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At its heart hybrid learning offers a way of designing for learning that isn’t determined by thinking about location in the first instance. The intention is to enable learners to have choice about where and how they participate, and to be able to seamlessly transition between in-person and remote locations as their circumstances or need requires.

The following definitions/explanations have been offered by educators:

  • Hybrid learning is a future-focussed approach to learning where it enables learners to access learning in a safe and reliable work space. Students will need to be taught how to be responsible digital citizens as they would if they were also present in an actual physical classroom space.
  • Hybrid learning is a mixed model pedagogy in which teachers and learners engage in digital learning which is both synchronous and asynchronous at the same time. This means that the learning is independent of the physical school environment.
  • Hybrid learning is teaching and learning independent of the school classroom, effectively using the necessary tools and resources to support students at home.
  • Learning can continue seamlessly, regardless of location of teachers and students. We need to plan to make sure that our infrastructure can support it. We need to ensure that students at home or at school have equity in terms of access to resources required across the curriculum. We need to plan so that there is also equity of access to teacher support and pastoral care support. We need to plan PLD support for teachers to be able to manage this approach and to roll it out confidently. Learning programme design needs to facilitate the capability for ‘in-real- time’ and ‘on-time’ feedback and feedforward, with access to and from students and teachers in a seamless highway of communication.
  • Hybrid learning creates opportunities for ākonga to be learners from anywhere at any time and for many teachers to contribute to that learning (including friends and whānau) in a consistent, simple and easy-to-follow way.
  • Hybrid learning is a means of catering for learners both in the classroom and at home either at the same time or in different time, spaces and places. The pedagogical approaches need to be carefully planned to enable equity of access by all students.

Learning from a business metaphor

A useful way of thinking about a hybrid environment comes from considering the changes that have happened in the area of retail in recent years, as illustrated here:

A chart with 4 things in a ring. From the top, warehouse, for back end systems and inventory management etc. On the right, the online store, to show the visual interface giving access to goods and services while offering convenience. Third at the bottom, the customer, showing tailored and consistent representing of branding and stock. Lastly on the left, the retail store, the physical interface between the customer and the goods and services.

Where once a customer needed to visit a retail store to check out what was on offer and make their purchase, most retailers have now expanded beyond just the physical building to include an online alternative. Providing a customer-centric experience underpins all design decisions in the way this works. Behind the customer-facing options for engaging with the retailer is the warehouse where stock is managed, customer records are kept, customer service provided etc. 

School/ Kura is at the top of the diagram, showing where the resources and management takes place. To the right is the Online Learning Space, where teachers and learners can be together. At the bottom, Teachers/learners, showing participation regardless of location. And finally, Physical Learning Space, where teachers and learners are together in the classroom.

Using this metaphor for education, the warehouse becomes what we think of as the ‘back-end’ services of a school, while the physical and online learning spaces provide the interface for learners and teachers. The learner-centred design provides flexibility regarding decisions to do with participation and the ability to transition seamlessly between these environments as appropriate.

As with planning for the retail business, establishing a hybrid learning environment means re-examining every aspect of how educational institutions currently operate and interface with their learners – including the levels of support required to enable them to participate remotely. 

Where might you start?

Consider the definitions and the metaphor provided in this paper with colleagues and see if you can come up with a suitable expression of what hybrid learning is that you can share with your school community.

Further Information

Resilience Planning for Schools: in an age of COVID-19:
Interview with Derek Wenmoth: Keeping students learning with a hybrid approach.