You can successfully navigate hybrid learning and teaching. Many educators have to.
We’ve seen models of hybrid learning including:
- students being in-person on different days of the week;
- parents choosing in-person while others remain virtual;
- and some having in-person morning or afternoon shifts.
If your school is planning to move to a hybrid model soon, here are some tips to smooth the transition. We can use best practices from other schools to help make hybrid learning as successful and safe as possible. School shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when we can learn from each other’s successes and failures. Here are a few tips we’ve found from schools that have transitioned to some kind of hybrid model:
Plan Social Interactions and Community Building Events
The main concern for families in hybrid models is missing out on socialization and community building. As schools begin to move towards hybrid models, plan for as much consistency as possible in the student experience. Here are ways to have all students participate in the hybrid school community:
Weekly Zoom Lunches
Some Possip partner schools find weekly virtual lunches to be a fun way to connect at-home and in-person students. A variation could be lunch with only virtual students, to build a virtual community with shared experiences. Whatever context or pairings you want to do, include informal time during lunch to help bring normalcy and connection back to students’ lives.
Record School In-Person Events (Pep Rallies, Morning Assemblies, Etc.)
If your school is doing a community event during in-person school, record it and allow virtual students to watch. At-home students can still see familiar faces and places, while experiencing feelings of school pride.
Plan In-Class Collaboration and Interactions
According to research from Palloff and Pratt (2013), “Collaborative learning processes help students achieve deeper levels of knowledge generation through the creation of shared goals, shared exploration, and a shared process of meaning making. In addition, collaborative activity can help to reduce the feelings of isolation that can occur when students are working at a distance” (p. 39).
It takes a lot of planning to facilitate a mix of virtual and in-person collaboration and interactions. Use multi-modal interactions like zoom breakout room discussions, small-group work time, whole- group discussions, emailed or written communication outside of class, and regular informal class time to build a class culture. If half of your class is online and half is in-person, have the in-person student still get on Zoom and interact with the rest of the class. Here is an article that talks about remote learning best practices and the importance of collaboration for students and teachers. We also really liked this article, which helps give ideas for bringing students together, even when they are scattered.
Focus on Relationships
John Eckert from Baylor University writes, “Maslow’s hierarchy—the idea that physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being must be taken care of before meaningful learning can occur—is paramount.” If all students don’t feel that they are socially and emotionally connected and safe, they won’t be able to learn. Both students and teachers should engage with each other and build relationships in a variety of ways during hybrid learning. Try friendly competition during class, or one-on-one conversations about how the pandemic has affected students personally. Make time for icebreakers, discussions, and try to do as much one-on-one virtually and in-person with students as possible. Even meeting with one or two students a week individually via phone, video chat, or in-person can make a whole class feel connected to you.
Keep Parents in Mind
This is a tough time for parents as well as teachers. Consistent, streamlined, and proactive communication with parents—who are acting as learning coaches and virtual school facilitators—should be at the forefront of educators’ minds. It won’t always be perfect, but close contact with parents will build a positive hybrid community and set students up for success. One way to do this is to calendar in your parent communications each month. If you send out a dojo message with the daily schedule or a Monday email, put those on your calendar. If that doesn’t work for you and your parents, try other lines of communication. Do you have text messaging apps or does your school use Possip? Whatever you use, make sure it’s consistent so parents know what to expect.
In addition, help parents with academics for at-home learning days. Teachers can record videos of themselves teaching an introduction to new material to send to parents as a reference. This is really helpful for more difficult topics like advanced math. Teachers can even have “parent office hours” to answer questions around academic needs during at-home learning days.
Use Your Teachers and Administrators Strengths
Capitalize on the strengths of your staff. Perhaps a tech-savvy teacher could be a “virtual school czar” who plans and executes all virtual classes. Self-contained elementary classes can follow this structure easier; however, a techie teacher could help plan lessons or train other teachers for any grade level. An administrator with strong computer literacy could be the “virtual administrator” and handle teacher, student, and parent concerns in the online space. Put staff members in the virtual or in-person spaces that play to their strengths. When educators do the work we enjoy and are good at, it makes schools stronger.
Plan Feedback Systems and Assessments for All Students
All students, virtual and hybrid, need feedback and effective assessments. Educators can clearly communicate at-home assessments logistics to families and students. Assessments for virtual school should mirror those in the classroom and reflect the students’ own work (without the parent’s or Google’s help). Here is a blog on how to create assessments for hybrid learning.
As for feedback, daily feedback is most useful. Get creative about how to structure feedback so you can address misconceptions early. Educators can use Google forms for assignments or exit tickets. Teachers can easily provide rationale for immediate feedback if the student chooses a wrong answer with these forms. You can use these both in-person and virtually. You could also pre-prepare answer keys for an advanced in-person student to help facilitate a small group on zoom.
Data allows you to analyze student achievement, equity statistics, and overall consistency of learning in hybrid schools. Build time in the weekly schedule to reflect on whatever data you have. This could be attendance, student performance, or parent engagement data through Possip. Are we meeting all students’ needs? Are in-person students outperforming virtual students? Does the same student perform better on exams when they’re in-person versus at home? Who is and isn’t showing up for class on a daily basis? Looking at data can highlight key areas to focus on to meet all students’ needs.
Motivate All Students
Students who are at-home full time or part time during hybrid learning may need more incentive to stay focused. Teachers can give incentives for virtual learners like “points” or class currency to cash in for rewards. Some examples are choosing the teacher’s outfit or picking the daily icebreaker question. Find fun ways to keep virtual students feeling engaged and part of the community.
Educators can use a variety of tools to help motivate students and create cohesive learning experiences during hybrid learning. Teachers can provide both in-person and virtual students assignments using the same podcasts, videos, or create the same high-tech projects. This will motivate students by feeling connected and engaged, despite their learning context.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk more about hybrid learning best practices!