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*Hybrid Learning: Bridging the Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces to Reimagine Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has elicited responses regarding how education can capitalise on the new opportunities created by the disruption. Opportunities to collaborate and find pathways to deepen learning for students and educators, and engage in new learning methods, are required for better outcomes. As a result, several approaches have emerged, including:

  1. Partial opening

  2. Some institutions allow just a certain number of students to return to campus.

  3. The remaining students will continue their studies in a virtual setting.

  4. Synchronous and separated

  5. Some institutions provide both face-to-face and online learning modes.

  6. Some students attend the class in person, while others join remotely.

  7. Asynchronous and rotational

  8. Some institutions shift students on and off campus during the week.

  9. Students attend courses on campus on certain days, while their classmates study remotely and asynchronously on the same days.

Hybrid Learning Solutions

Although hybrid learning has been a part of most educational systems for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of this learning model. Hybrid learning differs from blended learning, which focuses on the mixture of offline and online learning. Hybrid learning is about finding the best blend for the students out of all the learning options (offline, online, or blended).

A hybrid approach to learning draws on the strengths of all options to consciously create a learner-centred experience that is "profoundly personalised, relevant, and engaging." In other words, it is not a quick remedy for educational institutions. Instead, it is a student-centred strategy that blends the best of in-school and remote learning with digital engagement to enhance and accelerate learning to meet the various learning requirements of learners.

According to the findings of the Education Endowment Foundation's (EEF) Distance Learning Rapid Evidence Assessment, the most powerful teaching strategies utilised globally to assist and promote learning for students who are unable to attend physical classrooms are:

  1. Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes.

  2. Supporting students to work independently can improve learning outcomes.

  3. Different approaches to remote learning suit different tasks and types of content.

  4. Ensuring access to technology is critical, especially for disadvantaged students.

In short, hybrid learning combines online learning with face-to-face classroom activities in a structured and pedagogically beneficial manner. Moving to a hybrid educational setting will need institutions to focus on particular areas to ensure their students and educators have what they need to succeed. The five elements of hybrid learning are as follows:

  1. Learning Environment

  2. Improve the students' physical and virtual learning environments.

  3. Class Community

  4. Cultivate relationships with students to build connection and togetherness.

  5. Lesson Design

  6. Develop teaching techniques, resources, and evaluations that may be tailored to meet individual students' requirements.

  7. Engagement and Interactivity

  8. Create synchronous and asynchronous experiences that employ various tactics to keep students interested and active participants.

  9. Assessment and Feedback

  10. Design formative and summative assessments that evaluate comprehension and give feedback to foster student improvement.

To develop a student-centred hybrid learning environment, educational institutions must design a physical and virtual learning environment that allows for dynamic interactions with both in-person and distant students. Teachers feel at ease in their physical learning environment as they work hard to make their workplace more efficient, encourage communication and cooperation, and support an efficient workflow.

When implementing hybrid learning, an educator must consider building a similar workflow and learning environment in the virtual mode. After developing a virtual learning environment, think about fostering a feeling of community among students who do not see each other daily. Create unique methods to engage with one another daily and let the students view you and others as truthfully as possible so they feel connected and secure to express their thoughts and concerns.

Helping students learn how to interact and work with peers online is important to developing a healthy virtual community. To be successful, students must grow comfortable with online communication and collaboration, according to the Resilience and Transformation for the Future of Learning research.

The goal of education is to help students grow. Educators must assess their material and curriculum while migrating to a hybrid learning environment to identify what is most important for students to learn. Many educational institutions have discovered that "less is more" when it comes to determining what material must be supplied synchronously and how it must be presented.

Backward design and universal design for learning are two instructional strategies that can assist educators in streamlining their materials and meeting the needs of individual learners. Both designs complement one another seamlessly, encouraging the educators to focus on the main principles of the courses and how the educators and their students can follow those principles in different ways.

When it comes to content delivery based on brain research, educators must do something emotionally meaningful every 10 minutes to retain students' attention during synchronous learning. Hence, break up live classes with planned breaks when students do something with the topic being taught. According to research, the best length of an instructional video for asynchronous learning is six minutes. Using a variety of communication modalities with your students, textual, audio, and video communications, will all increase the student's comprehension.

Engagement and involvement are regular issues in a physical classroom or virtual learning space. Voice, choice, and agency are crucial to student engagement and interaction. Students who are allowed to interact with knowledge in meaningful and deep ways are more engaged than students who are merely required to repeat what their educators have taught them.

Reimagining Education Solutions

Educators can reimagine education and create a learning environment that integrates all of the characteristics of a quality learning experience by migrating to a hybrid model. How will you reinvent learning using a hybrid paradigm as you consider your own hybrid learning plans?

There are several approaches to beginning your hybrid learning journey; for example, think about which learning experience you can turn into a real-world problem with an authentic task. According to Fullan, Quinn, Drummy, and Gardner (2020), educators can manage the present challenges imaginatively and learn from this remote experience while constructing a bridge to a reimagined education system. A strategy for shifting from the current crisis to a future-focused system has three steps.

Step 1: Disruption

The first step is to describe the early reactions and lessons learnt during the first few months of school closures. During the disruption phase, systems had to negotiate three zones: the Uncertain Zone, the Learning Zone, and the Growth Zone. The zones are neither finite nor discrete, and they may not even be consecutive, but the issues asked in each zone provide the lens through which systems and individuals may identify and act.

Step 2: Transition

The "School Reopening Tool" will then be used to define how to handle plans for reopening while the epidemic is still causing uncertainty. Since systems continue to open, flexibility is critical, as the new normal may involve a mix of remote and in-person learning. Four critical suggestions for navigating the transition period are as follows:

  1. Take care of yourself.

  2. Consider the lessons acquired.

  3. Control safety and operations.

  4. Organize the learning agenda.

Step 3: Reimagining

The last step puts forth a vision that allows all kids to succeed while also preparing them to manage uncertainty and change. This step combines the best of conventional methodologies, innovative practices, and remote learning insights to create a new, adaptable, agile hybrid learning model.

To reimagine learning, consider what educators know about learning, their students, technology's new role, and the complexities of an uncertain future. Six important questions can stimulate deep contemplation and engage all those who need to be a part of the solution:

  1. What information, skills, and characteristics do students require to flourish in today's complicated world?

  2. What sort of learning is required for today's and tomorrow's complexity?

  3. How can educators guarantee equity?

  4. How do educators care for their well-being?

  5. What have educators learnt from remote learning?

  6. How can technology be used to improve learning in the future?

In The Class of 2030 and the Life-Ready Learning study, ten students stated unequivocally that they did not want to be taught by a "machine" and valued their relationships with instructors who understood them and how they learned best. Relationships between teachers and students continue to be critical to success. Education reimagined cannot be defined as students "learning on their own".

What does great education entail in today's hybrid learning environment? Technology will play an important role in advancing the twin humanity pillars of well-being and learning. Technology is critical for connecting society and students during the disruption and transition stages.

What has evolved is a more powerful method of using technology when it is transformed from a delivery system to a vehicle for collaboration, discovery, knowledge, and action. In turn, mental and physical well-being and the relationships accompanying it will be the basis for learning. Education will foster and strengthen children's and youth's feelings of purpose in contributing to a better world for themselves and others.

Every student requires and deserves an excellent education. To live up to that promise, there is a growing realisation that education institutions must reform and attempt innovative techniques worldwide. To assist assure all kids' well-being and academic achievement, educators must reinvent curriculum, teaching and assessment procedures, and the roles of educators and students in the hybrid learning environment.

While it has been extremely tough, it is believed that the abrupt worldwide move to hybrid learning has compelled school system administrators and educators to look closely at what works best for students and what innovations should be implemented. As a result, key policy changes may face increased pressure and innovation will be emphasised to pursue a brighter future for mankind.

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Fullan, M., Quinn, J., Drummy, M., Gardner, M. (2020). Education reimagined: The future of

learning. A collaborative position paper between New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and Microsoft Education.

Hybrid learning: A new model for the future of learning. (2022). Microsoft.

Reimagining education: From remote to hybrid learning. (2020). Microsoft.

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