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6 myths about hybrid learning that could be holding you back

Tricia Whenham
By Tricia Whenham on November 3, 2021
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6 myths about hybrid learning that could be holding you back

Coach John Wooden said, “flexibility is the key to stability.” Given the past couple of years, it’s hard to argue. No one could have predicted the amount of change we were in for when COVID-19 arrived, but postsecondary institutions that embraced flexibility were better able to create a stable educational experience for their students.

Hybrid learning is one way to bring more flexibility to your campus. Though it looks different in different places, at its heart it’s about having in-person and remote students learn together in the same class. But even as its popularity grows, misconceptions about what it is and how it works are still spreading. And that can get in the way of it being adopted and embraced.

Interested in adding more hybrid learning opportunities at your college or university? Here are 6 myths you need to combat to get everyone on board.

Myth #1: All students learn better in person

After COVID-19 forced colleges and universities to send students home or reduce class capacity, it was easy to focus on the negative. Students complained that online education just wasn’t worth the tuition payments, and faculty experienced an incredibly steep learning curve.

But what was missing in the sensationalistic reports was the number of remote students who experienced success in their classes – enough that 68% of postsecondary students said that they wanted hybrid options in the future.

Just as some employees have discovered they work better without long commutes and the distractions of the office, some students have discovered that they learn better outside the classroom.

Others may prefer the classroom most days but appreciate the option to join class remotely when juggling a busy schedule or suffering from a cold. HyFlex and hybrid courses give students the flexibility to learn in the way that suits them.

Myth #2: It’s needed just for pandemic-level emergencies

COVID-19 was the impetus for a wave of hybrid learning like we’ve never seen before. But that’s not where its origins lie.

For example, HyFlex – which places a premium on student choice and flexibility – has been around since around 2006. And though it’s played a key role this past year in keeping students safe, hybrid learning will enable institutions to keep meeting student needs when COVID-19 is a distant memory.

Plus everything that made hybrid learning essential during the pandemic can also help students manage all of life’s smaller emergencies. Students who are feeling too sick to come to class but not too sick to learn can join class remotely. And students attending school while also taking care of children or working a job can benefit from the increased flexibility that hybrid learning brings.

Myth #3: Lectures are the only way to go

When you picture hybrid learning, a professor live streaming lectures is sometimes what comes to mind. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right classroom setup, there’s no reason why hybrid and HyFlex learning can’t include opportunities for students to work together.

For this to be effective, you’ll need technology tools that encourage communication and participation. Full-room audio lets in-room students have natural conversations with those who are remote (here’s how we can help). And nonconventional communication methods – like a shared backchannel and breakout rooms – can encourage more communication than you might get in a traditional full-class discussion.

Myth #4: Remote students mostly tune out

In traditional classrooms, instructors have many ways to see how well their points are landing. Eye contact and body language help assess who’s actually listening, and it’s usually obvious when someone starts multitasking on their laptop or phone.

In hybrid classrooms it’s not that easy, leading some to assume that remote students are simply tuning out. That can be the case, of course. But some remote students may actually be more focused when outside of the distractions of the classroom. Neurodiverse students are one group that has reported being better able to focus from their home or dorm room.

Audience engagement in hybrid classes may not look quite the same. But there are different ways to communicate. For example, many hybrid classes use a backchannel that allows students to type their comments or questions instead of speaking aloud, increasing participation from introverts.

It also helps to set the tone that hybrid classes will be about participation, not just passive listening. Here are 21 hybrid learning activities to get students engaged.

Myth #5: Students won’t develop the skills they need

Getting students ready to face the challenges that lie ahead can be tricky. After all, how can we predict exactly what skills students will need to be ready for the jobs of the future? So it’s natural that some worry that a new method of learning like hybrid just won’t be up to the challenge.

But one thing that seems likely – the world of work, especially knowledge work, has been forever changed by COVID-19. What began as emergency procedures to keep people safe turned into a preferred way of working for many people. So when students graduate, it’s looking more and more likely that they’ll be joining an organization where hybrid work is the norm.

HyFlex courses at college or university help prepare students to thrive in the new hybrid workforce. They’ll learn how to collaborate effectively during hybrid meetings, developing the ability to engage with both remote and in-person participants at the same time. Hybrid courses can also hone the development of a variety of asynchronous communication skills.

Myth #6: It’s all or nothing

As more colleges and universities explore hybrid learning models, it’s becoming apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Some students prefer full-time hybrid learning, while others may want to balance a traditional schedule with one or two HyFlex courses. Some postsecondary institutions may set up full-time hybrid learning classrooms, while others may want to use the technology of hybrid learning (UC&C platforms and other conferencing tools) in all their classes to give options for occasional remote participation or virtual guest lectures.

We may not know what lies ahead, but it seems unlikely that hybrid learning is going anywhere. And by being very clear on what it is – and what it isn’t – it’s easier to find the right place for it on your campus.

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Topics: Higher education Hybrid learning