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What’s driving the shift to hybrid learning?

What’s driving the shift to Hybrid Learning?

What’s driving the shift to Hybrid Learning?


The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption in  almost every part of our society –including education. The lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 forced changes in the way the Ministry of Education, schools and educators have worked to ensure a continuity of learning for learners  during the periods that schools were closed. 

Moving forward, most educators are looking forward to a return to ‘normal’ with students returning to attend in-person and classes being conducted as they were before. While there is some acknowledgement of the fact that there will be  some students who cannot return to school, the major focus of activity appears to be on what will happen within the physical location and structure of schools.

While the desire to return to what is familiar and known is understandable from a human perspective, school leaders must be thinking more strategically about the scenarios that they will face in the year ahead, and how they might prepare for the ongoing disruptions to ‘normal,’ that they and their communities are likely to face.

While the COVID pandemic may be the first time we’ve seen such disruption on a national scale, it isn’t the first time schools have faced the challenge of continuing to operate despite their physical facilities being ‘out of bounds’ for a period. Consider the Christchurch earthquakes for example. The OECD warns of the need to consider the impact of a number of different ways in which our schooling system may be impacted like this into the future – not simply as a result of pandemics, as illustrated in the table below which is taken from one of their documents. 

  Plausibility Impact
Natural disasters High Potentially very high, depending on 
severity and duration of the shock
Economic shock / Crisis Increasing in an interconnected 
global world
Depending on severity duration of the 
(Cyber) Attack Depending on context Likely high depending on type of 
Internet disrupted 
/Communications cut
Low Extremely high, particularly if it 
coincides (accidentally or intentionally) 
with one of the other shocks
Human – machine interfaces 
/General Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Still unknown Still unknown

Adapted from Four OECD Scenarios for the Future of Schooling: OECD (2019). Source: Trends shaping Education, 2019.

The OECD warns of the need to consider the impact of a number of different ways in which our schooling system may be impacted like this into the future – not simply as a result of pandemics, as illustrated in the table below which is taken from one of their documents. 

Any of these things may result in us being unable to continue to operate our schools in the way we currently do, where everything is designed around teachers and students attending a physical site in person. 

In addition to schools being forced to close because of such events, we already accommodate the needs of learners who, for all sorts of reasons including personal physical and mental health issues or family circumstances, have their ability to attend school in person disrupted for a period of time. 

Our future planning must necessarily take into account the likelihood of such disruptions and seek to mitigate the level of disruption to continuity of teaching and learning. 

A hybrid approach offers the following advantages in this regard:

  • Continuity of operation, continuity of teaching, continuity of learning – all are achieved through taking a hybrid approach.
  • No more looking for work-arounds or finding quick-fix solutions for non-attenders.
  • No more being ‘caught unawares’ due to the difficulty in being able to accurately plan for what might eventuate. 
  • No more leaving those in isolation feeling like they’re the ‘excluded’ learners, falling behind because they can’t attend.
  • Relationships with students and parents/whānau will be strengthened in authentic and ongoing ways, keeping the focus on both learning and wellbeing for all.
  • Less stress on teachers and other staff as the hybrid model becomes ‘the way we do things’, enabling staff and students to switch between on-site and remote learning as required – or desired.