to teaching in a hybrid classroom.
During COVID-19, schools had varying degrees of use of hybrid learning. 85% of parents report that they want their children to be able to attend classes when they’re home sick using virtual learning technology.
Hybrid learning offers many benefits, but also has disadvantages that can’t be avoided, like a lack of access to in-person learning tools for students learning from home. However, for many students, a personalized hybrid learning experience far outweighs the cons that come with blended or hybrid learning.
For all students, the ability to access a variety of learning resources is a major pro. With EdTech tools like learning management systems and digital textbooks, students can review course materials at their own pace, and involve caregivers in the online learning process.
Successful hybrid classrooms facilitate engagement between students in the classroom and students at home, creating a more equitable learning environment for remote students that was previously unavailable.
More pros of the hybrid learning model include a better dialogue between students, teachers, and caregivers, more time for students to learn at their own pace or on their own schedule, and a variety of learning methods for students to choose from.
On the other hand, not all students have access to the devices and high-speed WiFi they need to be successful with online learning. Others prefer to be in-person based on learning style or distractions at home. In online learning-only scenarios, students with learning disabilities may also lack their in-person tools, specially trained classroom aids, games, or other devices that are available in the classroom. Finally, there are concerns about socioeconomic inequality when it comes to e-learning, and access to caregiver support, which varies greatly among students learning from home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid learning and virtual learning provided an option for continuing education when, for a majority of the world, there was no alternative.
The future of education includes hybrid learning, and in more ways than standard classwork. School districts and states are creating new return to school plans that incorporate hybrid learning, fully online school environments, and blended classrooms based on student needs and available resources. Others have approved plans that make more permanent investments in hybrid learning, like in San Antonio, Texas, where $90M in funding was approved to purchase new hybrid education technology like video conferencing cameras and microphones.
Some experts suggest that a more flexible school day with a combination of in-person classes and virtual learning that better matches up with teens’ circadian rhythms might be an answer to better engaging high school students.
Whether your school district has embraced hybrid learning or not, virtual learning and hybrid teaching are here to stay. Ready to explore hybrid class setups? Take a look at how these eight classrooms are using the Meeting Owl to engage their students in a hybrid learning environment.