The dictionary meaning of hybrid is “the offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, especially as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics”, and if you search for the meaning of ‘Hybrid Learning’ you will encounter various definitions that sugarcoat the awkward marriage of online and onsite teaching and learning! Why have I used the word awkward? Well, it is from the personal experiences of being a teacher in the hybrid classrooms teaching online and onsite, simultaneously.
Some schools that have been fortunate to reopen post the Covid19 pandemic have also been fortunate to have delivered a hybrid teaching and learning model. In this model, the teacher is responsible for the growth and nurturing of a classroom that is online and onsite at the same time. The initial trial and error stage is a lot of fun, it’s also keeping us teachers on our toes. Let’s put on the humour hat to take a stroll through the hybrid teaching and learning environment.
Talking to a machine
It is one thing to find a student sleeping in the classroom during lessons and it is completely another experience to find yourself talking to a machine not knowing if the student on the other side of the machine is awake or sleeping. Student can mute audio and stop the video and the teacher will never know if they are taking to the student or just the machine. Note that students could be recording the lesson instead of actually being present. The saving grace, when you talk to the machine, it listens and does not interrupt at all.
A teacher decides the classroom groups to ensure a certain kind of balance, either academic or behavioural. In hybrid classrooms, it is the time zone or the internet connectivity that decides the group work dynamics. Students in the same time zone prefer to work together and the ones who are on poor Wi-Fi networks just decide to work in incognito mode. While in the classroom group work there is a lot of chitter-chatter, the group work online is silent but on the chat mode, chat-ter without chitter.
Imagine having to share your workspace with all your students, all students writing at the same time on the same space, your space, on your laptop. Your desktop, tabs, documents, icons are visible to them via screen share and apple TV projection (both required to run simultaneously to accommodate online and onsite students). There are also students who suddenly pop up on the screen while they are eating or tucked inside a blanket, as they are engaged in remote learning. And the person making the most appearances on the screen is you, the teacher. I do put extra make-up nowadays, but it isn’t helping in getting rid of the awkward feeling of being watched round the clock.
Imagine supervising students during exams and supervising a laptop on a desk that has a student on the other side of the globe taking a test in the middle of the night, due to the time difference. While students are crunching numbers to get answers to their questions, I am crunching my fists to keep my calm in ensuring academic integrity halfway across the globe. It also takes more than one device to complete online exams; students use the phone to broadcast themselves taking exams and use the laptop to complete the exam. I am sure this doubles the exam fun for students.
Grades depend on students work, but with hybrid teaching and learning, most of the student grades depend on the internet connectivity, the student clicking on submit, and technical compatibility of the devices. Grades no longer are a measure of academic ability or cognitive skills; it is a measure of the quality of technology available to teachers and students. Better the technology, higher the grades.
My grade 12 students enter; there are thirteen students on roll in my subject but only seven of them come in. I am wondering where is the rest. I check the school database management system to find out that all students are present, so I start searching, sending messages, and frantically hunting the rest five students; when suddenly my apple TV starts speaking to me and all five students appear on the screen. They were not missing, they were hidden in the virtual world. So, what looks like a small class with only seven in the classroom is actually bigger with five outside the classroom, country and even continent, joining remotely to be part of hybrid learning.
The hybrid teaching and learning is a new paradigm; it is forcing teachers worldwide to frantically design pedagogy for meeting diverse needs of learners; it is becoming a business opportunity for many organisations/individuals/ self-declared remote learning experts who are offering a plethora of online professional development opportunities; it is compelling parents to rethink about their investment into expensive education; it is driving a change in education policies and standards; it is the biggest change we all anticipated but did not prepare for. Even though it is all fun now it is only a matter of time that this hybrid model will become a prodigy in education.