2020 started out normally enough. Teachers, back in their classrooms after winter break, had a couple of months of relative normalcy in January and February before the pandemic began to close school doors and force everyone to hide out in their homes.
Fortunately, educators are nothing if not adaptable, so we shifted into remote learning with amazing speed. Teachers began teaching to their webcams, interacting with students via video chat. We all assumed this would only last a month or two, then the world as we knew it could resume.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The school year continued, with proms canceled and socially distanced graduations, and slowly the world began to emerge from our houses and apartments. Summer vacation came and went, with no postcards from abroad or family vacations to Disneyland. We donned our masks, dined al fresco, and did our best to support struggling small businesses in our communities. And time continued to tick on.
As the new school year began, it was time to shift modes again. Teachers were expected to master the art of hybrid learning. We’ve been at it a few months now, and we’ve learned a few things. Since it seems hybrid learning will likely continue well into 2021, we’d like to share our discoveries with you.
What Is Hybrid Learning?
If you’ve not had the privilege of experiencing this for yourself yet, you might not be entirely sure what hybrid learning entails. Simply put, hybrid learning is an educational approach that mixes in-person classes with online content.
In hybrid learning, teachers address a class with some students who are in-person and others who are remote at the same time—not to be confused with blended learning, in which the entire class is in school some of the time and remote at other times.
A hybrid learning plan has been a common approach for schools hoping to balance the needs of their students with the precautions necessary in the age of COVID. In some areas, students are divided into two groups. Group A comes into class on Monday and Tuesday and group B on Thursday and Friday, with everyone learning from home when they’re not in class. Other districts allow parents to choose whether their kids will learn in person or remotely, meaning some students are in class every day while others are always connecting remotely.
There are many other versions of the practice, but one thing is for sure: Hybrid learning presents its own challenges. How do teachers blend these two learning styles into one seamless class experience? How do they keep kids on track and engaged, whether in the classroom or at home? And how do they manage all of this without pulling their own hair out?
What We’ve Learned
GoGuardian is in a unique position to see how teachers and students are using technology in and out of the classroom. Here are a few of our more surprising findings on the topic of hybrid or distance learning.
The transition from classroom learning to remote learning began to happen in the second half of March. We compared data from the first half of March with that of the first half of April to get a better look at how technology was being used. Teachers on the GoGuardian Teacher platform sent over 7x more chats in April than in March.
In the first month of distance learning, from March 16 to April 17, the Top 10 Most Popular Educational Websites visited by students browsing on a GoGuardian device were:
In the 2018/2019 school year, the types of websites in the Top 25 Most Popular Educational Websites remained relatively stable when comparing the beginning (October 2018) to the end (April 2019) of the school year. This again remained relatively constant into the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year (October 2019), but we saw notable shifts in the types of websites in the Top 25 Most Popular Educational Websites at the end of the 2019/2020 school year (April 2020).
In October 2019, less than 0.0001% of students visited Zoom. This skyrocketed to over 35% in April 2020. Further, in the Top 25 Most Popular Educational Websites in April 2020 compared to October 2019, there were a number of findings:
66.7% increase in the number of websites that are primarily a tool to deliver or create video content.
27.3% increase in the number of websites that provide instructional content, or allow teachers to generate instructional content.
75% decrease in the number of websites that are primarily reference tools (such as Dictionary.com).
25% increase in the number of websites that enable self-directed learning pathways.
Hybrid Learning Tips
While this may feel like a brave new world for many educators, hybrid learning has actually been around for a while in some capacity. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can make your hybrid learning experience work more smoothly for students both at home and in the classroom.
The most important thing to remember when transitioning to a hybrid model is that not all students have equal access to remote learning. Hopefully your school has already addressed the problem, but if not, you’ll need to find a way to ensure all students have devices and internet access too. Digital equity is far from being perfectly addressed in most areas, but any step toward equal access for all students is a step in the right direction.
You’ll also need to keep track of student devices with a device management system. This will let you keep everyone on track and running well, whether at home or in class.
Teach Digital Citizenship First
For a hybrid classroom to run smoothly, the first and most important lesson must be digital citizenship. Digital citizenship involves the way internet users interact with one another online. Good digital citizens are helpful and friendly to one another. They don’t engage in cyberbullying or sharing false information. This is the goal behavior for your students to learn online, but it won’t happen if no one teaches them.
Start off by setting a code of conduct. Remind students to be respectful and helpful to one another. Encourage and reward responsible behavior whenever you see it. Take any incidents of cyberbullying seriously, and be sure to correct disrespectful behaviors as they arise. By laying a strong foundation of respect online and offline, you’ll help your students feel safe asking questions and being honest with you and with their peers.
Focus on the Students
It’s easy to get caught up in the technological concerns of hybrid learning. Devices, access, camera angles, and lighting are all important, but they shouldn’t be the focus of your lessons. Just like any other year, teaching is all about the students.
Be sure to carefully build relationships with your students, whether you ever see them face-to-face or not. Get to know them, learn about their goals and dreams, and carefully understand their individual learning styles. The one thing that will solve all other problems in the hybrid classroom model is a good student-teacher relationship.
Communication Is Key
No matter how your classroom is structured this year, it’s vital to keep lines of communication open with each of your students and their parents. In a hybrid classroom, this can be challenging. Many teachers find it helpful to have a formal communication plan in place.
In today’s world, the easiest way to communicate effectively is often by text message. Texts are more frequently read than emails, and they allow you to keep communication short and to the point. During a GoGuardian Teacher™ session, the Chat feature can serve a similar purpose.
Promote Student Communication
In addition to teacher-student communication and parent-teacher communication, you’ll want to promote communication between students in your classroom. Peer-to-peer communication is often easier in person, but with a bit of encouragement, it can be managed.
Embolden students to collaborate with their peers. Set up small groups that include both remote learners and in-person students communicating through video conferencing. Encourage students to answer each other’s questions and help one another learn classroom technology. With a bit of help, student relationships can still flourish, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Simplify Your Tech Environment
It can be easy to get excited about the prospect of bringing new tools and technologies into the classroom. But this excitement may lead to an overwhelming amount of new technology to adapt to and implement.
Rather than using a host of different tech tools to run your remote lessons, find a single technology solution with the features you need. You can add a few other tools if needed, but it’s best to keep it to a minimum. The GoGuardian Suite includes a unified bundle of tech tools for classroom management, video conferencing, web filtering and monitoring, asset management, and student mental health tools.