In our current situation we need to be able to guarantee quality courses without interruption for our clients. This means rethinking the delivery of the courses in order to enable our learners to participate fully in the class, whether this be from their home or in person. We also need to consider that our teachers may well be asked to self-isolate. How can we set up our classroom space to allow learners or students to join the class online if necessary? What are the costs? How should we support learners, teachers and Front Office staff?

Hybrid learning does not mean dropping standards, it means offering a professional alternative and widening the possible modes of delivery. This short article aims to give some very simple ideas and useful links to schools considering hybrid classes.

What are HYBRID lessons?

In the USA universities sometimes include a column labelled “instructional type”. Historically, this column has contained basic terms such as “traditional,” “hybrid” or “online”. In the UK and the EU you may find “blended” or “flipped” as well. Perhaps even CLIL or bi-lingual in some parts of the world.

While traditional F2F instruction requires no further explanation, increasingly the lines between hybrid and online courses are a little fuzzy.

For clarity, the Online Learning Consortium has recently updated its e-learning definitions as follows:

1. Classroom Course: Course activity is organized around scheduled class meetings.

2. Synchronous Distributed Course: Web-based technologies are used to extend classroom lectures and other activities to students at remote sites in real time.

3. Web-Enhanced Course: Online course activity complements in-person class sessions without reducing the number of required class meetings.

4. Blended (also called Hybrid) Classroom Course: Online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant percentage of, but not all required ​face-to-face instructional activities.

5. Blended (also called Hybrid) Online Course: Most course activity is completed online, but there are some required face-to-face instructional activities such as lectures, discussions, labs , or other in-person learning activities.

6. Online Course: All course activity is done online; there are no required face-to-face sessions within the course and no requirements for on-campus activity.

7. Flexible Mode Course: Offers multiple delivery modes so that students can choose which delivery mode(s) to use for instructional and other learning purposes.

There are a number of differing definitions. Here are a few. I favour the last one in our current situation:

  • Hybrid class is a course that combines traditional, face-to-face “seat time” with some online learning activities. The purpose of a hybrid class is to take advantage of the best features of both online and more traditional forms of learning.
  • A hybrid course meets onsite more often than an online course, and less of the work is completed online.
  • In “hybrid” classes, a significant amount of the course learning activity has been moved online, making it possible to reduce the amount of time spent in the classroom. Traditional face-to-face instruction is reduced but not eliminated.  The “hybrid” course model is also referred to as “blended.”  On this site, we use these terms interchangeably.
  • Hybrid learning is a way of combining traditional classroom experiences, experiential learning objectives, and digital course delivery that emphasizes using the best option for each learning objective. That means unlike blended learning models, which seek to balance the face-to-face and online aspects within a course, hybrid classrooms vary widely according to the subject matter taught and the needs of specific groups of learners.
  • Students attend a class in person while others do so virtually, as a way to mitigate the health risks of Covid-19. this mode of teaching is pedagogically and logistically complicated.

Why do we need to prepare for them?

Some EAQUALS schools are already running hybrid courses in different ways. Perhaps learners are simply joining the class via Zoom, Google Meet, Skype or the school has set up a class with a screen and quality camera and directional speaker attached. This does not have to cost a fortune (see links below). You could also use Bluetooth microphones or other microphone solutions but remember that the online learners need to be able to hear the other learners in the class if the lesson is to be truly interactive.

The fact is that if we can offer something that works for us and the learner(s), we can guarantee continuity for the learners and costs to the school are lower, not to mention showcasing our professionalism and state of the art know-how.

What kind of training will our staff need?

I would suggest that you need to trial the solution you choose. Involve the teachers and your front office staff so that they can explain what will happen when a learner calls in sick. This will also allow you to run a simulation test and will throw up any queries or issues you may have. You will also need to set aside time for teachers to practice with any new technology and to brainstorm best practice on how to engage the online learners with the learners in the classroom, pair and groupwork activities, and so on.

What kind of support will our learners and clients need?

They will, of course, need reassurance that they will be able to engage in the lesson as if they were present. They may also need a clear document on how to access the online platform you choose to use. Initially, they may also need an emergency contact number if they are unable to get online. During the lesson, the teacher can give individual feedback via PC or via the chat on the platform. If the teacher uses any technologies (e.g. online surveys, quizzes, padlet, etc.), the teacher could pre-prepare a link list for the learner to help the learner manage the technologies better.

3 Really useful articles: Experience and research

Lessons From a Summer of Teaching in a Hybrid Classroom

7 tips from research for effective hybrid teaching

Teaching: How To Engage Students in a Hybrid Classroom

How to set up the classroom for hybrid lessons

Our experience

We have a small school, but we used what we had. We did not choose to beam up the student at the front of the class, but to integrate the learner into the class using a TV screen and small lap top that the teacher could position in order to set up pair and group work. We are working under covid conditions with social distancing regulations. The learners and the teacher all gave positive feedback.

The teacher can move the laptop and organise group and pair work and has a clear view of the external learner wherever she is. She can also offer individual feedback by talking or chatting directly to the student. Our solution may not work for you, but I hope I have been able to give you some points to consider.

Julie Wallis