Best Practices for Making Hybrid Learning Work

Hybrid learning is one of the leading strategies being discussed among school leaders in an effort to get students back to achieving better educational outcomes for the current academic year. The reason? Hybrid learning gives school districts a better handle on student and teacher capacity in their school buildings, allowing them to have students both in the classroom and learning from home, with both groups getting the same education. When implemented correctly, a hybrid learning program can also help overcome both the summer slide and COVID slide, which threaten to set this group of students’ academic achievements back significantly compared to previous years. This is because students, at least part of the time, will be learning on their own, and teachers can tailor their instruction towards identified learning gaps so that each student can be brought up to speed quickly. 

A hybrid learning model combines the best of virtual and in-person learning with innovative online teaching practices via a virtual learning platform to help students reach their highest potential. This is an ideal model for school districts planning to break the student body into cohorts and alternate virtual and in-person learning to keep school communities safe.

A successful hybrid learning program will improve both educational outcomes as well as communication between teachers and key stakeholders, as seen in the results from an Aurora Institute study of online learning in rural school districts:

  • 61% indicated that communication between teacher and teacher was either better or much better compared to traditional learning
  • 87% of teachers found communication between parent-teacher, student-student, and teacher-teacher was the same or better
  • 78% of teachers indicated that their ability to monitor student learning was either better or much better
  • 64% said that their ability to manage their class was at least as good or much better
  • 63% said teacher confidence and self-efficacy was improved

So how can your school district implement a successful hybrid learning model that achieves these results? Here are four best practices to ensure your school’s hybrid learning program performs effectively for students, teachers, and parents: 

Create Effective Online Groups

Effective online groups are a key factor in creating more face-to-face time between students and teachers, especially in a virtual learning environment. Students can engage in online groups with their peers who are also learning from home or even those who are in the classroom. This type of group learning fosters peer-to-peer collaboration and provides students with their own space to complete projects both in- and outside of the traditional classroom setting. 

Effectively grouping students for live collaboration is also a key tool in your social-emotional support arsenal. While in-person socialization is limited in a hybrid learning format, meaningful social interactions are still possible in the virtual learning setting. School faculty can intentionally facilitate both the academic and social-emotional learning students need.

Teach with Technology…

…instead of having students simply learn from technology. Technology is only effective when it’s leveraged to improve student outcomes through teacher-student engagement and peer-to-peer collaboration. Lessons and other projects can take on a new life when completed on a technological tool, such as a computer or even a mobile phone. Polls, discussions, whiteboards, and live streaming are all innovative ways to get students engaged in learning while they’re in a virtual environment, as well as for students who are in the classroom. 

Design Assignments to Foster Deeper Learning

Student assignments in a hybrid learning environment should stimulate an interest in the intrinsic value of learning. This intrinsic value is associated with students that take a deep approach to learning and “search for meaning by integrating new information with existing knowledge,” as opposed to those students who merely want to get a good grade. To this end, teachers should provide activities, classwork, and exams to students that allow them to process content deeply, rather than assigning work that simply relies on recall and repetition to get a good grade. This will help students make connections in an environment that may feel disconnected.

Emphasize Student-Centered Teaching

One of the most critical aspects of the hybrid learning model is to empower students to take responsibility for their own academic achievements. Some skills are challenging to teach in a virtual setting, but teachers can still facilitate student learning. Student-centered teaching helps students develop new skills in research, responsibility, and organization by learning both the content of the course as well as the skills required for academic success.