With the rise of education technology, schools have adopted teaching methods that diverge from the typical classroom environment. Distance learning is being used at a global scale, and many educational institutions are starting to implement hybrid learning models.

However, hybrid learning is more than just tossing half of your syllabus into a virtual classroom. Instead, it's a comprehensive approach to combining the best parts of face-to-face and online learning to create the ideal learning experience.

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What Is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning is an educational model where some students attend class in-person, while others join the class virtually from home. Educators teach remote and in-person students at the same time using tools like video conferencing hardware and software.

In some cases, hybrid classes include asynchronous learning elements, like online exercises and pre-recorded video instruction, to support face-to-face classroom sessions. When planned well, hybrid courses combine the best aspects of in-person and online learning while making education more attainable for many students. For hybrid learning to be successful, the elements of your hybrid course need to be tailored to the learning format, whether it be in-person or online.


Hybrid vs. Blended Learning

Hybrid learning and blended learning can often be mistaken for one another, and both contain many of the same instructional elements. However, both are two distinct learning models.

Blended learning combines in-person teaching with asynchronous learning methods, where students work on online exercises and watch instructional videos during their own time.

Hybrid learning is a teaching method where teachers instruct in-person and remote students at the same time. In hybrid learning models, asynchronous teaching methods can be used to supplement synchronous, face-to-face instruction.


Hybrid Learning Consortium

The Hybrid Learning Consortium is a global learning community of independent schools that develops online courses for middle and upper school students. The HLC believes that online learning is here to stay, but face-to-face learning will never cease to be relevant.

By creating online academic experiences that are just as accessible as classroom lessons, HLC embraces the untapped possibilities of hybrid learning. With partnering schools around the globe, students are exposed to teachers and classmates with an otherwise unattainable worldview. To learn more about the future of hybrid learning through the Hybrid Learning Consortium, click here.


Benefits of Hybrid Learning

Both face-to-face and online learning have their benefits and weaknesses. The goal of hybrid learning is to combine the two formats to create a singular learning experience without any weak spots. The benefits of hybrid learning are:


A flexible learning experience.

Many schools transition to hybrid learning for flexibility: a flexible learning schedule, flexibility in teaching modes, flexibility in how students engage with their learning materials, and flexibility in collaboration and communication between peers and their instructor. For students who aren't able to attend classes in-person, the hybrid learning environment allows them to learn remotely from home.


Synchronous communication opportunities.

Few learning experiences match the immediacy and intimacy of in-person academic discussions. The face-to-face aspect of hybrid learning benefits from the opportunity for real-time engagement between peers.

This time is best used for synchronous group work, presentations with a Q&A portion, and deep conversations. Take advantage of the in-person time you have together to form meaningful, academic relationships, and then take those relationships online.

hybrid learning can include elements of online learningSource


The freedom of independent academic exploration.

Online learning comes with many freedoms. Those students who excel at self-management and independent learning will thrive under these freedoms: the freedom to learn from the location of their choosing, the freedom to revisit materials any number of times at any pace, and the freedom to develop an in-depth asynchronous discourse with your peers.


More efficient use of resources.

Just like when you attend a meeting that you know could have been an email, it can be frustrating to attend an in-person class where all the students are doing individual virtual work. When planning your syllabus and scheduling which classes will take place online and which are face-to-face, take into account what resources you will need for each lesson and plan accordingly, optimizing the use of resources.


Hybrid Learning Model

Hybrid learning models come in many different forms, depending on the content and instructor's expectations for the course. The above example highlights one way to combine virtual and in-person learning, which was created by the Christensen Institute.

Hybrid Learning Model Diagram

Source: Christensen Institute

When creating your own hybrid learning model, the College of DuPage offers a jumping-off point with its hybrid teaching workbook. This hybrid learning model provides you with a foundation and step-by-step instructions for setting up your hybrid class


Hybrid Learning Model Class Structure

When structuring your new hybrid course, be sure to give yourself ample time to plan your materials and activities. The focus of planning a hybrid class is to make sure that each assignment is done in the correct format, as opposed to a strictly in-person or online class where you know the medium of each assignment.

But, how do you determine which materials are best served through which medium? First, gather your course materials. Then, follow our step-by-step guide.


1. Set your semester goals.

What do you plan to accomplish with your hybrid class? By setting long and short term goals for yourself and your class, you can explain the key expectations to your students.

Determine these goals and their corresponding assessment, and work backward to structure the rest of your course. This backtracking from the end of the semester to your very first session will ensure that all of your assignments and materials serve your course directly.


2. Map it out.

Now that you've determined the goals of your course, and how your students will be assessed, you'll need to map out how they'll navigate your class. Create a chart, table, timeline, or another visual tool to outline your course modules, and their respective activities and resources, in chronological order. By mapping your course visually, it will be easier for you to spot any course holes or underdeveloped activities.


3. Determine which course objectives are best served as in-person activities.

Now that you've determined what your course will look like, it's time to factor in the hybrid element. Your face-to-face class time should be reserved for activities that require activities such as:


  • Synchronous group brainstorming sessions
  • Communicating class expectations and outlining individual responsibilities
  • Establishing a collaborative, trust-based learning environment
  • Call and response presentations
  • Providing immediate feedback to students

Pro tip: Remember that synchronous, face-to-face time can happen in-person, or virtually. If some students are in the classroom, while others are learning from home, you can use video conferencing tools to connect with one another.

Which video conference camera is right for you?


4. Determine the online portion of your course.

You'll notice that one main element of your hybrid course not mentioned in the face-to-face section is the deliverance of information. While in-person time is reserved for synchronous and group discussions, the majority of personal assignments will be done virtually. Additionally, the other activities that make up the online portion of your hybrid class can include:


  • Self-paced learning and activity completion
  • Automatic grading programs such as multiple choice of True/False quizzes
  • Asynchronous group discussions
  • Written critical analysis and thoughtful discourse
  • Video or aural content consumption

5. Create and source content.

Once you've mapped out the modules in your course, you'll need to create and source the content that will be used by your students. This is the time for you to create assignments, find all reading materials, source your video content, and finalize your syllabus.

If your school has experience with hybrid classes, adapting archived resources and tailoring them to fit your class structure is a great place to start. Additionally, resources can be found on flagship education websites and managing discussion forums.


6. Give your hybrid learning plan a trial run.

Congratulations, you've created a successful hybrid learning environment! The only thing left to do, before your course begins, is to do a trial run of the online portion of your course. You want your course to be fluid and accessible, without encountering any surprise technology speed bumps along the way. If possible, have a fellow faculty member or trusted former student test the course for you. Having an extra set of eyes on your course is always a good idea, and those unfamiliar with the creation of your course will be more likely to spot gray areas.


Hybrid Teaching Tips

To ensure your new hybrid course runs smoothly, here are some bonus hybrid teaching tips just for you:


  1. Don't be afraid to redesign. The course map you created is not set in stone, as you move through the semester, lean into the strengths that arise and redesign to accommodate for any weaknesses that get exposed.
  2. Use online work to offer targeted learning plans, extensions, or one-on-one teaching for individual students.
  3. Provide mobile learning options for the online portion of your course.
  4. Be open to feedback, and really learn from your student's experiences.
  5. Don't overload on online assignments, just because they can be completed anywhere doesn't mean they take any less time than face-to-face work.
  6. Integrate the online and the in-person. A successful hybrid course is only as strong as the relationship between its two halves.
  7. Embrace your hybrid community. If you find yourself stuck or frustrated, turn to other hybrid class instructors that you respect: their experience and wisdom are priceless.
  8. Explain the purpose and expectations of your hybrid class clearly and often. If this format is new to you, there is a good chance it is new to your students as well.
  9. Provide students with self and time management tips so they aren't left treading water as soon as they leave the classroom. This is especially helpful for students who have never completed online coursework before.
  10. Connect your students to a trusted IT hotline for any technical issues that may arise.

Just as academia has embraced the world of hybrid experiences, so has the modern workforce. To transition your fully on-site or remote team to the hybrid world, here's everything you need to know.

Learn From Anywhere: Hybrid Learning Readiness Checklist