By Graham Glass, CEO, CYPHER LEARNING.
Worldwide, schools and universities are now, like never before, dealing with a large-scale disruption in education. With restrictions still in place, many schools are still closed or functioning at a reduced capacity or with socially-distanced classes, which makes it challenging to have a stable schedule. Everyone is affected: students, teachers, other school staff, parents.
This unprecedented situation calls for a flexible hybrid learning approach in order to minimize further disruption and ensure that high-quality teaching and learning can continue. Hybrid (or blended) learning takes any classroom a step further to the virtual learning environment, but it still allows for face-to-face interaction and communication, albeit less than in the regular classroom.
Using all sorts of edtech (educational technologies) teachers can create engaging and interactive online learning experiences for students of all ages and across grade levels, provide personalized support, keep track of and assess each student’s progress, and so much more!
Theoretically, online education eases the job of teachers and enhances learning for students. Practically, it comes with a catch. Or more. First, there are so many ed tech tools out there, that it’s impossible for any teacher to test them all and see which ones are the best for their classroom. Secondly, the available technology is often misunderstood and underused, so results are, sadly, quite poor. Thirdly, and most importantly, transitioning to the virtual learning environment can be extremely hard for both teachers and students.
All these challenges can and must be overcome, as the use of ed tech in the classroom is key in avoiding further disruption in education. A comprehensive solution such as a learning management system can assist everyone in dealing with the characteristics of hybrid learning in more than one way. Here are a few areas of particular interest:
Using platforms such as a learning management system allows teachers to create both synchronous and asynchronous activities, which are essential for creating hybrid learning experiences. For example, this helps teachers plan blended classes, which use a mix of self-paced and instructor-led lessons or modules, to support students in their learning process whether they’re in class or learning from home.
Adopting the asynchronous learning mindset can be intimidating at first, but once educators get the hold of it, they inevitably realize how useful it is. This is because asynchronous learning gives a significantly higher degree of agency to students; it allows them to dictate the pace of their learning process which leads to better engagement rates with the learning materials.
Educators can further personalize learning for each student through adaptive learning, by automatically hiding or showing lessons based on their progress and monitor engagement with activity display features. This enables teachers to design dynamic learning paths and guide students toward achieving their learning goals, thus adapting the online instruction to their unique learning needs.
Online learning platforms with automation features also help teachers to work more efficiently so they can spend more time helping individual students. They can do so through the platform itself, by setting online student-teacher meetings, or they can use the limited time they have in the classroom to focus more on addressing any issue a student might have instead of on teaching new materials.
Poor internet connectivity and access to digital devices are some of the most significant barriers to remote learning — and this is a reality even in cities and developed countries, not just in more rural locations. Many students may not have their own device to learn from, while even more have a hard time sharing the space at home with siblings and/or working parents.
Schools and universities should therefore make sure any online platforms they use have an offline mode so that students can continue to access materials regardless of internet connectivity and continue to receive an education as seamlessly as possible. Most learning management systems do offer this option, thus partially solving the problem related to digital access.
These are only three aspects of the rhombicosidodecahedron of ed tech, hybrid learning and the future of education. The online learning environment will probably never replace the traditional classroom, but it can complement it so that everyone benefits. Finding and using the right tools is paramount in ensuring the right to education for students today, so that they can become successful citizens of tomorrow.
The best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The second-best time is now. Now read that again, but replace “plant a tree” with “invest in and implement ed tech in the classroom”. The students of tomorrow will surely appreciate that.