As the world kicks into high gear after emerging on the other side of the global pandemic, education institutes are returning to in-person teaching and learning. The two or more years of Covid-19 got students and education institutes to quickly adapt and move to remote learning. In the case of higher institutes, international students even had to study remotely from their own country due to travel restrictions.
Not surprisingly, having experienced remote learning and teaching, 68 per cent of college students and 57 per cent of faculty said they would prefer a hybrid learning option post-pandemic, according to Cengage’s Digital Learning Pulse Survey, in which more than 3,500 college students, faculty and administrators were surveyed. Further cementing the interest in hybrid learning, a Forbes report referring to a survey carried out by ed tech firm Anthology in partnership with United Nations education body UNESCO, highlighted that more than four in five students (82%) said they wanted at least some of their course meetings to take place online, with two in five (41%) preferring fully online learning, with no in-person element at all.
The good news is that current technologies and software can enable an interactive and engaging hybrid learning experience.
Why Consider Hybrid Learning?
The most straightforward answer is to be prepared for future disruptions. But beyond that, there are additional benefits to hybrid learning.
Room for Variability of Learning – People learn differently, and technology makes it easy to cater to all. For example, some learn better through videos than text-based content, and others through listening. Allowing students to attend classes online, or even watch a recording of the course later, allows everyone to learn in a way that best suits their preferences and situation.
Day-One Access – Learning material being distributed digitally, inclusive of textbooks, lectures and others, means that students have access to their material immediately on day one, often at a significantly lower cost.
Multimodal Learning – A hybrid model allows students to enjoy multimodal learning, i.e., using different channels to access their material. For example, choosing to follow a module you are weaker in in-person while opting to study something you are familiar with using online resources.
Increased Accessibility – For students living abroad or far away from their educational institutes, a hybrid learning model can help them better access their material by allowing them to follow most of a course remotely while attending in-person only for essential areas, saving time and money.
Developing Digital Literacies – In hybrid learning, students are exposed to different technologies that help them in their hybrid journey. They will also be exposed to the use of communication and collaboration tools. This allows students to grow their digital skills, which is an essential growing skill in the professional world.
While there are many more advantages to a hybrid learning model, the ones outlined above demonstrate the key benefits and make a case for why, despite the pandemic slowly fading away, the learning world is not returning to the old normal.
Bridging the Gap
To take advantage of the Hybrid model, learning institutes must ensure teachers are trained to deliver online courses effectively. Compared to having students in the class, online teaching needs more creativity and tools to engage the students.
In an environment where students are learning remotely whilst others are learning in-person, the set-up needs to reflect that effectively so that both sets of students feel engaged. This can be achieved by mobilising large display panels at the back of the classroom to beam in the remote students with the in-person students seated in front of the displays. This allows the lecturer to view all the students and also the ability for students to interact with each other.
The use of the technology also needs to be seamless. The lecturers should not be distracted by the technology so that they can focus on their teaching. A good setup will go a long way in creating a positive experience for both lecturers and students.
The Importance of a Good Set-up for Hybrid Learning
Academically, educators have many challenges to deal with. It is therefore vital that technology does not add to their burden. However, many challenges can be overcome through the correct choice of technology and effective use. Besides the basics, such as ensuring good internet connectivity and lighting within the space, video emerged as a critical tool for remote learning. However, the video conferencing technology you use also matters, whether in the classroom or at home. From room solutions to personal webcams and headsets, ensuring that everyone is naturally and comfortably visible and audible to everyone else is crucial to creating an engaging experience, and this should form the foundation of any good set-up.
In a hybrid environment, it is critical to pay attention to technologies with features that enhance and optimise audio clarity so everyone can be heard clearly. For the visual aspect, features such as the camera’s ability to adjust so that everyone is captured in the frame and auto light adjustments regardless of lighting conditions so everyone looks their best, helps create a more engaging experience.
The right video conferencing technology can form the bedrock of a hybrid learning environment and ensure a good experience for all. The technology should provide optimal video and audio quality and seamlessly work with any collaboration software.
Hybrid Learning the Way Forward
The same Forbes report highlighted that fewer than one in five (18%) wanted to return to fully in-person courses. But among higher education leaders, almost a third (30%) said their university only offered fully in-person courses, although this was expected to shrink to 15% by 2025, closely aligned with student preferences, albeit too late for many of those at university now.
Based on the above, universities need to bridge this gap by implementing online elements in their curriculum.
Overall, the world of hybrid learning and work is helping us to uncover new efficiencies and opportunities to do things differently, which in turn is helping students and educators all over the world achieve more with less, build connections and relationships, and open up platforms that we believed were impossible just a few years ago.
This article is sponsored by Logitech, one of the world’s largest hardware companies that distribute products, including keyboards, remotes, speakers, smart-home devices, and video conferencing systems in more than 100 countries. Logitech’s solutions are making an impact in hybrid learning educational institutes.