Hybrid Classes: How can teachers provide the best of both worlds to students and maximize student learning?

With the COVID-19 pandemic situation slowly improving, most schools across the country have begun having offline classes. However, in many cases, the onus of the decision to continue online learning for their children or send them back to school lies on the parents. Both options are available to them and the responsibility to provide quality education in either scenario falls upon – you guessed it right – teachers!

In a hybrid class model,  some students attend the traditional face-to-face classes and some learn online, simultaneously. This advent of hybrid classes brings with it its own gamut of challenges for educators. So how does one ensure that they are able to maintain a cohesive learning curve for students who are receiving very different learning experiences?

Keep the content interactive and interesting

Over the years, education in India has seen a gradual shift from rote to the concept-based curriculum. In a virtual scenario where distractions are aplenty and concentration levels are low, this is something that teachers can use to their advantage. Having content that is interesting and interactive for both online and offline students can help bridge the gap of the evolving learning experience. Rather than having the focus purely on theory, throwing the spotlight on interactive activities, worksheets, videos can keep the children curious and attentive.

Being Hands-On

Projects and assignments are an integral part of the education curriculum in India –for all learner levels. Havingassessments take on a more practical approach which requires students to put in effort in their own time and to learn the various nuances of a concept through experiential learning can help bridge the divide between online and offline students. While both sets of students would have access to basic concepts, they would be required to put the knowledge to use outside of the classroom situation – both physical or virtual.

Equal involvement of all students

One might be inclined to believe that students who are physically present in a classroom are more involved with the teachers or subject at hand. It is easier to stop a teacher for clarification or ask for a repeat explanation. Teachers would have to make a conscious effort to not exclude the online students from this experience and perhaps double the efforts to keep them involved.

“Sometimes I forget that students are also watching me online and I need to address their needs as well. It’s quite normal to focus on those who are in front of you. One solution we teachers figured out was to have a fellow teacher address queries on chats or adjust camera angles as required. This has helped to teach freely and whole-heartedly in the physical classroom without worrying that students online are not being addressed, says Anshul Rajpurohit of Indus Valley School, UP. Maintaining a balance in interaction between the two categories of students is the teacher’s responsibility and he/she should keep the interplay between students as real as possible.

Interpersonal interaction

Having some of your classmates a virtual world away is sure to create a divide in the classroom. While the students in a traditional setting would benefit from interpersonal interactions, this puts the students’ learning virtually on the back foot. Including discussion forums, question and answer programs, panel discussions interspersed with some fun activities into the curriculum can create a holistic learning environment that spans far beyond just the textbook.

“I interact frequently with my students on social media. It’s a level playing field for students who come to school or who study online. They post queries, their work and interact well over there. It’s their zone but we have to use it to make education more suitable for this generation”, a very progressive thought put forward by Rusell D’Souza, a chemistry tutor in South Bangalore.

Clear Rules and regulations

While it is easier to maintain discipline through specific rules and regulations in a physical classroom, this could present a challenge in a virtual one. Having clear rules can help create a more realistic classroom environment for remote learners while reinforcing them for students within the traditional classrooms as well. Outlining timings of learning, a manual of do’s and dont’s and having the parents involved in implementing them can help reduce distractions for all students, thereby making it easier for teachers to focus on imparting lessons.

More hands-on deck

Managing both virtual and physical classrooms simultaneously while ensuring fair and just attention to all students might eventually become overwhelming for educators. In the juggle between the two, it is essential to not lose focus of the goal to impart knowledge in a fruitful way. Improving the teacher-student ratio in classrooms could help lessen the burden on one individual making it a more practical teaching strategy focusing on productivity and quality.

While there are advocates for both types of education, we have to accept that virtual classrooms are here to stay. Some firmly believe in the tried-and-tested philosophies of the education system over the years while others feel that it’s better for knowledge to extend beyond what is found in the pages of a book. With the passage of time, we might see more and more students returning to a physical classroom, but it will definitely no longer be traditional. The way forward seems like an amalgamation of the benefits of physical classroom learning with the advantages of technology. Innovative and ever-evolving teaching methods to continually motivate students, keep them focused and get them future-ready is the need of the hour – be it face-to-face or through a camera lens. And the only way to achieve this is for teachers and educators to evolve alongside the changing background of education in India.

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