By Nadav Avni, Chief Marketing Officer at Radix Technologies
As the pandemic winds down, many people are excited to get back to normal. However, as much as we would like to return to pre-2020 conditions, many things have changed for good. Take education for example. Even as students slowly return to in-person learning, distance learning solutions have altered educational expectations. For many students, remote learning has become a viable option. Even before the pandemic, many would have chosen to study at home if it was a more accessible option.
So, even after the pandemic, schools won’t be done with distance learning. In some cases, some districts would like to implement even more remote learning options. Why? Because in certain situations, distance learning solutions offer the best option. Students who work part-time, children with sensitive medical conditions, and students who enjoy or prefer learning at home.
Of course, many students will start going back to school. Still, many families will insist that their children continue schooling at home until the threat of coronavirus passes. Ergo, many school systems are embracing hybrid learning as a solution. Those who can attend school physically are encouraged to do so. Meanwhile, those who can’t attend can connect online.
Hurdles in Transitioning to Hybrid Classrooms
The concept of hybrid learning is simple enough. It combines the elements of distance learning in between periods of in-person instructional learning. In theory, the hybrid method offers a teaching method that can be successfully applied to class types. In reality, hybrid learning will need to overcome some major issues that affect both in-person and remote methods.
For starters, hybrid learning will get much of its technological foundation on distance learning methodology. In many school districts during the pandemic, teachers often had to deal with a complicated system when teaching remotely. To get through the day, they usually had to toggle between three different software platforms to conduct a single class:
- First, they needed to operate a videoconferencing software to communicate with the class. This was usually an independent software with built-in collaboration features such as chat and virtual whiteboards.
- Then, they’ll have to open the school’s learning management system to handle the modules and online materials.
- Finally, teachers relied on classroom management software to help control the class. This software augmented some of the shortcomings of video conferencing by allowing teachers to access and assume control of connected devices.
While teaching online, teachers often found themselves struggling to keep the applications running smoothly. This would result in teachers having to spend more time troubleshooting than actually teaching students. If hybrid learning is to be a viable option moving forward, then a more streamlined system is needed.
Concerns With Hybrid Learning System
In the course of integrating two distinct learning systems, hybrid learning also needs to improve some instructional areas. This includes finding the middle road between what works for physically present students versus what works for those online. Below are some of the hurdles to hybrid systems that will need addressing:
Connecting With and Engaging Students
Keeping the entire class engaged was already a challenge for teachers pre-pandemic—now add what is essentially a second class. Keeping both the in-person learners and the remote students engaged is a challenging aspect of hybrid learning. Methods used to motivate students in the classroom might not translate to the other group. Conversely, paying too much attention to online students might alienate those in the classroom.
Collaboration Between Two Groups
Assigning projects involving collaboration among members may be harder to implement in hybrid learning. How do you pick group members? Does the project objective include social activities within the group? Of course, the easiest route would be to group the physical class against the online class. However, this has the potential to become an “Us vs Them” scenario and further solidify any divides between the student groups.
Dealing With Connectivity and Other Technical Problems
Working with an in-person class is a matter of showing up to the classroom, calling the register, and beginning the lesson immediately after. However, online classes are not the same thing. It’s a matter of starting the app, connecting to the network, and asking the others to do the same. It just takes one participant to go offline to disrupt the class and turn it into a troubleshooting session. If this happens too much, whether due to app issues, compatibility problems, or network shortcomings, expect the rest of the class to complain.
Dealing With File Sharing and Your Learning Management System
Distributing learning materials can be easier with a school-issued learning management system (LMS). Students simply need to log in to receive access to course materials and activity pages. A potential chink in the armor is when the online class uses a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) system. Unless the LMS accepts all devices regardless of the operating system used, some students may have trouble connecting to the system. As mentioned above, it only takes one disconnected student to disrupt the entire class. In addition, a collaboration between group members often requires file exchanging. Unless all members used the same device brand or OS, there are potential issues in accepting file shares or even reading formats.
Unifying Remote, Face-to-Face, and Hybrid Classrooms Using Distance Learning Solutions
School systems operate on a strict budget. Especially in the public school system, there are hardly any provisions for multiple system purchases, especially if there are all-in-one alternatives. A school purchasing separate systems for in-person teaching, remote learning classes, and hybrid programs shouldn’t expect its budget to reach the end of the fiscal year. Instead of getting one for every method, it’s more cost-effective for schools to secure unified distance learning solutions that can also work with physical classes. More importantly, the system should work as effectively in hybrid learning. This way, the school IT budget can remain sensible. At the same time, students and teachers won’t need to learn how to operate and navigate three different learning systems.
For educators, the good news that came out from the pandemic was educational funding in support of remote learning that can go toward supporting technological capacity and access. This includes investments in hardware and software, connectivity, and instructional expertise. All these initiatives can receive funding if they can support remote learning.
Your Instructors Deserve Better Distance Learning Solutions
Imagine handling three separate applications during a single teaching session. Then, add in-person students to the mix. Can you imagine how the teacher can manage a hybrid class using all this while managing two sets of students?
Consider investing in classroom management software that can make teaching less complex and a whole lot easier. The best distance learning solutions combine video conferencing, LMS, and classroom management in one integrated software. Even better, this solution can also work well in a hybrid or in-person teaching environment. The integrated video conference features remove the need for teachers to switch between many apps during sessions. Integrating the LMS also does the same thing, and reduces the complexity of distributing materials and files to all connected devices regardless of OS.
Solve the Problems of Managing Hybrid Classes
Even better, integrated distance learning solutions can also handle common connectivity and compatibility problems. It should accept connection requests from all devices. This also solves the problems with file sharing between group members with different devices. Moreover, the software can serve as a monitor for all student devices to see if they’re still paying attention. If needed, the teacher platform can lock the student device to prevent non-school apps from running.
In addition, using distance learning solutions to manage hybrid classes (and even in-person classes) provides a more cost-effective solution than using separate systems. This is something that even the most budget-conscious school board can appreciate. Given the need to switch between in-person, remote, and hybrid, a flexible licensing option is a reasonable option for a district subscription.
School’s Back Soon, Is Your District Ready for Hybrid Learning?
With 2022 started, there are still no clear indicators on how the return to in-person classes will turn out. Even as the pandemic seems to be winding down in many areas, it pays to exercise a bit of caution and make preparations for any eventuality. From all angles, preparing for a hybrid system seems a safe bet, as there are many reasons to retain that method even after the pandemic ends. Adopting distance learning solutions that also work well on hybrid and in-person methods can save you both time and money.