Hybrid delivery / learning & COVID-19
I'm sure that many other digital learning leads or learning technologists have been asked to explore 'hybrid delivery' as the majority of educators and students return to the classroom. In the traditional sense this model offers a fantastic range of learning opportunities for students but we need to acknowledge the challenges caused by Covid-19.
What does this mean?
The ‘blended’ and ‘flipped’ learning models of teaching encourage the use of technology, variation, independent study and differentiation in the classroom. Alternatively, Hybrid delivery (to me) refers to the the delivery of lessons to students in the classroom whilst also delivering to students learning from home. This can be used effectively by scheduling in both face to face and online learning for the whole class but splitting the class was not a viable option for further education institutions until now (Covid-19 isolations). Due to the current circumstances, one would assume that only a small percentage of each timetabled class could have students learning from home while the rest learn on site.
This type of delivery could cause potential issues for both the educators and students. Educators are required to feel confident with setting behavioral expectations, pacing the lesson, monitoring active learning, detailed hybrid planning in advance and allowing collaboration to a split classroom and that is quite a challenge before even considering technical limitations. Students learning from home could also have a lower quality of learning if the majority of the class are present on site as they will not have the same experience as the rest of their peers. Therefore, these students could struggle to engage due to lack of accessibility, connection issues or lack of inclusion and synchronous lessons could quickly be replaced with online resources, asynchronous delivery or a passive experience.
What's the answer?
Well, I try to approach issues like this by asking questions and gathering facts first of all. Then and only then, can you begin to consider potential solutions and offer support.
How many classes are experiencing this issue?
Is the educator confident with the use of digital tools for online learning?
What content / lesson objectives will the educator be delivering?
Does the educator have enough planning time to allow for hybrid delivery?
Will the educator provide learners with lesson recordings or do they intend to deliver lessons live?
Is there an existing online community for the learner to contribute to?
How is the virtual learning environment structured?
How experienced are the learners with self-paced study?
Has the educator acknowledged the learning and accessibility needs of the class?
Is the educator aware of the isolating student's needs, requirements and environment?
Do you have the equipment to deliver the lesson to a high standard?
I would flag that every student that requires isolated learning may be disadvantaged in some way and we need to recognize that and support them. Prior to Covid-19, learners were at risk of falling behind in every classroom around the world but the virus has revealed or exacerbated barriers to learning such as; mental health issues, financial issues, safeguarding concerns, accessibility requirements, environmental factors and the virus itself.
Challenges aside, the hybrid delivery model can offer students new opportunities to learn. However, I would proceed with caution by first acknowledging that splitting the class in this way will have an impact on the student experience could be incredibly challenging for educators.
Some digital leads use the blended delivery model to add online lessons, digital tools and independent study to lesson timetables. I believe that this is a much more sustainable way of delivering a course because the whole of the class have the same experience at the same time. The potential issues that I have raised above refer only to the minority of students in one class experiencing a different quality of learning than the majority.
28.03.21 This Microsoft course could be useful for further reading https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/course/218c22a7/overview
(Please note, these are my thoughts alone based on my experiences whilst working with educators during the pandemic)