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Hybrid Learning: A Future-Proof Solution

We all know what the experience of "remote learning" was during the pandemic. Simply put, it was not high-quality in many cases. However, there is a silver lining: districts realized they need a "digital plan" and added plans for flexible learning not only for emergencies — which can include inclement weather or other hard-to-predict disruptions — but as a long-term and sustainable solution.

In comes hybrid learning — let's break down the model.

Who is hybrid learning for?

Hybrid learning can work for everyone. Flexible models such as hybrid learning use innovation to take advantage of pace, path, time, and place. Students have different (and in some cases, more) opportunities to practice and apply their skills in authentic environments with more autonomy. And although the models might look different depending on the grade level, hybrid learning works across grades K-12. 

What does hybrid learning look like?

One of the impactful aspects of hybrid learning is that it's adaptive. A hybrid learning model can look much different at one school than at another school, with different aspects of a model customized to meet local needs and goals.  At its most basic level, hybrid learning allows students to spend some time at a physical building with teachers and other facilitators, and some time at home (or a different location of their choosing, such as a library). The details of when and where students spend time learning may vary. In some cases, such as with Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona, students have different pathways they can follow:

  • Guided Instruction — Monday–Thursday, students engage in station rotation. Teachers determine what content should be elevated based on progress within a digital curriculum. In-class learning is guided by application of knowledge using the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving) held together by mindsets and dispositions. Personalized tutoring takes place on Fridays.

  • Supported Instruction — with content delivered digitally, teachers can focus more on relationships in pedagogy. Monday–Thursday, students in grades 6-8 have face-to-face classes from 8:00–12:30 pm while students in grades 9–12 have face-to-face classes from 11:30– 4:00 pm. At 12:30, middle school students can choose to go home and complete independent work or remain on campus to work on projects or with teachers and/or learning coaches as needed. High school students have the same option, but may come to campus earlier than 11:30 for support or to work on projects.

  • Modified Instruction — students complete regular check-ins with teachers but may complete their coursework (online) in the environment of their choosing. Students are "gradually released" into this pathway, with approval based on a combination of positive academic achievement and agency — students can navigate the LMS well, communicate with their teachers/mentors, collaborate with students, and engage with the curriculum.

In all three models, learning comes down to acquiring knowledge, gaining the skills to apply the knowledge, and practicing the mindsets/habits/dispositions to keep growing and adapting.

When can learning take place?

Hybrid learning can meet students where they are. Students have more choice and autonomy in their learning, and schools have more flexibility in how instruction is delivered. Depending on what model and tools a school is leveraging, when learning happens can vary.

In many cases, schools may use digital curriculum, which means asynchronous learning might happen entirely online on a student's own pace and on the student's own timeline. In other cases, teachers may deliver face-to-face learning and then assign students a practice or application task that can be completed online, offline, a combination, or in collaboration with other students. This is similar to traditional brick-and-mortar homework; however, in hybrid learning, students may have more time to complete their independent work, rather than adding assignments as homework on top of what was completed during the 7-hour school day.

Where do students learn?

Much like with remote work for adults, students attending a hybrid school have more options for where they do the "work" of learning.  Like other aspects of hybrid learning, the "where" can be flexible. Students can opt to remain inside a physical school building for independent work if they choose. Other students will want to complete self-paced learning at home, in a library, or another location of their choice.
What a physical classroom looks like might be different from what is considered "traditional." In one model, Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona utilizes station rotations during their in-person days. The classroom may not have desks facing a whiteboard or Smart Board. Instead, desks or other seating arrangements are arranged so students can complete station work, collaborate on projects, or receive small-group support. If students opt to complete their independent work on-site, then a school may have a specific study room with a qualified facilitator available to help.

Why would students and families want hybrid learning?

Some students and families will choose something other than traditional school for a wide variety of reasons. Whether students seek increased flexibility; to pursue interests outside school; to catch up or get ahead academically; or to build different kinds of community with their peers,  hybrid learning offers new possibilities.
Students can also receive more personalized instruction in hybrid learning because of the typical blend of synchronous and self-paced asynchronous learning. Using this blend, teachers can spend more time with small groups or in one-on-one support. If they're using a digital curriculum, teachers will also receive real-time data and progress tracking so they can tailor remediation, lessons, and project-based learning to a student or a group of students' needs. 

Interested in starting a hybrid learning program? 

School innovation can help traditional schools stand out in the community and provide opportunities that many families are seeking. By evolving a current model or adding an additional model to include a hybrid learning approach, educators are better able to meet the needs of students, families, and the community.  Starting a new hybrid program or converting an entire school to a hybrid model can be challenging. Detailed planning and communication with families and the community is necessary, and a partnership with a provider experienced with hybrid learning is key. 
StrongMind can help with hybrid learning! You have the vision — we have the building blocks, including a K-12 digital curriculum designed for hybrid learning and all the supporting services.