Blended hybrid learning is being adapted satisfactorily for universities

Designing an effective hybrid class requires a complete overhaul of the learning space and pedagogy to renovate the classroom architecture and infrastructure.

At JK Laxmipat University, after successfully completing over a hundred courses in various disciplines in online mode in the last one and a half years, the experience of many faculties teaching in hybrid mode in the last few weeks has not been so satisfactory. They are now eagerly awaiting to return to full physical class. The response from students and teachers at other universities has been similar.

Hybrid classes create an additional cognitive load on teachers as they often have to shift their focus between their computer screens, classroom writing boards, and physically present students. Facilitating smooth interaction between personal and online students can also be very challenging. There are many technical solutions available to help manage these challenges. However, designing an effective hybrid class requires a complete overhaul of the learning space and pedagogy to rearrange the architecture and infrastructure of the classroom.

In mixed learning, a whole group of students are alternated between physical and online engagement. In mixed learning, online learning complements physical classroom learning through online learning resources as well as online communication and collaboration platforms to create a rich learning experience. Properly designed blended learning can take advantage of the best features of both physical and online learning. Both hybrid and blended teaching models can be creatively integrated.

The rise of hybrid education

The epidemic forced every teacher and student to use the technical platform to continue their teaching-learning process despite the initial hiccups. According to a UNESCO report, the learning process of about 220 million university and college students worldwide has been severely damaged. Hybrid, as well as primarily online education, has emerged as the most popular form in all income level countries. However, still, many teachers and students feel that online classes are just a weak alternative to physical classes. In our own experience at JKLU, too, a large number of students and teachers have revealed that reliance on online classes alone is not suitable for serious learning.

In many learning situations, students’ concrete experience, active experimentation, construction and construction of physical patterns, and deep collaboration play important roles in facilitating deep learning. As a result, despite their capabilities and advantages, online classes may not provide an ideal environment for such experiential engagement. Often they do not provide an ideal connection between a student, a colleague and their teachers. However, with the boundless threat of Covid’s third wave, universities are still reluctant to return to full physical classes. So, instead of full physical or full online mode, mixed and hybrid learning is a reasonable option for continuous learning in the current situation.

Both hybrid and mixed learning methods integrate physical and online modes in different ways. In hybrid education, different groups of students attend the class simultaneously physically and practically. Teachers need to address the learning needs of both individual and online students.

The way forward

Even after the end of the epidemic, fully online, hybrid as well as mixed education models are here to stay. They are evolving rapidly and transforming higher education. Many universities are using these to design new programs and increase their enrollment. However, effective use of these teaching methods in our universities and colleges will require adoption and development of new instructional and evaluation strategies. An education center should be set up in every university and college to assist in this process. Also, it requires proper investment in infrastructure and technology upgrades as well as faculty training. And more importantly, it requires a change of mindset in education leadership, including promoters, policy makers, regulators and accreditation agencies.

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