Sunday, June 21, 2020

Moving to a Hybrid Learning Model

We don’t know for sure what education will look like in the future, but one thing is for sure, and that is the need to adapt and evolve.   The pandemic shuttered schools across the globe, and lessons, some of which were very hard, were learned.  As re-entry planning either begins or continues in earnest, the priority must be to transform learning in ways that provide kids with the best experience possible while ensuring the safety of all.  It goes without saying that this is no small feat. In a previous post, I outlined eight specific focus areas, in no particular order, that can help to usher in a new and better normal.  Now decisions must be made as to what this will actually look like in reality.

Business as usual just won’t cut it.  The lessons learned during COVID19 provide opportunities to re-envision what schools can be.  Now efforts have to be made in developing a practical path forward.  So, what might this look like going forward? My thinking as of late has been around a hybrid learning model.  At this point, they are just thoughts, but each can be a powerful catalyst to initiating and sustaining a transformation of education at scale. The premise though is to not only incorporate what has been learned up to this point during one of the most disruptive times in history but also to perceive what might come next. Failing to prepare for the unknown or addressing the slew of challenges that arose when schools were closed means that nothing was learned.  

The premise of a hybrid learning model is to combine traditional and non-traditional methodologies to improve education while ensuring that high-quality learning for all kids is the gold standard.  To start, a workable definition must be established to begin creating a vision for this model.  Take this definition from Learning Technologies:
Hybrid learning combines face-to-face and online teaching into one cohesive experience. Approximately half of the class sessions are on-campus, while the other half have students working online. Although that may sound like a cut-and-dry formula, a lot of planning is needed to ensure that hybrid works well, allowing its two formats to capitalize on each other’s strengths.
There is a lot more detail in this report that they developed. Hybrid, in the context of this post, represents the combination of two or more different things. Some might argue that education has always embraced this approach. Yes, to some extent, but definitely not scaled in a way that has led to system-wide transformation.  With the inherent challenges ahead, a uniform hybrid model is necessary for success.  The image below begins to visualize what this could look like as schools begin to transform teaching, learning, and leadership.  


It’s not a matter if, but when kids return to school. The most powerful relationships for students form through interactions with teachers, administrators, and peers. In most cases, the consensus is that high-quality instruction and effective pedagogy are facilitated best when educators are physically with their students. The key is to utilize the time better. 


Personalized learning represents a movement from the “what” to the “who” as a means to facilitate student ownership of the learning process. It consists of high-agency strategies that focus on voice, choice, path, pace, and place both with and without technology. Check out this post for more detailed information.

Blended Learning

One of the best strategies to personalize the experience for students is blended learning. Blended instruction is what the teacher does with technology. Blended learning is where students use tech to have control over path, place, and pace.  The key is to focus on sound pedagogical strategies that will help to ensure improving student learning outcomes. 

Adaptive learning tools

The success of a hybrid model does, in part, rely on the purposeful and strategic use of technology. These can be instrumental in providing needed or supplemental support to close achievement gaps, provide independent practice, and help learners move ahead if they have already mastered the content.  Blended pathways are the best options for the seamless integration of adaptive learning tools. 

Social distancing

With new and potential clusters of COVID19 appearing, many schools across the globe will be mandated to implement social distancing measures. A hybrid model accounts for this fact, and its success relies on budgeting, existing space redesign, and professional learning support. 

Flexible schedules

The premise behind any hybrid-learning model is altering the “traditional” school day schedule (and calendar for that matter) to make the best use of time and resources. The literature on this goes way back, and it just makes sense. Flexible scheduling patterns address the concern for more appropriate learning environments for students and respond to the need, not for schools to be more organized, but to be more flexible and creative in their use of time (Spear, 1992). Flexible scheduling allows schools to optimize time, space, staff, and facilities and to add variety to their curriculum offerings and teaching strategies (Canady & Rettig, 1995). Pandemic or not, this is long overdue.

Remote Learning

Distance and virtual are appropriate where all kids have access to a device and the Internet. Remote, on the other hand, focuses on both digital and non-digital pathways to keep realistic learning going. With social distancing and flexible schedules having a considerable role in any hybrid learning model, the need to adequately prepare for and implement remote learning while ensuring equity is paramount. For more information, check out my entire remote learning series

Health and safety

I will echo what many others have said, “Maslow’s before Bloom’s.”  Above all else, we need to make sure each and every person in a school system feels safe, and measures are taken to both prevent and address any COVID19 issues.  For more specifics, refer to this post

As I stated previously, these are just some ideas that are floating around in my head. What I do know is that learner and educator success going forward will rely on a hybrid-learning model. Business as usual in the face of current challenges and those lurking in the shadows down the road has given us all a golden opportunity to transform education. My hope is that schools take it. 

Canady, R. L. & Rettig, M. D. (1995). Block scheduling: A catalyst for change in high schools. Princeton, NJ: Eye On Education

Spear, R. C. (1992). Middle level team scheduling: Appropriate grouping for adolescents. Schools in the Middle, 2(1), 30–34. 


  1. Suggestions on how to carry out a SUCCESSFUL Healthy Active Living Program that is engaging and meaningful to students? Social distancing is going to pose BIG challenges! I am open to all suggestions

    1. A great question, which in large part will be influenced by what your state or country decides in terms of safety mandates. Besides the obvious (masks, temperature checks, sanitizing dispensers, routine cleanings) my thinking is a alternating model where half the kids are in school while tho other are connected remotely. This assumes though that there is adequate WIFI and device access. Changes to classrooms and hallway traffic also have to be implemented. Here is what one district is doing

  2. Yeah Blended Learning is burning topic these days

  3. I see we're still building the airplane while we're flying it.
    Until the federal government releases funding to underwrite PAYMENT FOR PPE, these discussions of returning to school are premature.