Is hybrid learning the future of education?

While workplaces and universities across the globe have begun to embrace flexible working and study arrangements post-COVID-19, school students are left wondering if they'll ever be afforded the same freedoms. Our Head of Scotch Online Cara Fugill  asks whether hybrid learning could be harnessed in schools to enhance the educational experience of their students.

As students sit in their traditional 8.30am to 3.30pm classrooms, taught within specific subjects and separated by age groups, they may wonder why their parents seem more flexible in their work routine post-COVID-19 than they do in their education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us much about the value of remote work and the potential for technology to support it. More parents can now work from home, travel less, integrate technology and have greater flexibility in achieving their goals.

But what about schools? Have they evolved in response to the pandemic or returned to a traditional model, relieved that it's all over? Are schools missing an opportunity to create a new structure that would offer older students more flexibility and make education more efficient?

Interestingly, in the UK, Winchester, Cheltenham and Harrow schools have moved to online teaching to cater for their international market.

A recent study by Times Higher Education revealed that universities are choosing to keep the hybrid education model rather than returning to full-time in-person teaching.

Of the participants, 63% said they preferred the hybrid model, even though 38% said online teaching and resource quality during the pandemic was not up to their standards, suggesting that despite a poor experience with online learning, students see the potential for it to be a part of their future education.

In fact, 76% of participants believe that the future of work will be hybrid and see the benefit of preparing for this by learning similarly.

Lastly, the study concluded that more participants thought 25% to 50% online would be the ideal balance.

However, I think the debate lies in something other than the proportion of face-to-face versus online learning, but rather, what is being done with students during online learning?

Is it simply a passive experience where students listen to pre-recorded lectures in the same non-interactive way as in-person classes? If so, this generation of learners will likely be just as disengaged, whether online or in person.

At least with online learning, students can take a break to regain concentration or have the flexibility in when and where they listen.

However, with the latest technology, surely, we can make online learning more interactive and engaging, allowing face-to-face learning to be more social, exploratory and collaborative.

Education might benefit from providing teachers the time to design engaging online modules that allow students to think and interact with the material at their own pace.

Technology can assist teachers in offering different levels of support based on student needs to cater to all learning styles and abilities with video, audio, questions, discussions, short answers, long answers, research, and more. All while building critical content that will give students the confidence to share their knowledge and collaborate during the social aspects of learning.

As a parent, have you ever noticed your child not raising their hand in class? Have you ever asked why? The answer might surprise you.

The social pressure and fear of potential embarrassment that this generation feels is not likely the result of getting a wrong answer in front of their teacher. It is more likely the social commentary they fear from their peers.

The increased exposure to social media and negative comments made online makes our young people hyper-aware of the criticism they may face if they don't act or respond in a certain way.

It is the teacher's responsibility to create a safe learning environment where students feel confident and prepared to learn. However, the traditional structure is not assisting us in providing this as easily as before.

Hybrid learning offers a unique opportunity for students to learn uninterrupted, at their own pace, without social pressure. It builds independence and will likely model the future of university and workplace learning.

There is a lot to think about in terms of how a school could prepare for this without compromising any aspect of academic and social-emotional development, so while we are still a while off seeing these changes, it is not in the realm of impossibility that school timetables may in the future hold a more flexible structure as students get older.

Cara Fugill
Head of Scotch Online

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