May 04 2021

3 Tips for Improving the Hybrid Learning Experience

With hybrid learning on the rise, student engagement has a new look.

Even after the pandemic subsides and some degree of normalcy sets in, colleges and universities appear poised to continue with the hybrid and remote learning models that COVID-19 made necessary.

Yet these setups often remain frustrating for educators and students alike. A real concern exists that a lack of in-class instruction will leave behind students at all levels, whether academically, socially or professionally.

Although not all of these challenges are easily remedied, there is still much that we can do to improve the education experience for everyone.

1. Prioritize Feedback From Hybrid Learners 

Like their K–12 counterparts, college students come from an enormous range of backgrounds, with varying strengths and weaknesses. Good communication allows everyone involved to promote effective learning.

We can communicate plans, preferences and other data through day-to-day, informal conversations, but there are also other pathways to feedback, such as virtual town hall–style meetings. Surveys can also be useful, allowing students to anonymously speak up about their classwork, instructors or the overall experience of learning online.

Establishing varied routes for consistent feedback builds a larger sense of collaboration among administrators, faculty and students. Each group knows it’s working with the others toward the same goal. This can encourage people to solve problems together and reduce misunderstandings.

RELATED: Here's 3 ways to increase student engagement in online learning.

2. Offer Flexibility With a Student-Centric Focus

For practicality and logistics, instructors need consistency in how they post lessons, how students hand in work and when to hold digital class sessions. But sometimes things go wrong.

Greater flexibility allows everyone to more easily work around these issues. For example, professors can allow students to hand in assignments through an established learning platform or by email.

One way to achieve more flexibility is to shift away from lectures in favor of more individualized, hands-on, student-centric models. Lecture-oriented teaching is still painfully ingrained, with most facilities physically designed to support it.

Such shifts acknowledge that not all students learn at the same pace and that they need different levels of support.

Many instructors have been calling for this type of foundational mindset shift for students of all ages for years, but COVID-19 has presented a catalyst that may finally push people to embrace it on a wider scale.

READ MORE: Norma I. Scagnoli, an instructional design expert, on how to humanize online learning.

3. Create Social Opportunities for Students Online 

One of the biggest concerns about online learning is that students don’t have opportunities to socialize the way they would during a traditional academic day. They can’t chat with each other or their professors between classes, and many traditional college social activities aren’t possible. Consequently, some students miss valuable opportunities for mentorship, career guidance and self-discovery.

To give students the chance to engage and connect, we have to formalize what otherwise would occur naturally and be more creative about safely bringing students together. This could mean hosting a special video session where people play a game or discuss a common interest. Such sessions also allow students to ask questions, voice concerns or talk about their feelings about the pandemic and show empathy for one another. Everyone can decide democratically how these sessions function and what they include, and they can be for educators and administrators as easily as for students.

Education during a pandemic is no cakewalk. Even so, it doesn’t have to be excruciating. We have to acknowledge systemic problems and work together to understand everyone’s needs. By building opportunities for multifaceted feedback, ditching inflexible traditional approaches for more student-centric models and getting creative in how we socialize, we can continue to ensure a bright future for all students.

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