How to Manage the Challenges of a Concurrent Teaching Model
It’s no secret the pandemic has changed how we teach and how we do school. Schools and districts across the nation now offer several options to students and their families, including the Hybrid Education model, completely virtual education, and traditional in-person learning. In many cases, teachers are responsible for finding ways to effectively deliver instruction for those students who attend school in-person and those who are at home learning virtually simultaneously.
Teachers are feeling the pressure of this concurrent teaching model—where they are responsible for providing equitable education for students in-person and online simultaneously—especially since they have been offered little to no training or preparation (Ali, 2020). As a result, many teachers are feeling overwhelmed due to the rapidly growing demands of teaching virtual students and students in the classroom. Lack of support and resources, topped with high levels of uncertainty, have led to burnout and high stress levels (Ali, 2020). Therefor it’s useful to take a look at some ideas for helping teachers approach and manage a concurrent teaching model.
Facing the Concurrent Teaching Model
With the concurrent teaching model in place at many schools now, teachers are expected to effectively manage several groups of students across different spaces simultaneously, while still delivering instruction that will meet each learner’s diverse needs. This is a daunting task and one that definitely requires much planning along with trial and error to find what will work best for your classroom and learners. Below are some tips to get you started rethinking your classroom to work for both you and your students.
The Challenge: Running into Tech and Equity Issues
It’s common to run into issues when bringing new platforms and technology into the classroom. Tech issues require time to troubleshoot, which in turn takes away from instructional time. For example, sixth grade social studies teacher, Cathy Gilbride, mentioned that she constantly ran into issues with her students not knowing how to use the school’s learning management system, along with wifi connectivity issues when she first started teaching in the concurrent model (Allen, 2020). What is important to note is that tech issues will come up, so it’s best to anticipate what those issues may be and prepare yourself—and your students—to deal with them.
Possible Solution: Anticipate and Plan for Technology Issues
Although we cannot prevent each and every technology issue, we can have a plan to deal with them as they arise. When teaching with technology, it is wise have a back-up plan in case it does not work. Mason (2020) suggests going over procedures and tips with your virtual learners for when issues like frozen screens and bad audio come up, or in case students can’t log in. Keep track of common issues and make sure you communicate with your virtual students and their parents and guardians on how to troubleshoot those issues (Mason, 2020). This can be as simple as providing a Google Doc with a Q & A format that lists the most common tech issues and how to solve them.
Many schools have recently adopted an LMS, or learning management system, while others have been using them for the past several years. Reviewing how to log in, submit assignments, and locate resources are all essential for your classroom to run smoothly. Just as you would review your classroom management procedures at the beginning of the year, it is sound practice to do the same with your LMS, since it’s one of your learning spaces. This should be done with both your in-person students and your virtual students, since both will likely be expected to use the same LMS.
Finally, providing tutorials and how-to videos on how to work within the LMS and complete tasks such as submitting assignments should be included in the resource section of your LMS as reference for those students who may need extra assistance. Furthermore, these tutorials should be frequently shared with students along with their parents and guardians.
The Challenge: Lack of Preparation or Guidance on How to Teach in the Concurrent Model
The concurrent model is a fairly new concept in the K-12 setting. However, this model has existed in the college and university setting for quite some time, early example being the Hyflex model. The idea was to allow college students attend their courses either in person or online. The goal of this model was to provide different modes of instruction and opportunities for self-directed learning for undergraduate and graduate students either in an asynchronous or synchronous manner (Allen, 2020).
However, when we introduce this model in a K-12 setting, it comes with some challenges, especially since younger learners are not innately equipped to be self-directed learners. At this point, there is very little research on this subject, so information and training for how to best implement the concurrent model of teaching is scarce. School districts also lack in providing support to their teachers on how concurrent teaching should look (Allen, 2020). Instead of dwelling on the lack of direction, let’s look at starting points and tips on how to make it work in your classroom.
Possible Solution: Leverage Technology To Deliver Instruction
The first piece of advice when planning for concurrent teaching is to assess what technology tools, platforms, and devices are available to you and your students. Once you identify what you have, you need to identify how those devices or tools can help you deliver your instruction to two audiences at the same time. Some school districts will provide an interactive board or projector to display what is on your laptop screen. Other districts may offer a document camera or external camera to connect to an interactive board or other device.
Mason (2020) suggests starting with some sort of slide deck, since it’s a tool that most teachers are familiar with and can easily be uploaded to the LMS. Other presentation tools worth checking out are Peardeck and NearPod. With these tools, you can also gauge student learning with features such as embedded quizzes, polls, and open-ended prompts (Mason, 2020). Both offer free and paid versions.
Having the right technology goes a long way in teaching in a concurrent classroom. There are several applications and multiple devices to deliver instruction to different audiences simultaneously.
Teachers can use Explain Everything in conjunction with iPads, an Apple TV, a projector, or a TV to teach to both students at home and students in the classroom. With the Explain Everything app, teachers are able to walk through math equations, for example, on a virtual whiteboard, while the iPad gives them the flexibility to circulate the room if needed. All this is done while the Apple TV is mirroring the iPad on the TV.
Another great option is to use a Wacom tablet connected to a laptop or desktop. This allows the teacher—similar to a teacher with an iPad—to take advantage of a whiteboard and annotate over a PDF.
Lastly, try using a video-conferencing tool with the Promethean panel. This gives the teacher the capacity to share the panel’s screen with his or her virtual learners, while the students in the classroom see everything that is happening.
The Challenge: Keeping All Students Engaged
An issue that teachers run into when teaching in the concurrent model is keeping both in-person and virtual learners engaged during instruction. This is more challenging for those virtual learners, since they do not share the same space as the teacher. For instance, Allen (2020) cites Cathy Gilbride, who mentioned that when her in-person students needed assistance she would step away from her computer, which then prevents her virtual learners from seeing her. Her solution was for those virtual learners to scream into their microphones if they needed help or needed her to come back to the screen (Allen, 2020). This scenario is probably more common than we realize in a concurrent model. The good news is with a little creativity and flexibility, technology could be used to help manage the flow of the classroom and lesson while still maintaining engagement among all learners.
Possible Solution: Leveraging Technology Tools for Engagement
While technology is not the solution to all classroom management issues, it can be utilized to help a classroom run more smoothly among in-person and online learners. It is important to note that you should leverage technology tools that can offer students opportunities to respond, discuss, and reflect during a lesson. Some tools to look into include, Padlet, where students leave a virtual post-its with a response to a question or prompt, and Flipgrid, where students upload videos in response to a prompt (Mason, 2020). These tools offer students the ability to leave their responses in either a written or video format, while they also read the responses and watch the videos that their classmates have posted. These tools provide visual formats that learners can easily engage with, which in turn can give the teacher time to assist those learners who may need more assistance.
It’s true that the concurrent teaching model comes with its fair share of challenges for the K-12 setting. While the concurrent teaching model may have originated in the college and university setting, many school districts have recognized this model as a useful (or, perhaps, inevitable) tool for meeting the logistical and safety needs of today’s learners. Early adopters of concurrent teaching in a H-12 setting have experimented with different strategies and have leveraged technology in different ways to work for their classrooms. When it comes to utilizing technology in the classroom, issues will arise, but it is how we anticipate and plan for those issues that counts. Finally, engaging students, whether they are in person or online, can be done. It just takes some creativity and a shift in how teachers view their roles in today’s classrooms.
Ali, S.S. (2020, October 18). Educators teaching online and in person at the same time feel burned out. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/educators-teaching-online-person-same-time-feel-burned-out-n1243296
Allen, S. (2020, October 16). Does teaching online and in-person simultaneously work? Center for Digital Education. Retrieved from https://www.govtech.com/education/k-12/Does-Teaching-Online-and-In-Person-Simultaneously-Work.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC's Considerations. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html
Mason, J. (2020, September 21). How do I teach online and in person at the same time? Your questions, answered [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/teaching-online-and-in-person/