To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid?

To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid
Education Trends

To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid?

Language Schools planning for another uncertain academic year wonder: To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid? A new academic year for language schools is about to start and unfortunately, there is as much uncertainty about the Covid situation for this coming autumn as there was a year ago. Hybrid Teaching/Learning can be a solution for language schools and freelancers who need to keep students’ numbers strong.

Hybrid Learning? Isn’t hybrid just about cars?

I heard about hybrid learning for the first time in the summer of 2020 through my teacher friends in America, where the hybrid model went mainstream back then. After that, I decided to research hybrid learning for my own professional interest. Unfortunately, last summer there was almost no literature about it and a lot of concern on how to put it into practice. A year later there is still little info out there about hybrid teaching implementation and dynamics but the information and references I will be sharing in this blog post are pretty good. Read on!

Hybrid Learning in Italy

Hybrid learning landed on Italian Unis in the autumn and also upper-secondary schools had to embark on hybrid mode or dual delivery (as it is also called) and went on for most of the academic year. In the meantime, most language schools were entirely online with only a handful experimenting with hybrid lessons on a trial and error basis. The same happened in many other countries around the world.

Hybrid in Language Schools?

That’s an interesting question! On the one hand, we all know that students prefer face to face lessons but we also know that many students or prospective students may not meet the requirements to attend lessons in person this year. Also, there are other factors like students who want to save time, those who want to avoid public transport or others that live in remote areas. 

On the other hand, language schools and freelancers in EFL have seen a drop in student numbers due to the pandemic. As a result, there is an urge to find a solution to keep numbers up and that is when language schools need to be flexible and resourceful.

To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid?

The hesitance of some DOS and school owners comes from various factors such as lack of literature that is reassuring, the investment in the technology needed, lack of guidance for teachers, doubts about its pedagogical effectiveness to mention just a few. However, including hybrid learning as part of your language school offer can help you stay afloat as the pandemic continues into the academic year 2021/2022. In other words, having the hybrid option available means reaching out to more students.

What’s Hybrid Learning exactly?

The term has been used for many different scenarios of blended learning so here’s the one I’m referring to in this blog post:

Hybrid learning is “when remote students and in-person students participate in the same lesson and remote students are actively engaged synchronously in the activities” as explained in the Hybrid Teaching Insights Panel Session by English Australia. 

 There are various types of digital teaching scenarios out there and if you would like to have clarity on the various terms and types of digital learning  I do recommend reading the paper “Building a Taxonomy for digital learning” by The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) downloadable here.

Another valid document I would suggest reading is the report on the survey conducted by the NILE “A survey of instances of, and attitudes to, Hybrid Learning in Language Teaching Organisations”. Both documents can be a great asset for all staff and help you reflect on the pros and cons, make informed decisions and have better conversations with students and parents about the choice of the course delivery.

What to consider when going hybrid?

During the panel discussion “Hybrid teaching insights” by English Australia there was plenty of advice for successful hybrid lessons and essentially success is very much about planning, testing and keeping everything simple.

To discover all the secrets of making Hybrid-flexible lessons work successfully, do check the recording of the session. You will gain a clear insight into good practice and tons of excellent tips

Here is my takeaway with the most important tips shared by the panel discussion “Hybrid teaching insights” :

  • Reduce the cognitive load of the teacher.
  • Train teachers to feel comfortable.
  • Pilot a class and reflect before you implement Hybrid learning your school
Set up
  • Check the bare minimum you need to deliver lessons, prepare and send materials.
  • Use a wireless keyboard
  • Have a PPT remote control
  • Record the lesson
  • Agree with remote students how to communicate in case of a glitch
  • Normalize glitches and time lag!
  • Have eye contact with in-person students
  • Look into the webcam so remote students feel involved
Lesson planning and material
  • Organize all files in one place
  • Allow extra time to prepare and send material
  • Have checklists for Ts about set-ups
  • Have basic troubleshooting checklists
  • Bookmark links

Hybrid is much more than putting these (face-to-face and remote students) together. You need to bridge them otherwise there’s a gap.”

Sophia Mavridi , Digital Learning Specialist & Lecturer in English Language Teaching, De Montfort University ,Leicester, UK.

So, To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid?

All things considered, going hybrid in language schools may present some initial challenges and it will certainly need thought and planning. On a positive note, it will also add flexibility to your course offer helping you to be more competitive in your market.

In conclusion, like John John Glew-O’Leary Director at IH Manchester suggests: Why not “open your virtual doors”?

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