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Hybrid Learning Guide: Summary of Work

Summary of this Work:

The rapid transition of schools to remote learning in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic generally left educators, learners, and families in a situation of unprecedented difficulty.  For example: 

  • Many classroom teachers had to become online content creators for the first time, 
  • Students shifted to a virtual learning environment while the physical learning environment (home) shifted to one they previously had not associated with the rituals and routines of school,  
  • Parents were put in the precarious situation of being the de facto teacher while also navigating the shifting landscape of their work and personal lives. 
  • What is more, many of our Colorado teachers were put in the situation of continuing to be the teacher online and the de facto teacher to their own children.  

All of this is in the midst of the deepening digital divide and socio-economic and racial disparities that are already present in our educational system.  The rapid change left little room for thoughtful planning, research, and agreement on what would work best. Moreover, the rapid shift and immense workload associated with it stretched the very limited resource of time that would have been needed to plan and react effectively to the situation.  In the following months, we have seen it all:  promise points of innovation, frustration and critiques in the media,  optimism, skepticism, and a growing concern for what is next as we approach the 2020-2021 school year.  While many states and school districts are putting together plans for how to handle the work of education in a Fall term, there is an overwhelming need to expand knowledge and resources needed to make Hybrid Learning a reality.   

One of the first striking issues about the prospect of moving to Hybrid Learning in the Fall of 2020 is the general lack of agreement as to what Hybrid Learning is.  Typically, “Hybrid Learning” has been used synonymously with the term “Blended Learning.” As mentioned earlier, we acknowledge that Hybrid Learning as we define it is a type of Blended Learning most similar to the Enriched Virtual Blended Approach.  A key concept we see with Hybrid is that the Hybrid approach must include the flexibility for learners “to choose to access brick and mortar learning activities remotely as needed or as preference dictates.”  In this model, schedules, resources, and staffing must be organized around the option to offer remote access to content and instruction-typically using digital means- but also possibly requiring the availability of high quality non-digital approaches.  We also see Hybrid Learning as an organizational approach over an individual instructional decision.  

Given our operational definition that Hybrid learning is “a technology dependent and organizationally driven instructional approach that allows for flexible face-to-face student and teacher learning sessions and both synchronous and asynchronous remote access to coursework and learning sessions,”  what we can establish is that there is very little, if any, available research on this specific approach to instruction.  In short, this is somewhat uncharted territory, but we have access to adjacent concepts and frameworks that can support us in this journey.  

What we do know from our operational definition is that Hybrid Learning will require the use of technology and it will leverage online learning principles and flexible student-centered teaching approaches.  To that, many of the resources and reference materials speak to online learning and digital citizenship standards, Blended Learning methods, and student-centered approaches like Personalized and Competency Based Learning and universal instructional design methods.  What we know from our recent experience with the rapid rollout of remote learning is that it puts great strain on families, teachers who are unfamiliar to online learning, operational systems, and on the social and emotional well-being of our students.  In part, to address these issues there is a need for established communications, flexible and adaptive professional development, dedicated personnel to manage the transition, and resources to support the social and emotional needs of students.

In summation, we are on the bleeding edge of innovation, and we should acknowledge that there will be certain failures of the frontier that will come about on the journey, but the following content may provide the essential tools needed to plan according to what we may expect to encounter.