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Hybrid learning
environment:
Opportunities
and lessons
learned

Author: Rose de Fremery

After the pandemic forced an abrupt shift from traditional in-person learning to hybrid and remote learning, many parents, teachers and students alike experienced disruptions while trying to adapt to a new digital learning environment. Although these disruptions have been painful in many cases, they may also represent opportunities in disguise.

Disruption is inevitable at times, yet they can serve as learning opportunities. Here are some of the common disruptions that may come up in virtual learning environments and how schools can reframe them as learning opportunities.

Common disruptions in a hybrid or virtual learning environment

Reliable internet access is essential for hybrid or virtual learning, but it can be challenging to secure.

Even if a family has an internet connection at home, multiple children and even parents may be trying to access it all at the same time. Some kids might even be connecting using hotspots via their parents' cellphones—that is, until their parents are called back to the workplace and have to take those cell phones with them.

All these disruptions can make it difficult to establish and keep the strong connection that's necessary to participate in a class through video conference or even play back a prerecorded lesson. As if these challenges weren't complicated enough on their own, traditional internet access usually requires users to stay put—and that can be a problem if a student needs to keep up with schoolwork while waiting for a doctor's appointment or tagging along with a parent who can't work from home.

Students who come to school in person may have their own challenges, too, such as long commute times during which they could be doing coursework if they only had connectivity on the bus.

According to Jeannine Medvedich, chief academic officer for Chief Leschi Schools in Washington's Puyallup Valley, it's important not to make assumptions about what a parent's life might be like or how students might need to access a hybrid, remote or virtual learning environment. "Our true north is our kids. How do we make that as accessible as possible, knowing that there are people, like me, who don't have that luxury of being at home with their kids?"

By keeping that true north front and center, schools can ensure better equity in a hybrid or remote learning environment.

Hybrid and remote learning technologies in use today

Schools rely on several technologies to carry out hybrid and remote learning. Here are some solutions from which to choose.

For starters, students may or may not have mobile devices at home. Schools may choose to roll out a 1:1 tablet program to level the playing field, as Fort Wayne Community Schools did, to make sure each student has the mobile device necessary to access classes and coursework. Those devices require internet access, of course, which is why schools may also provide mobile hotspots or Wi-Fi devices to students who lack sufficient connectivity at home or en route to school.

Video conferencing lets students safely join classes from home or a remote location, and it can also be used for parent-teacher conferences. Teachers may also prerecord their lessons so students can play those videos back at a time of their choosing.

Schools often use a variety of educational applications to deliver assignments, conduct group activities or even engage students through polls. Students with disabilities may use apps or devices that help them participate more easily depending on their unique needs as well.

Creatively using disruptions in hybrid and remote learning

Teachers can creatively use disruptions in workflow, class time and video conferencing platforms to create a positive learning environment. By reframing such disruptions as chances to learn in a different way, teachers can give their students new chances to grow and expand their minds.

For example, as Chief Leschi schools found, teachers had been having students do a fair amount of independent study in class through reading and similar activities. Now, in acknowledgment that live hybrid and remote learning instruction achieves the best results when it's interactive and engages students, they let students pursue independent coursework outside of class instead—for example, later in the day or while commuting to and from school.

Many schools have also found they can use hybrid and remote technology to create a positive learning environment for students who are unable to attend class in person. Kids who don't feel well have more choices than they did before. Not so long ago, if they felt sick they had to stay home and miss a day's worth of learning. Now, they can still remotely participate in class if they feel up to it.

Likewise, if students have to stay home for public health reasons during a pandemic, a teacher can still educate students through video conferences, so everyone can safely participate.

Hybrid learning disruptions can create a positive learning environment

As the pandemic took hold, teachers, students and families encountered disruptions that upended their assumptions about what a digital learning environment is and where learning can take place.

By ensuring equal access to the right technology and reframing some of these disruptions as opportunities, teachers can create a positive learning environment that will serve their students even better the next time a sudden disruption arises.

Learn how Verizon is helping schools engage with distance learning.

  • FAQ

What is a good learning environment? +

A good environment is one that allows all students to equally participate using methods and resources that are accessible to them.

What are the different types of learning environments? +

Hybrid learning occurs when some students connect to class virtually while others participate in person. In a remote learning scenario, all of the students attend class remotely.

What is the importance of a positive learning environment? +

A positive learning environment provides an essential foundation for students to access an education. It is also equitable, so all students have access to learn.