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What is Hybrid Education? And how education coped with COVID-19

Hybrid Education has caught on as an instructional method trend during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The education industry, like many industries, has suffered a heavy blow in 2020 but with its emerged innovations, such as hybrid education, that seemed superfluous before the pandemic. It has found an alternative way to keep carrying out quality education services with the employment of immersive EdTech tools.


Hybrid Education is essentially a teaching and learning model that caters to the need of the education industry with a scattered learning environment. Students, educators, and even administrative staffs use innovative “ed-tech” tools that target blended learning, professional development, staff support, flexible scheduling, and other education-related concerns.

Education authorities throughout the world issued many regulations and carried out different solutions concerning the issues that arose because of the pandemic. Although hybrid learning has been around for several years, COVID-19 highlighted the learning model's importance and functionality. By adopting this, educators can keep students (and themselves) physically safe from the virus infection without delaying learning progress.


What is Hybrid Education?

Hybrid education or hybrid instruction takes different styles of innovative learning experiences including variants of online and traditional classroom setups, to provide quality education to different learners. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid education has become the trend, especially in higher education. As the traditional classroom setup, hybrid courses are also carefully planned to incorporate physical classroom instruction and online learning activities. To achieve this, it deals with different approaches coming from the most suitable characteristics of different online and offline teaching setups.

  • Online Learning –purely facilitated through digital tools and other educational technology, or what is now generally referred to as "ed-tech";

  • Distance Learning –used by teachers, students, and virtual classrooms to facilitate online instruction to bridge the gap of physical distances among the learners, instructors, and places of learning;

  • Remote Learning – emergency measures taken to facilitate instruction in both online and offline modes. This teaching setup highlights the importance of the support of the learners’ home unit;

  • Blended Learning – a mixture of face-to-face and digital experience usually conveyed as part of a physical, classroom-based experience;

  • Flipped Learning – reverses the traditional method by handing the responsibility to the learners and making sure they familiarize themselves with the lessons online before coming to face-to-face classes. The students receive and engage with different materials before the actual classroom learning using videos and/or tutorials delivered online;

In other words, hybrid classes combine the best of online and offline styles of “classroom” instruction. Students can make a meaningful connection with their instructors, as well as with other students, and yet they are no longer required to travel to campus regularly to attend courses because the majority of the coursework can be completed online. Edtech solutions that cater to the global Education Industry’s dynamic and evolving needs help facilitate this to bring out all the best qualities of hybrid learning.


Advantages of Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning would not have become the trend had it not possessed qualities that have encouraged the adaptation of different educational institutions around the world. These advantages include:

  1. Reduction of the day-to-day traffic of both pedestrians and vehicles on campus.

  2. Valuable classroom spaces are made available for other classes or different tasks.

  3. Improves students’ typing, general computer, and IT skills.

  4. Encourages problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

  5. Pushes students to carefully manage their time to meet deadlines.

  6. Students are required to do more work on their own which enhances their independent capacity towards self-directed learning.

  7. Encourages group discussion, collaboration, and participation despite the physical distance.

  8. It is more accessible to more people in more places because limited on-campus attendance is required.

  9. Educators and students may be able to network with one another in a classroom setting both face-to-face and online.

  10. Reduces student absenteeism through remote learning that does not prevent them from entering classes (or recordings thereof) despite being ill, schedule conflicts, bereavement, etc.


Hybrid education is here to stay. However, this may be impeded by poor internet connection and/or equipment malfunction. Nevertheless, many hybrid lesson platforms allow for recording and uploading of materials that students can access later. Absenteeism especially has adverse effects on students’ academic and holistic performance in school. Therefore, providing access to students to enable them to study independently and at their own pace would benefit their overall development.


Coping with the Pandemic Situation

In the U.S., at least 14 states required in-person (either part-online or full-time) instruction in all or some grades. For the 2021-2022 school year, at least 9 states had prescribed to schools full-time face-to-face schooling. As of the 19th of May 2021,

  • Delaware, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii mandated full-closure of schools and prohibits in-person instruction

  • Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida all ordered schools to allow in-person instruction to students, either full- or part-time

  • Arizona mandated in-person instruction to be made available for certain grade levels, either full- or part-time

  • For states where the academic year has ended, the status reflects any orders that were in place on the last day of school.

  • Most states not mentioned provided only guidelines or recommendations, allowing local authorities to decide whether face-to-face instruction can be permitted.

Towards the end of March 2020, U.S. schools were just beginning to shut down, but Chinese schools had been closed for about 10 weeks—and some were beginning to reopen. In China, where all industries, including education, are facing the "new normal", hybrid education has become the trend, especially for higher education. During the stricter lockdowns, educators utilizing online platforms were injecting content concerning physical well-being, mental health, and entertainment. However, since too much screen time is not beneficial to students of any age, China's Ministry of Education suggested cutting back on students' hours spent in front of computer screens. Smaller intervals in between classes together with "off-screen" activities may develop students' attention span and reduce fatigue from too much screen time.


Edtech” Tools and Moving Forward

A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those in the traditional classroom setting. This difference was more pronounced between students under hybrid learning conditions than face-to-face teaching, in favor of the former. Fast-forward to ten years into the future where hybrid learning has become rather a necessity than an option, making use of technologies to make hybrid learning possible has become more essential than ever.

Ensuring all parties in a hybrid setup can see and hear one another is a top priority. Having a piece of all-in-one equipment with AI capabilities can ensure your hybrid classroom's effectiveness. An effective tool for this is Coolpo AI Huddle Pana, the educators' all-in-one 360 degrees intelligent conference/class solution. It contains an AI-capable camera that captures the speakers in the room, has built-in microphones (four in all) that can capture up to 15 people in the room, and an all-surround speaker. It also has a whiteboard feature that allows educators to communicate naturally with their students.


Conclusion

Hybrid education is part of the "new normal". Post-COVID-19, a mixture of on-site and online classes may become the norm but that does not mean education quality will be compromised. On the contrary, if hybrid education was utilized maximally, its benefits will be realized by all those concerned: teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Social distancing and holistic well-being will be ensured and education can become more accessible than ever since limited on-campus attendance will be required, hybrid education has provided more access to more people in more places.

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