Lately I have gotten the same question from teachers over and over again, and now that I have been living this hybrid experience for a little while, I feel like I can appropriately answer the question and give some advice.
The question I have been receiving is…
“What strategies do you have for teaching in a hybrid model?”
Now that more and more schools are starting to shift back to in-person teaching and into this hybrid model, teachers are having to learn how to juggle teaching on Zoom and teaching in person at the same time.
Teachers are having to make sure they’re following social distancing protocols.
They are making sure their tech is set up.
They have to deliver content to students who are located in different places.
They are pulled in a million directions.
The reality is that hybrid teaching is really hard.
I’m not going to pretend it’s a walk in the park…
But I do have some tips that I think can make the experience more manageable. I’m sharing some strategies that are tech-related, strategies that are classroom-management related, and even some tips to help support students with the transition from a social emotional perspective.
Today I’m sharing my top 5 tips for hybrid and hyflex teaching.
Hybrid Model vs. Hyflex Model
Before I share my tips, I briefly want to outline the differences between a hybrid model and a hyflex model. Many school leaders use the term “hybrid” when they mean to say “hyflex,” so I just want to define all these terms so we’re on the same page for this blog post.
Hybrid learning combines face-to-face synchronous instruction (i.e. learning that happens in your physical classroom) with online learning. The online part can be synchronous (i.e. a real-time class on Zoom) or asynchronous (i.e.an activity that students can complete on their own time).
In a hybrid model, all students undergo the same amount of face-to-face in-person time and the same amount of online learning.
The term “hyflex” is a little different.
Hyflex combines “hybrid” and “flexible.” If you’ve been teaching in this hyflex model, it honestly might feel anything BUT flexible.
The “flexible” part of HyFlex is really just referring to the fact that students have the choice to either participate in the class in-person OR online. “Hyflex “really just means that the teacher is teaching in-person AND online at the same time. The teacher might have students face-to-face in their physical classroom and also students who are attending face-to-face via Zoom or another video conferencing platform.
TIP #1: Utilize a Learning Hub
Many schools have edtech platforms called Learning Management Systems. Some educators shorten this term to “LMS.”
Learning hub is a term I like to use – I don’t know if I made it up or if other people use it too – but it is a term I use to describe this idea because I think a lot of people can conceptualize this idea of having a learning hub or a home base.
If your school or district has a learning management system, chances are you probably know. It would be something like Canvas or Schoology – a tool to share, distribute, and assess assignments.
If your school or district does not have an LMS, don’t worry because there are tons of other tech platforms that you could use as your learning hub for hybrid teaching.
You might have a class website that you created using Google Sites. You might have a Bitmoji Classroom. Whatever it might be – I recommend that you have a centralized digital space to house all of your materials for hybrid teaching.
You might have been already doing this during remote teaching, which is great, and if you haven’t, no worries. Any time is a great time to start.
The idea here is that…
Just like your physical classroom acts as a starting point for a day of in-person, face-to-face learning, having something like a class website or a learning management system can serve a similar purpose. It’s a launching point for students to be able to grab their materials.
When you’re teaching kids in-person AND online, a learning hub is going to be key because you will be able to distribute assignments AND receive completed work all in one centralized location. You’ll be able to give feedback to your Zoomies (the kids online) and your Roomies (the kids in your classroom) all in the same place.
TIP #2: Connect your Zoomies and Roomies
“Zoomies” refers to students learning ONLINE. “Roomies” refers to students learning IN-PERSON.
This tip is best for a hyflex model (where you are having to balance teaching in-person and online at the same time). My recommendation is to create a class job for a student in your physical classroom (Roomie) whose job it is to help out the Zoomies when you are helping other kids in the classroom.
For example, let’s say you just taught a lesson and there are Zoomies and Roomies with questions…
A Roomie can communicate with the Zoomies while you answer questions in your classroom. The Roomie might even be able to help clarify the question for the Zoomies. Then, when you finish answering the classroom questions, you can check-in with the Zoomies in case they have additional questions or confusion.
From a social emotional lens, hyflex learning can also just be really hard for the kids at home. They miss their friends. It might be hard for them to see other kids at school when they are at home.
A way to bridge the gap between Zoomies and Roomies is to create a class buddy system. In this system, you can assign a Roomie buddy for each Zoomie. They can do partner work together. They can chat with each other during choice time or work on a project together.
Consider this as a strategy to give an extra hand to kids at home.
TIP #3: Make Time for Zoomies
Overall, it is important to check-in with the virtual learners one-on-one. We’ve seen this with distance learning, and we’re seeing this with hybrid learning as well. In both models – hybrid and hyflex – you are going to want to make time for the Zoomies.
Set aside some time for online learners. During this time, you can make sure they feel supported, to confirm they understand where to submit work, to make sure they understand the directions, etc.
Setting aside time for Zoomies is particularly important in a hyflex model. In this model, you can allot some time at the end of class or at the end of the day to chat with your Zoomies and make sure they feel supported, both academically and emotionally.
TIP #4: Consider a Flipped Classroom Model
A flipped classroom model is basically the idea that…
When students are at home, they learn the material either through a video or a website or a pre-recorded lesson. When students are in your classroom, they apply their learning through activities and have opportunities to ask questions.
A flipped classroom model does not work for every class or for every teacher. However, it can be a helpful strategy in the hybrid model. When kids are at home, they can watch video lessons at their own pace. Then, when they are in school, they can form deeper connections to the material.
TIP #5: Keep the Tech Simple
With all this nonstop talk of technology and the latest greatest apps, it can be easy to get carried away with all things tech. The key here is to keep it simple.
I am always reiterating the importance of keeping tech simple.
Stick to two or three edtech tools or apps that really work for you. Tools or apps that you have tried out. Tools or apps that your students have used. And once you have decided on those apps, use tech intentionally. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself with trying everything all at once. Keeping it simple is really key.
If you utilize a learning hub and you keep the tech simple, you will spend so much less time trying to fix the tech issues. Instead of wasting time on tech, you can focus your energy on high quality teaching.
At the end of the day, a great teacher isn’t measured by the fancy tech tools or the picture-perfect class website. A great teacher is defined by all the moments of inclusion and connection and great teaching that they bring to their classroom: in-person AND online.
I hope you enjoyed my top 5 tips for hyflex and hybrid teaching. At the end of the day, you know your students the best. You are the expert on your own classroom, and I hope you can modify and adapt these tips to meet your needs as a teacher.
What else has worked for you? Let me know!