A version of this post was originally published on December 3rd, 2020, in Education IT Reporter.
Worldwide, schools and universities are now, like never before, dealing with a large-scale disruption in education. With restrictions still in place, many schools are still closed or functioning at a reduced capacity or with socially-distanced classes, making it challenging to have a stable schedule. Everyone is affected: students, teachers, other school staff, parents.
This unprecedented situation calls for a flexible hybrid learning approach to minimize further disruption and ensure that high-quality teaching and learning can continue. Hybrid (or blended) learning takes any classroom a step further towards the virtual learning environment while still allowing face-to-face interaction and communication, albeit less than in the regular classroom.
Using all sorts of edtech (educational technologies), teachers can create engaging and interactive online learning experiences for students of all ages and across grade levels, provide personalized support, keep track of and assess each student’s progress, and so much more!
3 Ways in which edtech enables hybrid learning
Theoretically, online education eases the job of teachers and enhances learning for students. Practically, there's a catch. Or more. First, there are so many edtech tools out there that no teacher can test them all and see which ones are the best for their classroom. Secondly, the available technology is often misunderstood and underused, so results are, sadly, relatively poor. Thirdly, and most importantly, transitioning to the virtual learning environment can be extremely hard for both teachers and students.
All these challenges can and must be overcome, as the use of edtech in the classroom is key in avoiding further disruption in education. A comprehensive solution such as a learning management system can assist everyone in dealing with hybrid learning characteristics in more than one way. Here are a few areas of particular interest:
Using platforms such as a learning management system allows teachers to create synchronous and asynchronous activities, which are essential for creating hybrid learning experiences. For example, this helps teachers plan blended classes, which use a mix of self-paced and instructor-led lessons or modules, to support students in their learning process, whether they’re in class or learning from home.
Adopting the asynchronous learning mindset can be intimidating at first, but once educators get hold of it, they inevitably realize how useful it is. This is because asynchronous learning gives a significantly higher degree of agency to students; it allows them to dictate the pace of their learning process, which leads to better engagement rates with the learning materials.
Educators can further personalize learning for each student through adaptive learning by automatically hiding or showing lessons based on their progress and monitor engagement with activity display features. This enables teachers to design dynamic learning paths and guide students toward achieving their learning goals, thus adapting the online instruction to their unique learning needs.
Online learning platforms with automation features also help teachers work more efficiently to spend more time helping individual students. They can do so through the platform itself, by setting online student-teacher meetings or using the limited time they have in the classroom to focus more on addressing any issue a student might have instead of on teaching new material.
Poor internet connectivity and access to digital devices are some of the most significant barriers to remote learning — and this is a reality even in cities and developed countries, not just in rural locations. Many students may not have their own device to learn from, while even more have a hard time sharing the space at home with siblings and/or working parents.
Schools and universities should make sure any online platforms they use have an offline mode so that students can continue to access materials regardless of internet connectivity and continue to receive an education as seamlessly as possible. Most learning management systems do offer this option, thus partially solving the problem related to digital access.
These are only three aspects of the rhombicosidodecahedron of edtech, hybrid learning, and the future of education. The online learning environment will probably never replace the traditional classroom, but it can complement it to benefit everyone. Finding and using the right tools is paramount in ensuring the right to education for students today so that they can become the successful citizens of tomorrow.
The best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The second best time is now. Now read that again, but replace “plant a tree” with “invest in and implement edtech in the classroom.” The students of tomorrow will surely appreciate that.