What is
hybrid learning
and what does it
mean for schools?

Author: Nick Reese

Like many innovations, large-scale hybrid learning in education was born out of necessity. Although both remote and hybrid learning existed on a smaller scale previously, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, schools around the world quickly shifted gears toward remote and hybrid education models to help do their part to control the spread.

As a result, full-time remote learning was initially organized quickly with whatever resources the schools had at hand. However, this experience was not ideal for teaching and learning, as schools did not have as many resources set aside for remote and hybrid education models. Enter hybrid learning.

What is hybrid learning?

So what is hybrid learning? It’s an approach to teaching that blends face-to-face classroom instruction with online instruction.

What are the benefits of hybrid learning?

So what does hybrid learning mean for schools? By the fall semester of 2020, the benefits of hybrid learning were becoming apparent.

With hybrid learning, many schools were able to develop a more sustainable hybrid education model, alongside remote learning models, allowing students to learn both at home and at school. This helped administrators stagger days for smaller class sizes with socially distanced spaces while enabling kids in quarantine to continue their education.

But now that vaccines are largely available to teachers, staff and even younger learners, does this mean the hybrid education model is a thing of the recent past?

While many educators and parents have expressed their desire to return to full-time, in-person education, others have said they would like the option for remote, or a hybrid model, where students can learn both in person and online.

In the short term, a hybrid education model gives institutions the nimbleness and flexibility they require to manage their pandemic response as appropriate during local outbreaks. In addition, a hybrid learning model gives educators the ability to continue to teach during sick days and weather events, such as snow days, preserving every possible day of scheduled education.

What does hybrid learning mean for schools in the future?

In the long term, what does hybrid learning mean for schools? The model allows educators to blend in-person teaching, recorded lessons and live online sessions to provide a wider range of learning methods, so schools can tailor their lesson plans to each student's needs. As teachers, school districts and parents become more accustomed to incorporating a hybrid model, it will create new opportunities for students to expand how, when, what and where they learn.

Time to adapt and refine

Now that you know what hybrid learning is, the benefits of hybrid learning and what hybrid learning means for schools, keep in mind that the model is still a relatively new concept. It’s not the primary way new educators are taught to teach (though it is certainly a factor), and it's new to many experienced teachers who are used to traditional teaching methods. While the pandemic accelerated the transition to hybrid learning out of necessity, the education world will still require new training, support and frameworks that may take a generation or more of new educators to establish before hybrid learning becomes the norm.

In addition, to fully reap the benefits of hybrid learning, the right tools and technologies will also be critical to the success of tomorrow's hybrid education model. Students must have Wi-Fi or even cellular-enabled tablets or laptops, so they can access education both in the school building and at home. Teachers also require powerful devices that allow them to manage students' needs in the classroom and in remote locations.

Underpinning all of this is the network required to provide fast, consistent internet access—no matter where students are. While access continues to improve, many homes still lack the connectivity required to make a hybrid model for schools feasible for all. According to Pew Research Center, only 72% of rural Americans and 79% of suburban Americans say they have a broadband internet connection at home.

With roughly a quarter of Americans lacking high-speed internet, a hybrid model for schools that works for all students is still difficult to achieve. 4G and 5G cell networks can help spread high-speed internet to more places, allowing students to access real-time online instruction even in areas without reliable wired internet.

Beyond ensuring all their students have capable devices and reliable internet access, schools must also ensure students and teachers have the right applications, with video conferencing and on-demand video lessons forming the foundation of the hybrid education tech stack. The collaboration and content management platforms must be robust and intuitive enough to use for even the youngest of learners.

Making the hybrid model for schools a reality

The pandemic has revealed that there are many benefits of hybrid learning, which is why Verizon is working to make the hybrid education model a reality for schools around the country. Our team works side by side with education and technology experts to provide lesson plans and training so teachers can level up their skills and teach more effectively.

Discover how you can leverage education technology to incorporate the hybrid education model to support your school system’s needs so that eventually all students may experience the benefits of hybrid learning.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.