6 Ways Hybrid Education Creates Learner-Centric Experiences

Contributed By

H. L.

Assistant Principal

6 Ways Hybrid Education Creates Learner-Centric Experiences

Posted in Pro Tips | August 13, 2020

What is Hybrid Education? 

As the COVID-19 school shutdown morphs into an attempted restart, you have probably heard a lot of people use the terms “blended learning” and “hybrid learning” interchangeably. There are key differences, however. Blended learning is a mix of in-person learning and some form of computer-mediated instruction. Hybrid Education represents a much larger scope. 

Hybrid Education may incorporate different learning formats, such as blended learning or remote/distance learning, but it is so much more than that. Hybrid Education might be both of those approaches, plus social emotional learning programming, staff professional development (PD), and much more. Because Hybrid Education represents such a big tent, it has the potential to create powerful experiences for the individual student. Here are six ways Hybrid Education can help you accomplish that feat. 

Hybrid Education is Built Around Student Learning 

Hybrid Education seeks to personalize the experience of school and give students more control of their own learning. When students direct more of their own learning, with levels of support and structure in place to help them increase their engagement, they learn more. 

A quick example that illustrates the point: Think of how the senior year of high school has changed over the last few decades, and how it is poised to change even more as we embrace Hybrid Education models. A senior in a Hybrid Education system might report to school only for an “anchor period” to check in, receive support, and progress monitor their goals with a staff mentor before reporting to an internship or work experience, followed by online learning in the traditional “core” subject areas. Hybrid Education is flexible enough to allow for all of these approaches, depending on the student’s learning needs. 

Hybrid Education is Built Around Student Choice 

In a Hybrid Education model, student choice is built in at several key points. A continuum of learning frameworks is in place, from full in-person instruction to remote learning, and students and their families are able to make a plan that works for them. No two students are exactly alike, so why not provide more choice as to how they access their education? 

Students need the choices that Hybrid Education makes possible at the classroom and individual lesson levels, too. There are many ways to support student autonomy, from choosing how they will be evaluated on a given task or project to exploring multiple strategies for problem solving. Inevitably, some students will gravitate toward self-directed learning immediately, while others may need scaffolding to help them get there. Hybrid Education allows you to plan for and implement the supports needed to provide more student choice. 

Hybrid Education Incorporates Social Emotional Learning 

Caring for the whole child becomes even more important in a Hybrid Education model. As Peter DeWitt pointed out, many students haven’t been in a physical school environment for months, and academic and social norms and expectations not only underwent a shift in the spring, but will shift again this fall. No matter in what format your school opens, students need to feel even more welcomed and supported than they have in the past. The way to accomplish that is by featuring social emotional learning (SEL) in your Hybrid Education plan. 

Hybrid education, by its very nature, encourages the development of both the inside and outside-of-school SEL programming that has been found to be effective when implemented with fidelity. Hybrid education is more than just a flexible delivery model for learning standards and goals. Hybrid education allows you to provide the support that is vital for students’ health, well-being, and ability to engage in the midst of the global COVID-19 crisis. 

Hybrid Education is Super Flexible 

One huge positive in the forced Hybrid Education conversation taking place all around the world, is that the traditional 50-minute period, “cells and bells” model of education may have gone the way of the dodo bird almost overnight. Hybrid schedules are incredibly flexible and can be tailored to the needs of your student population.  

The combinations are vast: You could design a schedule during remote learning that allows for rotating in-person education for students with special needs, or a schedule that places a primary focus on rotating in-person instruction for core subject areas. These flexible scheduling options do not come about without challenges, but overall they allow you to think differently about time and space during the school day, and ultimately how to better serve students. 

Hybrid Education Accounts for the Needs of Your Staff 

True Hybrid Education portends the death of the one-size-fits-all, sit-and-get professional development experience for your staff. Thank goodness! Effective professional development is active, content-specific, work assignment-embedded, collaborative, and implemented and supported over a period of time. In a hybrid model, you could also add “asynchronous” to that list, because Hybrid Education incorporates both in-person and distance learning frameworks. 

Our district constructed a virtual learning PD day at the end of the school year. One of the most popular features was the  class="click-event" href="http://www.graetc.org/2019/05/choice-boards-for-professional-development/" target="_blank" data-category="Blog Post" data-label="greatc.org - Choice Boards For Professional Development" data-action="/blog/6-ways-hybrid-education-creates-learner-centric-experiences">“choice board” that was constructed for day two of the summit. Led by a mix of teachers and district leadership, all staff could jump in and out of sessions based upon their needs and goals. The follow up modules were completed on their own time over the rest of the summer.  

One highly respected veteran teacher told district leadership that it was the most valuable professional development experience he had had in the last two decades due to the presence of clear objectives, the hybrid format, and the usefulness of the content. Embrace the benefits Hybrid Education holds for professional learning, and your staff will feel the same way. It can be a major relief in uncertain times and can have the impact of keeping the focus of the professional learning where it belongs: the student-centered experience. 

Hybrid Education Unleashes the Power of Your Education Technology Investments 

Because Hybrid Education is like the big tent under which all of these approaches and supports play out, you’ll need tools in your toolbox that unify all the elements. Your education tech stack should support you as a place curate, organize, and access those various tools (content, assessment data, etc.). 

Think of how this plays out this fall: During the spring shutdown, many students fell months behind their usual learning pace, and the learning gaps that already existed in our most vulnerable populations were exacerbated. An assessment and analytics tool, like Performance Matters, lets you build assessments that identify and help you address those learning gaps, as well as serve as a clearinghouse for all other pertinent student data, such as “attendance, behavior, grades, third-party assessment results, and SEL information.” Taking action on insights gleaned from a properly organized and utilized assessment tool will help your Hybrid Education model, and thus your relentless focus on individual learners, thrive. 

The Best of All Worlds 

Online, remote, distance, blended, in-person—the Hybrid Education model is robust enough to incorporate the best elements from them all. This is perhaps the most challenging environment in which to operate for students, families, and schools since the public school was invented. That is no small statement. We need a continuum of services that rises to meet this challenge. Constructed purposefully, the Hybrid Education model is a 21st century delivery system that does just that, and keeps the focus where it always belongs—on students. 

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