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Published
Nov 9, 2021

Hybrid Teaching: Strategies and Tips for K-12 Education

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For more than a decade, hybrid teaching and hybrid learning have been a growing trend, with more and more schools dabbling with or embracing the format. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic greatly increased both the pace of implementation and the overall adoption rate of many virtual and hybrid formats.

In March 2021, over 16% of U.S. K-12 students were in virtual-only learning, while a little over 30% were in hybrid instruction environments. As schools settled their reopening plans for fall 2021, a full 20% of schools planned on a hybrid model.

Whether you’re a hybrid teaching fan or you’re just looking for strategies to go from surviving to thriving in this new learning environment, this guide will help propel your hybrid teaching style to the next level. We’ll also look at how it differs from flipped and blended learning environments.

But first, we need to get our definitions straight. Let’s start with hybrid teaching itself.

What is hybrid teaching?

A hybrid teaching model is when some students receive in-class, face-to-face instruction while other students receive out-of-class, online instruction. It may be a 50/50 mix, or it may be that three or four students receive virtual instruction while the rest are in the classroom as usual. 

Hybrid teaching became much more common during the COVID-19 pandemic when school districts limited classroom sizes and gave parents the choice of whether to have their children “attend” in class or from home. However, this model is sticking around because it offers a variety of benefits to districts, teachers, students, and parents. 

We’ll go over the major perks of hybrid teaching shortly. (Watch the video below to see how you can engage students in a hybrid environment!)

Hybrid vs. flipped vs. blended classroom experiences

You’ve probably also encountered terms like “blended classroom” and “flipped classroom.” You may have seen these terms used interchangeably with “hybrid.” And if you’ve done much reading on the subject, you’ve probably also seen overlapping or even contradictory definitions. 

We’ll attempt to clarify the different models below. We already defined hybrid above, so that leaves flipped and blended.

Flipped classroom: A flipped classroom is a learning structure in which students receive their instruction time, reading, lectures, and so on while they’re at home. Usually, prerecorded videos are involved here. When students go back to class with their teacher, they do the hands-on stuff: work through problems, ask and answer questions, collaborate with students, get 1:1 time with their teacher, and so forth.

A flipped classroom can be a powerful educational model. And it can be done as part of a hybrid teaching model, but it can just as easily work in traditional all-in-person classrooms.

Blended classroom: You’ll find more variation with this term than the others. Most consider blended to mean mostly traditional (face-to-face) instruction but with some strategic uses of technology, where technology supplements but doesn’t replace face-to-face instruction.

And then, confusingly, some educators and researchers used the term “blended” for several years to refer to what most would call “hybrid” today.

The moral of the story is this: When you see or hear these terms, make sure you know what the speaker or writer means.

Benefits of hybrid teaching

A hybrid teaching model can take some getting used to, but it can also create many benefits for students and teachers alike. Consider these four benefits and whether they can create a positive impact on your classroom.

More time for students to focus on learning

In a hybrid teaching model, students will save time on commuting and have more time to learn. Special needs students can also benefit from the hybrid format in many cases. Depending on the specifics of your hybrid model, students may also gain more control in how and when they interact with each other and with teachers.

Provides teachers increased flexibility on how they instruct

Both traditional and online teaching have strengths and weaknesses that better support certain students than others. But hybrid teaching allows teachers to capitalize on the strengths of both approaches.

In the classroom setting, students still receive the real-time interaction, body language, and in-person engagement that can be so crucial for learning. But students can also utilize video tools, reading, and audio-rich resources that are common in online instruction.

Teachers gain additional flexibility in how they instruct, and they can bring these two worlds together to enhance the strengths of each.

Gives parents, teachers, and students direct access to information

Because hybrid models include both online and in-person students, many will be receiving instruction via recorded video lectures or electronic announcements. As a result, any important information and learning materials go directly from the school to the home, allowing parents to access them too. 

With this shift, parents aren’t left wondering if their student’s notes or interpretations are accurate — now they have direct access.

Handy tips and effective strategies for hybrid teaching models

There are plenty of benefits to using a hybrid teaching model, and a majority of teachers agree with this — with some caveats. One survey found that 94% of teachers are in favor of a hybrid class, but only with the right support, tools, and strategies.

We want to help with this, so let’s start with some tips and strategies that can help you improve the learning experience for all learners (and stay sane in the process).

Follow best instructional practices but use video lessons to support them

In a hybrid model, video in all forms is crucial for success. We know that not every teacher feels confident on live video or creating videos yet, and that’s completely normal. Before the pandemic, most of us were extremely familiar with in-person classes, while few teachers had significant experience managing remote students, let alone checking in with both groups in a hybrid model.

As you start creating video lesson content to augment live video conferencing, follow best screencasting practices. Each video should start with a clear learning objective and feature a beginning, a middle, and end. 

Think about any form of video content that you like consuming, like a tutorial or “quick history” style video, and follow the big-picture structure when creating your own content. Notes, highlighted text, drawings, and images are attention-grabbers and can increase learning comprehension. 

Also, videos need to be engaging and an appropriate length for your grade level to keep students’ attention. Research shows that after 2 to 3 minutes, people’s minds start wandering. Try to break longer video lessons into short, punchy segments. 

Personalize student learning with good pre- and post-assessment processes

Teachers should have evaluative measures in place so they’ll know exactly where each student is starting. They need a way to find out how far they’ve come at the end of a lesson. This might include tracking grades or time to complete assignments, as well as skill and concept assessments. 

These ongoing temperature checks will aid you as you plan future instruction and more personalized content for each student, where possible, regardless of their physical location. (Learn how Screencastify helps assess student learning in the video below!)

Encourage online students and in-person students to work together

At first, the fact that some students are at home on certain days while others are in the classroom with you might seem like a detriment or obstacle. But you can use this unique format to your advantage.

Online interactive content should be a key component of hybrid courses, and you should make sure online discussions include both groups. Doing so will keep online students accountable and allow each student to leverage their strengths in small group work.

Through group work, students in the instructional at-home mode and those in the work-and-practice mode can combine forces and get more out of every learning activity.

Take advantage of interactive tools to enhance this style

Effective hybrid teachers use a combo of interactive tools, apps, and learning technology to enhance their hybrid classroom. These tools can be accessed and mastered from home or in the classroom.

With the right toolset, students can participate and interact no matter where they are, adding to class discussions, asking helpful questions, and more. In addition, mastering these tools also teaches your students important professional development skills, helping them build confidence with productivity and collaboration software.

The corporate world is full of digital tools like Google Docs and Sheets, PowerPoint, Screencastify (that’s us!), and so on. By becoming adept in these tools now, students prepare themselves for a lifetime of digital literacy.

Great hybrid teaching resources worth checking out

To succeed as a hybrid classroom teacher, you need more than a list of quick tips. You need ongoing guidance and the right tools to get the job done. Get up to speed and improve your hybrid teaching with these resources:

Modern Classroom Project: The Modern Classroom Project is a research-backed instructional model described as a student-centered approach to blended learning. They offer courses and mentorship programs for teachers along with school district level partnerships. 

Google Classroom and Your LMS: Your school’s learning management system (LMS) will likely be a central component of your hybrid teaching strategy, serving as a repository for your digital resources and a hub for any digital instruction or assessment.

Google Classroom is a free blended learning platform from Google that can serve as a complement or extension to your LMS, making it even easier to share files with your students and their parents. (Check out our list of the 10 best Chrome extensions for teachers here.) 

Screencastify is the perfect video instruction tool for your hybrid learning environment

If you’re recording and creating asynchronous videos for your hybrid classroom, choose the tool that’s built for educators everywhere. Screencastify is used by teachers in more than 70% of U.S. school districts. You can create screencasts with audio or video narration, add helpful text, and share it with anyone — all with a few clicks.

If you’re looking for a better, easier way to create online videos for your classroom, check out what Screencastify has to offer teachers.

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