Over the past school year during the pandemic, most colleges reported offering some form of hybrid learning options for their students. But what is a hybrid classroom? And could this model of instruction continue beyond the end of the pandemic? This post will take a look at the hybrid learning model, and how improvements in technology can allow this model to continue well into the future.
What is Hybrid Learning?
The hybrid learning model has actually been around since long before the pandemic started. Universities such as San Francisco State University and The Ohio State University have been using the hybrid or “hyflex” model for years.
Hybrid learning allows for students to spend some time in the classroom and some time learning from home (or another location outside the classroom). Some models have students sorted into cohorts, where only one group is on campus at a time. When students are not on campus, they sign in to their classes remotely. Most students use a video conference software or some other way to be virtually ‘present’ in the classroom.
Hybrid learning makes it easier to stagger how many students are in a class at the same time, limiting the number of students on campus at any given time. This also allows administrators to keep track of which students are in contact with each other when they are on campus, making hybrid learning a practical solution for attending classes during the pandemic. But this is only one reason why the hybrid learning model took off during the 2020/2021 school years. There are plenty of additional benefits of the hybrid learning model beyond occupancy and social distancing – benefits that could last well into the future.
What is Hyflex?
While the terms are often used interchangeably, hyflex is a bit different from a standard hybrid learning model. In the hybrid model, students are often assigned which days to be on campus, and which days to attend online. The hyflex model adds flexibility to the mix, allowing for students to choose each day whether they will attend their classes on campus or virtually. Another component of the hyflex model is allowing for students to watch a recording of the live class later on. This provides students with the ultimate flexibility of choosing not only where, but when to learn.
This type of schooling can be especially appealing to college students. Staying in bed to attend an 8 AM class on some days would be much more relaxing than getting there on time every time. In addition, some students may have other important commitments besides their schoolwork. Some may have children to take care of at home, or part-time (or even full-time) jobs. If the babysitter cancels at the last minute, that used to mean the student would have to skip their classes for the day. The flexibility of the hyflex model allows students to continue to attend school despite any last-minute difficulties.
With the hyflex classroom, students can still get their education, even if something comes up that under normal circumstances would cause them to miss their classes. Offering flexibility for students in difficult situations allows for a more equitable learning environment. This is one of the many reasons why hybrid or hyflex learning models will be beneficial well beyond the pandemic.
Is Hybrid Learning Here to Stay?
The short answer: yes – or at least, it would be beneficial if it did. While it is important to allow students who learn best in the classroom to attend school every day again – and there are clear benefits to regular in-person collaboration – schools that can provide hybrid or hyflex learning options can cater to a greater breadth of students, enabling more students to learn in a format that works the best for them and providing a more equitable learning environment.
Many students in the hybrid or hyflex model would likely still end up as traditional students. They may have a distracting environment at home, or not have a reliable internet connection or other resources that they need to learn effectively. Or they may simply prefer the classroom environment to independent learning. Providing students with the option to attend classes online, or even watch a recording of the class later, allows everyone the opportunity to learn in a way that best suits their preferences and situation.
Additionally, there are a number of other advantages to the hybrid and hyflex models. While the pandemic will eventually subside (right?), the ability to access classes from home or a dorm room means that students can also avoid spreading other illnesses such as the flu or a cold through campus, and they won’t have to miss out on critical instructional time just because they are sick.
These models also allow for classes to go on even during inclement weather, such as winter storms. This results in more instructional time saved. As a result, students can participate for required class time much more often than on a traditional school model.
Another option is distance learning, where students complete 100% of the distance learning course (or even their full education/degree) in an online format. This is ideal for some students, however distance learning options do not have as many opportunities for students to interact with their peers and can neglect a student’s need to communicate and socialize. Students need in-person learning at least some of the time, even at the college level, so they can learn how to socialize, network, and collaborate in different environments.
With this in mind, hybrid learning offers the best of both worlds, enabling students flexible options for both effective and engaging learning. The next question is, what technology do you need for a hybrid classroom?
How Can I Set Up a Hybrid Classroom?
If you’re interested in trying the hybrid learning model, you may wonder what technology you will need. To do this well, you must create a classroom that works well for both in-person and at-home learners. Let’s look at the technology required to create a hybrid or hyflex learning classroom.
Depending on whether you plan to introduce a hybrid model or a hyflex model, the number of students physically present in the classroom may change. For lecture halls and other large classrooms, the easiest solution is a large central monitor that all students can see. Additional monitors can be added for especially large rooms where it may be difficult for all students to see the central monitor. Educators can connect to the primary monitor with their devices to present information. For smaller classroom and group or active learning settings, having monitors for each team table, in addition to the primary display, can keep students on track and support collaborative activities. For both of these scenarios, there will need to be some way for students attending virtually to be able to see and hear everything that is going on in the room.
Multiple Video Feeds
Virtual students in a hybrid classroom need to be able to see everything that goes on in the classroom. This includes the teacher, the lesson materials, and their fellow students or group partners. Educators can use multiple monitors to present separate information to students in individual groups. They can also have separate visuals available for students to follow the lesson and stay engaged. Software-based video routing solutions can help to display multiple video feeds throughout a space.
Cameras and Audio
A good hybrid classroom will allow virtual students to see and hear as well as they would if they were in the room. It’s important to consider the camera angles to allow hybrid at-home students to see everything that is going on in the classroom. Central microphones can work for smaller rooms, but allowing students to use and connect their own devices for audio can help make the sound of the classroom more clear.
Good communication is vital in a classroom setting. Having reliable and clear audio and video solutions will set your classroom or other learning spaces up for success.
Due to the nature of hybrid and hyflex learning, students must be able to attend their classes online, as well as complete or submit their work digitally. This means that students will need electronic devices both in the classroom and at home. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) infrastructure is common across college and university campuses, allowing students to connect to the school’s network with their own devices – laptops, tablets, and smartphones – the same devices that they would use to join classes remotely. This adds comfort and familiarity to the learning experience. Flexible technology that can integrate with a variety of devices and systems – laptops, tablets, phones; iOS, Android; Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, etc. – is key to enabling all students with the same learning opportunities.
In some scenarios, students may not be able to get their own devices. Many schools have worked around this problem by issuing school-owned laptops to these students. This allows students more equity in their learning environment. It offers them the flexibility to choose how to connect with their educational environment.
Student Collaboration and Active Learning
One way to set up a hybrid classroom is by using active learning technology. This connects student devices together in a network, making it ideal for content sharing and collaboration. Students can bring their own devices into the learning environment to share content to monitors at team tables. In this way, students can interact with their peers on projects, share video feeds, and more. Educators can moderate this environment, routing video feeds between the various displays in the classroom.
When students take an active role in the learning process, they tend to learn more. This is why collaboration in the classroom is key. It provides avenues for student engagement, and therefore bolsters student success. This technology can allow for students both present in the classroom and attending from home to learn together.
A case study by Broward College highlights the importance of student engagement through active learning as part of the educational process. Software-based active learning technologies help to not only enable on-campus students to participate in group collaboration, paired with a conferencing solution, this technology can pull remote students into the active learning experience, as well.
Hybrid classrooms are here to stay. They offer students the flexibility to attend school from anywhere and provide an equitable learning environment for all students.
Students’ lives can get complicated, especially when it comes to college. They must balance their education, social lives, health, family relationships, potentially a part- or full-time job, and much more. Allowing students to attend virtually or watch a recording of their classes offers them the opportunity to keep up with school despite these challenges.
Classroom technology has advanced to meet the needs of these hybrid classroom environments, enabling students to watch lectures and even participate in live group collaboration – all from home, a dorm room, or another remote location. This opportunity enables more students to receive quality education.
Interested in learning more about technology solutions for your hybrid classrooms? Contact us to learn more.