How To Prepare Your Institution for Effective Hybrid Learning

By: Adam Carpenter on March 14, 2023
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Hybrid learning has gained significant momentum as institutional leaders have been relying on the flexibility and increased access it enables while keeping costs low. In addition, hybrid learning empowers educators to offer a wider range of pedagogical methods as they mix in-person and online teaching methods.

But getting started with hybrid learning requires forethought and a careful allocation of resources. In this way, the experience is enriching for students and comfortable for educators and administrators.

What is hybrid learning?

Hybrid learning, also known as blended learning, is a form of education that combines both traditional classroom instruction and online learning. It involves a mix of in-person classroom sessions and online activities, such as virtual lectures, discussions, and assignments. 

If you haven’t considered your hybrid learning plan yet, now is a good time to start because hybrid learning allows for more flexibility and convenience than traditional classroom instruction. Students can access course materials and participate in discussions from anywhere with an internet connection. At the same time, hybrid learning still provides the benefits of face-to-face instruction and in-person interaction with teachers and classmates.

In a typical hybrid learning model, students attend some classes or portions of classes in person while others are delivered online. The online component may take different forms, including live video conferences, pre-recorded lectures, online forums or chat rooms, and self-paced modules.

It is used at all levels of education, from primary schools to universities, and is particularly useful in situations where students need to balance their studies with work or other commitments.

How to prepare for the next phase of hybrid learning

Preparing for the next phase of hybrid learning can involve a range of steps that can help institutions ensure that their programs are effective, efficient, and well-suited to the needs of their students. Some key steps that institutions can take to prepare for the next phase of hybrid learning include:

  • Adaptability and change management. You can foster adaptability and make it easier to manage change by emphasizing a growth mindset. This focuses on the idea that individuals can develop their abilities through hard work and dedication—regardless of the learning infrastructure used. This can help students and instructors see a shift to a hybrid learning arrangement as an opportunity to adapt and change without losing focus on the core goals of effective teaching and learning.

  • Investing in educational technology. Institutions may need to invest in technology tools and infrastructure to support hybrid learning, including learning management systems, video conferencing tools, and other resources. It's important to ensure that these tools are user-friendly, reliable, and accessible to all students.

  • Curiosity and innovation. Institutions should encourage a culture of innovation and experimentation, which can encourage instructors—and students—to embrace change. You can encourage instructors to try new approaches and tools to improve student learning outcomes. This can involve providing resources and incentives to support innovation and sharing best practices and success stories across the institution.

By taking these steps, institutions can help ensure that they are well-prepared for the next phase of hybrid learning and can provide high-quality education that meets the needs of their students.

Review and refine your long-standing operations

A wide range of educational organizations is trying to create hybrid campus models and operations because they’re a more adaptable solution. This typically involves reviewing their long-standing practices and making significant adjustments where necessary.

In addition, organizations need to:

  • Refine their service portfolios to meet the promise of the new hybrid learning architecture

  • Manage a shift in demand when it comes to the skills students, staff, and faculty need

  • Develop new offerings that leverage the hybrid model

In the wake of COVID-19, which has elevated hybrid learning expectations, a modern campus will have to meld technology, physical spaces, and people. As a result, it runs the risk of having ineffective spaces and a cumbersome assortment of overlapping systems. This presents a daunting challenge for some organizations which are choosing to table their hybrid learning for the time being.

But by delaying—or canceling—a hybrid learning initiative, institutions miss out on opportunities for innovative models and richer experiences for students.

Therefore, it’s important to ask which of your processes can allow for flexibility and innovation.

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For many, asynchronous learning can be an effective solution. Asynchronous learning is a self-paced, flexible approach to education where students can access learning materials on their own time. It’s a natural fit for a hybrid learning setup.

Invest in educational technology

By investing in digital resources for your students, staff, and faculty, you can give those in your learning community the tools they need to make their jobs easier and experiences more rewarding. In this way, you can relieve some of the pressure that comes with teacher and staff shortages, as well as not having adequate IT talent in-house.

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With this in mind, it’s important not to shy away from including AI software in your digital portfolio. This can play a role in a variety of solutions, such as tech designed for learning management and even automated interactions between remote learners and teachers.

Encourage a culture of creativity and curiosity

It’s important to cultivate a culture of curiosity and innovation in your institution. This enables you to promote creativity and support agility, both of which are important when dealing with changes in the education sector—and the initiatives you need to adjust.

To make this happen, you need to take a few different steps:

  • Review your spaces and systems to evaluate the experiences they deliver.

  • Use analytics along with student support services to address how your organization can recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Refine and adjust current operational models.

  • Improve when it comes to the agile inefficient delivery of services.

  • Make sure your organization is supporting the enhancement of experiences impacting staff, students, and faculty.

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Inevitably, there will be at least some members of your community that won’t have the skills needed to make the adjustments at first. To manage skill gaps, it’s important to upscale your students and staff, so they feel comfortable using technologies involved in hybrid learning and working. These include collaboration tools like Microsoft teams, Slack, and other options that provide students with digital capabilities that enrich their learning experiences. When they have the skills they need to thrive in a digital learning sphere, students and staff are far more likely to buy into your hybrid initiative.

Key considerations and challenges

There are some obstacles many educational organizations will have to navigate.

Challenge 1: Planning your tech investments

Planning tech investments for hybrid learning involves careful consideration of the needs of the institution, instructors, and students. Some key steps that a school can take to plan its tech investments for hybrid learning include:

  • Assessing current technology. Schools should assess their current technology infrastructure to identify strengths and weaknesses and determine areas for improvement. This can involve analyzing usage data, conducting surveys, and gathering feedback from students and instructors.

  • Identifying key needs. It’s also important to identify key needs for hybrid learning, including hardware and software requirements, learning management systems, video conferencing tools, and other technology resources. This can involve considering factors such as reliability, accessibility, and ease of use.

  • Developing a budget. While developing a budget for its tech investments, a school should take into account the cost of hardware, software, licenses, and other technology resources. This budget should be aligned with the overall goals and priorities of the school and should be communicated clearly to all stakeholders.

  • Monitoring and evaluating effectiveness. Schools also need to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their tech investments for hybrid learning, using data such as student performance, engagement, and satisfaction. This can help schools identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to their tech investments as needed.

Challenge 2: Navigating a short-staffed team

One of the most efficient ways to relieve the burden that comes with not having enough staff is to use recruiting software. These solutions streamline the recruitment process at all phases, from when you first identify a staffing need to hiring and then onboarding. Some solutions also come with built-in compliance tools to help you meet regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation.

Next steps

To get started, you can use the following related reading to load up on the knowledge you need to get your initiative off the ground: