Preparing For The Transition To Hybrid Education

Global drivers are placing higher education at a critical juncture. Moving forward, universities must decide how they will deliver education services. The pandemic has not been the only driver of change; demographic changes, rising costs, evolving consumer expectations and rapidly changing technology all play important roles in bringing this decision to a head. More and more educational institutions are undergoing digital transformations to adapt to hybrid education models.

Faculty, leadership, students and parents are all trying to envision what education will look like over the next four years.

This article will examine how higher education organizations can prepare for the transition to hybrid education, cover the benefits of a hybrid education model and break down what to consider as we transform. We’ll answer key questions, such as:

  • What are the components of hybrid learning education?
  • How does higher education make the transition?
  • What are the benefits, tools, and other factors to consider?

What exactly is hybrid education?

Hybrid education is simply defined as an education approach that combines online education interaction/materials with traditional place-based classroom methods. Hybrid learning means having students part time at home and part time in class.

When the global pandemic impacted educational institutions, classes were initially held entirely online – for both students and teachers. The hybrid education model shifts away from the entirely online approach to a combination of in-person classes and virtual classes.

Features of hybrid learning

Hybrid learning is typically comprised of distinct features that include:

Time (synchronous) – Synchronous learning is defined as a scheduled class held in real-time with a group of students and a teacher. The students can be in attendance remotely or in a classroom. Higher education may use online video conferencing technology to engage with students in real-time.

Space – This refers to the hybrid learning space; for example, a student setting up a hybrid learning space at home or a teacher dedicating an in-person class room space. Hybrid learning in the classroom is dependent on what technology is deployed such as interactive video hardware, display, software, assistive technology, and whiteboards.

Interaction – Hybrid learning interaction is based on how the student and teacher will interact – online, in-person, and a combination of both. It’s critical that higher education organizations deploy technology that will drive engagement with students; for example, deploying immersive virtual classrooms to enhance remote student learning.

Get more insights on how X2O Media and Emory University partnered to deploy innovative collaborative interactive technology.

Resources – Resources refer to components that make hybrid learning possible. This includes Wi-Fi/Internet connection, computers, Audiovisual hardware and the software that drives hybrid learning. Educational collaboration tools, such as conferencing software, Learning Management Systems are Resources, as well.

Responsibility – This includes self-learning, digital interactive tools, tracking of attendance or class work, etc. Responsibility is also placed on the teachers who may need to present, record, upload, monitor, and track students and lessons.

Overall, these are just a sampling of hybrid learning that may have some similar features of traditional in-person learning. However, by its nature hybrid learning is a combination of using digital technologies with in-person education.

Benefits of a hybrid education model

Students have high expectations of technology because of the technology they use every day — from social applications like Instagram and Tik Tok, to iOS and Android messaging. These platforms allow them to build a customized communications interface, and they bring that experience (and all the expectations it creates) with them into education.

Digital transformation can help higher education organizations meet students where they are, not only reducing friction but also increasing retention of material, satisfaction, and results.

Benefits of adopting a hybrid education model include:

  • Self-efficacy – Students can learn in class at their own time and pace, depending on the class/teacher lesson plan. In the comfort of their own home or at another convenient location, students can go online to engage with all the class resources. This is particularly beneficial to students who may have busy schedules.
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning – Some students may be able to attend class in-person, while others may need to rely on purely online learning. The hybrid learning approach may choose to have a combination of synchronous learning (real-time) and asynchronous learning – where some of the class materials are online, available as a recording.
  • Real-time engagement and feedback – The global pandemic increased the use of video conferencing in higher education. However, traditional video conferencing tools were not intended to be used by educators or students. In the educational use case, video conferencing tools are more effective when they can support more dynamic discussions and active participation by all participants. This often leads to the acquisition of purpose-built tools.
  • Hybrid learning – depending on the technology deployed – can deliver more effective use of video, collaboration, and ultimately engagement.
  • Performance and tracking – Hybrid learning technology can help with tracking the attendance, performance, and feedback of students. The digital technology deployed can help obviate the need for manual tracking and analysis. Overall, measuring the metrics that matter can help instructors while improving the hybrid learning experience for students.

Key considerations for hybrid learning technology

When approaching the transition to hybrid, higher education is familiar with elements, such as IT hardware and software. But there are missing pieces of the puzzle that complete the hybrid picture: The audio/video (AV) components and infrastructure.

Considerations include:

  • Hybrid Learning Software – Some higher education institutions may try to use standard video conferencing software, combine various disparate solutions, or even try to create their own. Higher education organizations should avoid these approaches and deploy software that is specifically designed for the needs of hybrid education.
  • Computer hardware – Higher education must determine if the computers used (for students and teachers) are the organization’s or that of the students and staff.
  • Audio/video — Additional cameras, microphones, displays and speakers to accommodate a larger hybrid audience.
  • Wi-Fi availability – Do all the students and teachers have reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi to access resources? Some areas may lack adequate Hi-Fi or Internet connection so that must be taken into consideration if there is an option to attend class in-person rather than solely be online.
  • Network Infrastructure — Wi-Fi can also be bottlenecked by an outmoded Internet connection. Campuses might need to reconsider their network as we approach the widespread use of real-time video feeds.

Questions to ask software vendors:

  • Does the software have robust features that accommodate 100+ participants?
  • Is the software easy to deploy, adopt, and manage?
  • Is the solution designed to replace face-to-face learning, or to integrate with it?
  • What is the process for support, and how long does it take to resolve issues on average?
  • Is the vendor actively developing new features?
  • Is the software tested and proven, or is it more of a proof of concept?
  • Are there multiple camera views, virtual room settings, online interactivity, etc?
  • What hardware is required?
  • Are there minimum technical requirements for participants? For networks?
  • What kind of setup is necessary for end-users? For staff?

Partnering with the right hybrid learning platform provider

Taking steps to transform your higher education organization to hybrid learning doesn’t have to be complex and challenging if you plan strategically. It is critical you partner with a hybrid learning technology provider with the expertise and experience of working with education organizations. Partnering with a solution that is specifically designed for hybrid education needs will transform and optimize your school for an enhanced student learning experience.

Learn more about X2O OneRoom.

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