Edtech tips

Tips for creating a strong hybrid learning environment

Using technology for deep learning
 

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused most schools across the country to adjust how they conduct classes and meet with their students to follow health and safety protocols. Many districts have attempted to shift to a hybrid learning model – but what exactly does that entail? 

While there are several variations of hybrid learning and some debate over its exact definition, it essentially combines face-to-face learning with online instruction. Some students attend class in person with the teacher, while other students join the class from a remote setting with digital video technology, using programs like Zoom or Google Meet to attend the class. The overarching goal of hybrid learning is to offer students the opportunity to take part in learning activities and engage in instructional content in innovative and meaningful ways during both face-to-face class meetings, and outside of designated synchronous class time. 

Although hybrid learning is a relatively new approach for many teachers, this type of virtual learning environment can provide students with purposeful opportunities to experience successful academic growth and skill proficiency. There are several factors to consider when creating a hybrid course and many helpful strategies that can create an effective and engaging hybrid learning environment.

Determine how you will organize your course

To begin creating your hybrid learning environment, you will first want to determine the major goals for your course and develop key learning objectives. After you have created your learning goals, you will then want to plan which activities students can do individually during online learning and what activities are better suited for face-to-face meetings. Asynchronous lessons, (which occur when students complete learning tasks individually online), should allow students the opportunity to work through the content to deepen their understanding of a concept, and should focus more on activities such as listening to recorded lectures, reading texts, taking notes and watching videos. These activities allow learners to interact with the class content at their own pace so they can pause, rewind, take notes and write down any questions they may have. Synchronous class meetings, which occur live in real-time (either face-to-face or digitally on a video platform), should focus more on activities that help foster student relationships and collaboration with their classmates- and the teacher – to enhance the concepts they learned through asynchronous learning. 

When organizing your course content online, I recommend using Hāpara which is a program that organizes and streamlines G Suite for Education tools into one easily accessible location for both students and teachers. Hāpara Workspace is a collaborative and differentiated digital space for teachers and learners to create highly personalized learning experiences.

 
It displays your curriculum units so students can understand how their assignments are connected to the overall learning objective and allow them to easily access all the materials needed for that specific unit. From Workspace, teachers can create lessons that are associated with their learning goals and post assessments, course content, scoring rubrics, and other interactive resources all in one easily located space. You can also use sections in Hāpara Workspace to organize content by learning goals or to divide a large project into smaller, more manageable steps.

 

Maximizing the use of Google tools during hybrid learning

When organizing a virtual classroom for your hybrid learning environment, platforms such as Google Classroom and Hāpara can serve as a centralized platform to post lessons, assignments, and to conduct live synchronous meetings. Teachers can use G Suite for Education tools, (including Docs, Slides, Forms and Sheets) to create online content and assessments. G Suite for Education can also be used by teachers for the purpose of designing asynchronous lessons; for example, a history teacher could create a Google Slide presentation with information about World War II, enhance the presentation with images and video clips, and then record their spoken explanations or instructions by using a Google Chrome extension such as Loom or Screencastify. 

 
Teachers can post their asynchronous lessons, course announcements, and student assignments on a platform such as Google Classroom or Hāpara. The Hāpara Teacher Dashboard combines all student Google files into a Student Tile, allowing teachers to easily monitor student progress and engagement in the course. If a student is missing an assignment, the teacher can click on that student’s Tile and quickly identify what they need to complete in order to improve their grade, rather than having to sort through older Google Classroom assignments that may be difficult to locate.

Hāpara Student Dashboard organizes all student assignments and communication into one accessible location, so learners don’t have to sign into several different accounts to access course content. Student Dashboard also helps students stay aware of upcoming assignments that are either due soon or are overdue so they can prioritize what assignments they should work on first.

Maintain steady communication and promote a strong learning community

For meaningful learning to occur in a hybrid learning environment, teachers need to build strong relationships with students and create a trusting class community where students feel safe to take risks in order to improve their learning. During synchronous meetings, teachers can help build a strong class community by allowing students to collaborate on problems or projects together. Students who are learning remotely can join the face-to-face sessions using a live video platform, such as Zoom or Google Meets, and collaborate with classmates during breakout sessions within the online platform. Teachers can promote class discussions and collaborations through student presentations, online discussion boards, breakout sessions followed by whole group discussion, and question and answer sessions pertaining to the content studied during the asynchronous sessions. One example of making the most out of in-person time with students is having learners prepare a group project using online tools, such as a Google slideshow about photosynthesis or a historical era in time, or a video analyzing the theme of a story with music, images and recorded voice overs. Student groups could then post their projects to a discussion forum or present the project to the class. 

In a hybrid environment, maintaining consistent communication with learners is crucial, both in person and digitally. Teachers can communicate quickly and asynchronously through email, and offer immediate feedback online to help with student progress. Both Google Classroom and Hāpara Dashboard allow teachers to provide commentary and suggestions in real-time on student assignment files, and Hāpara allows teachers and students to communicate seamlessly with the Dashboard function.

 
So, whether your students are present with you in the classroom, or attend your course remotely, there are several effective strategies and many e-learning resources you can use to create a successful and engaging hybrid learning environment.

About the author
Lindsee Tauck studied English Literature and Curriculum and Instruction at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. She has been involved in education for over 12 years, and has taught in a variety of locations, including: Chiapas, Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and south central Los Angeles. She has lived and worked in San Diego, California since 2010 and currently teaches high school English in Chula Vista, California.

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