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Hybrid Learning Challenges - Is Hybrid Education For You?

Hybrid learning. You’ve probably heard or read this term a couple of times already in your life. Are we correct? Well, you’re going to read about it a few more times because this article is fully dedicated to hybrid learning and its challenges. 

Recently, we have seen a surge in demand for hybrid style of teaching, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The introduction of social distancing and isolation rules have forced schools to adapt to a totally new approach to teaching - fully online education. 

Now that the restrictions have been lifted in some countries, schools are often becoming keen on implementing a teaching style that smoothly blends both traditional and online learning methods - hybrid learning.

As with every new change, there are threats and challenges within hybrid learning that could negatively impact the satisfaction of students and teachers alike.

If you’re a teacher wishing to learn more about these threats and challenges in order to avoid them, this article is for you. Without further ado, let’s get to it.  

What Is Hybrid Learning?

First things first, let’s explore the meaning of hybrid learning a bit deeper. 

In simple terms, hybrid learning is about mixing both in-person teaching with teaching delivered online. In a nutshell, it is an educational model focused on creating a learning experience that can be flexible enough to allow for both in-person and virtual interactions. 

For example, as a teacher, you could decide that your lectures will take place both online and in person (with the help of a video conferencing tool), and the rest of your course activities will be held fully online to ensure maximum flexibility. This is just one example (and obviously not the only way to structure it!). The way you decide to plan each particular activity is totally up to you. The goal, however, remains the same. To design a teaching plan that will benefit both you and your students. 

Some would say that with hybrid learning you get the best of both worlds, literally. 

Hybrid learning is actually many teachers’ favored teaching model, with 73% of them believing it significantly increases the engagement of students. And as it turns out, students like it quite a lot, too. One study shows that more than 80% of them actually prefer when some of the course activities take place online instead of in a traditional teaching environment. 

What Are The Benefits Of Hybrid Learning? 

Provided that hybrid learning is done right, it can actually bring about many benefits for both students and teachers. Read on if you’re curious to know what they are. 

  • Improved customisation and flexibility of classes 

One of the biggest perks of hybrid learning is the fact that it allows for an abundance of flexibility within the learning/teaching experience. Imagine that you do most of the course material with your students online, and only a small proportion of classes take place in person. 

This means that for most of the time, you can work practically from anywhere in the world (as long as you have an Internet connection of course!). Isn’t that great? 

Moreover, thanks to the digitalization of classes, you can constantly change and adjust the format of them so that they meet the demands and expectations of you and your students. Now, within the traditional teaching world, would it be possible to constantly switch lecture halls and seminar rooms whenever you have the desire to do it? Highly doubtful. 

  • Much wider variety of available tools

Hybrid learning is actually the best place to implement new tools and solutions that you have never used before. Think about possibilities like: 

  • interactive games
  • polls, surveys and Call-To-Action tools
  • webinars, video conferences, team collaboration tools

All of this could positively impact the quality of your teaching. Tools like these increase engagement, enhance performance, and create a diverse learning environment that drives intellectual growth. 

  • Cost and time saved on transportation 

Let’s now focus on money and time - two hugely significant things that most care about. Hybrid learning is great when it comes to these. With some of the classes being online, you can actually teach from home and save time, as well as money, on transportation to, and from, campus. 

Forget about long commutes that suck all of the energy out of you. Say hello to working from the comfort of your house. 

Is Hybrid Learning For Everyone? Most Common Threats 

Now that you know slightly more about hybrid learning, as well as its attractive benefits, it’s time for a less pleasant part of the article - threats! But worry not - we got you. With our tips on running effective hybrid classes (here's how to run effective hybrid classes), soon there will be nothing for you to worry about. Ready to find out?

  • Procrastination and a lack of motivation

Our very first enemies are procrastination and a lack of motivation. Sometimes, students and teachers decide to switch to hybrid learning purely out of necessity. Therefore, they may not find themselves interested in online courses and the tasks that come along with them. 

We should remember that there are students out there that simply feel better and more connected when they are physically in a lecture hall or a seminar room. Once they are forced to replace human interactions and study environments to just their bedrooms and computer screens, things may get a little bit complicated. Their motivation and performance levels drop, and suddenly all of your efforts as a teacher start going to waste. This isn’t limited only to students, however, and the same feelings can be encountered by teachers.

You’ve probably heard of the student syndrome, right? It’s when students plan their procrastination and only start working on their course right before the deadline. Well, in the case of hybrid learning and online tasks, this syndrome has even greater meaning now. 

You should be aware of that and, as a teacher, intervene when needed. 

Tip: When you’re designing your perfect hybrid teaching plan, consider asking your students which parts of the course would work better online and which would work better in-person. 

  • Online temptations 

Right after decreased motivation and the need to put off work for later for as long as it’s possible, we’ve got online temptations. We all know what they are: various social media platforms (TikTok is the most dangerous right now), Netflix (who doesn’t like a good Netflix series?) computer games (how about some quick Sims session?) and basically everything else online-based that doesn’t include focusing on hybrid learning. 

You can be honest, how many times have you experienced the need to quickly check out your Facebook feed or Messenger inbox while doing a lecture? It doesn’t even have to be for fun or amusement-. With social media, one thing often leads to another, and all-of-a-sudden, you realise you’re playing Candy Crush instead of doing something that you had to sort for your students.

There’s no shame in all of that, really. However, it starts to be a bit dangerous when you don’t react on time and end up letting yourself have too many distractions. After all, it’s just you and your computer, most likely in an empty room. There are no students ‘watching’ you, so you’re free to do whatever you want. But is it always related to the course, and the material you’re delivering? Consider this threat if you’re thinking about introducing hybrid learning. 

Tip: It’s a good idea to organize your workplace and separate your work from entertainment and non-work life. If possible, try using a business computer that will be free of any possible distractions. 

  • Poor reading, keyboarding, and technical skills

This threat applies mostly to those teachers that aren’t necessarily digital natives. They may be used to orthodox and traditional teaching methods that look nothing like the highly digitalized world full of webinars, online assessments, and virtual classes. The minute they’re faced with all these tools, computers, and students on the other side of the screens awaiting high-quality teaching, things can get messy. 

Students can struggle, too. It can take a lot of time and dedication to adjust to a totally new teaching model. For some, nothing can replace real human interaction, that’s for sure. 

Now imagine online meetings: how do you plan on talking with your students? Not all of them may have access to a camera and a microphone. ‘What about a chat box?’ you may ask. Well, sure. Remember, however, that texting takes much more time than speaking and therefore, a lot of time could get wasted on sending messages back and forth. 

Tip: If you’re a teacher that could potentially struggle with wrapping your head around all the different technologies required for hybrid teaching, consider asking your younger fellow teachers for help. Alternatively, when choosing, for example, a webinar tool for your teaching, make sure it offers a user-friendly interface and guides for new users. This will definitely help you with adjusting to the new changes. 

  • Lack of necessary equipment 

As already mentioned, when you decide to switch some of your course elements from in-person to online, you’re going to need some equipment. A desktop computer and/or laptop, a camera, headphones, a microphone - these are the absolute essentials. Do you already have access to all of them? If not, will your university/employer provide you with them? Or are you going to have to use your own devices for the purpose of work? These are very important factors to consider, as well as overall cost of education.

If you don’t have a camera, you are potentially much more limited in the personalization, and even the human-nature of your teaching, as you won’t be able to show your face during lectures or seminars. This can lead to your students just staring at a blank computer screen whilst only hearing your voice. Not the most engaging or exciting activity for them, is it?

Tip: Before deciding to give hybrid learning a try, make sure you have the right equipment to provide high quality teaching. 

  • Different time zones

Last but not least, a purely technical issue - dealing with different time zones. Teaching online, especially at international universities, may sometimes mean that you will find yourself teaching students from all around the world: Asia, North America, Europe, Australia and more. What does it mean? You guessed it, different time zones. 

Planning activities to be done in the students’ own time should not be a challenge; as they can do these exercises whenever they wish, as long as they’re completed within the timeframe set by the teacher. However, the challenge arises when planning group activities, (such as meetings, games or discussions) more effectively completed with the collaboration of the entire class. If the class consists of a worldwide group, living in many time zones, planning the perfect time for such activities may be difficult.

For this reason, hybrid teaching may turn out to be more challenging than you initially thought. 

Tip: Do some research and find out where your students are from. Try to figure out whether or not you will be able to organise some, live activities altogether like games and other meetings. If not, plan your hybrid teaching schedule according to your available possibilities.

How To Avoid Failing? (link to the previous article)

Now that you know the possible threats within hybrid teaching, you’re ready to start thinking about how to prevent them from ruining your fun and rewarding experience with this non-traditional teaching model. Luckily for you, we’re already one step ahead of you and have a treat (not a threat!) for you: a blog article discussing our top 6 ways to provide effective hybrid teaching (link).  

Check it out if you’re interested in knowing how to make sure your hybrid classes are top quality, and your students are satisfied with the quality of teaching they receive more than ever. 

Be Ready To Win With Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it shouldn’t be. It was designed to make the lives of everybody easier, so you shouldn’t be afraid of it. It’s about the comfort of you and your students, not anyone else’s. 

We hope you enjoyed this short but insightful article on the most common threats to hybrid teaching. We hope that by now you know that they’re not as scary as they may seem and can be quickly eliminated with just a little bit of determination and the right tools. 

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out our similar publications on our blog. Happy reading and good luck with your hybrid teaching!

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