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The Hybrid Classroom: Bridging the Gap Between in-Person & Remote Learning

by Jen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French and Italian.

A combination of in-person and remote learning, the hybrid classroom represents an intermediary learning solution during uncertain times.

The hybrid classroom is seen as the middle way between the traditional classroom and the remote classroom, and a sensible approach to limiting the number of students on site at one time, to restrict daily close contact. Even though this blended learning situation meets two different teaching environments in the middle, it comes with its own challenges that teachers need to meet in order to sustain an effective and seamless learning experience.

What Is a Hybrid Classroom?

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Photo by Max Fischer from Pexels.

A hybrid classroom is one that combines traditional in-person teaching with online learning. Originally, this type of learning environment was in place for higher education students to reap the unique benefits offered by each of these respective environments. Today, though, and through necessity, hybrid—or blended—learning is used to stagger the number of students flowing through a school campus daily, and a way to give otherwise remote students the opportunity to have in-person class time.

Of course, both environments come with their own benefits and challenges, but what other obstacles come up when these combine to form a hybrid classroom?

What Are the Challenges of a Hybrid Classroom?

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

A hybrid classroom can carry all the pros and cons of both the traditional and remote classrooms, but because it represents two types of learning environments in one, this can bring a new set of challenges to both teacher and student alike.

Social Interaction Can Suffer

Many students thrive on interpersonal connections, deep friendships, and intellectual challenges that come with a healthy in-person discussion or debate. A shift to a hybrid environment from a 100% in-person school environment can be an overwhelming change for many such students, and they can experience this restriction of access to their interpersonal networks as a loss.

While this can be addressed to some extent through opportunities for digital connection, for many students, digital connectivity is not quite the same as spending time together at recess, or bonding over group work in class.

High Chance of Overworked Teachers

We know that even in a traditional classroom, long before the forced migration to hybrid or remote learning, teachers were already overworked and likely overextending themselves emotionally and even financially to support their students.

The hybrid or remote classroom has not lightened this load and, because of increased distance and potentially tenuous connectivity, teachers are likely to be even more concerned about their students, going to great lengths to ensure they are coping.

Moreover, in a hybrid environment, teachers are likely to feel compelled to give their students as much and as detailed material as possible in response to—or even to compensate for—not being there in person.

Student Cognitive Load

In uncertain times or vastly different teaching scenarios, like the hybrid classroom, it can be common for teachers to pile up on information and additional learning materials to ensure students have everything they need to succeed.

Even though this is an act of care on behalf of the teacher, information overload can, in fact, be detrimental to students of hybrid or remote classes, as their cognitive load becomes overwhelmed and they cannot reasonably meet all the demands placed on their cognitive resources.

Plagiarism & Blurred Lines of Sharing

The internet and digital communication have gone a long way to transform the education space, but increasingly easy access to all the answers has the potential to open the door to copying and plagiarism, especially if a student is feeling overwhelmed, desperate, or strapped for time.

Combine this freely available information with a remote or hybrid learning environment, where students are encouraged to collaborate and depend on one another, and the lines between collaboration and plagiarism can become blurred.

Even in a traditional classroom, however, students need to learn how to engage responsibly with material available on the internet, quote and credit sources correctly, and be able to distinguish between collaboration, appropriate sharing, and independent learning.

In the remote or hybrid classroom, teachers can take some time to go over how information should best be shared and handled, and mention during different classes, activities, or discussions, whether and how the internet should be used.

Procrastination & Self-Discipline

Student procrastination is rife in hybrid and remote learning environments, because students no longer have the structure and routine of a traditional classroom where their progress is constantly monitored.

In the traditional environment, students may have had to tap into a level of autonomy to get their homework done alone after school, but it's a leap to expect young students to have this level of self-control and discipline for hours on end, especially when they're likely overwhelmed by new information, pressure to participate, and looming homework or project deadlines.

Teachers can help mitigate this procrastination, support self-discipline, and bolster confidence by giving students a manageable amount of information at a time and tasks that are clear, to the point, and will not easily overwhelm them.

So Many Tools, So Little Time

In the hybrid learning environment, even though there is crossover into the traditional classroom from time to time, it's smarter for students and teachers alike to have one way of managing educational resources, so there isn't constant changeover in document management depending on the learning environment.

The challenge here is that teachers and students have so many options in the realm of document management and PDF software, many of which don't alone solve the myriad document challenges faced in the hybrid classroom every day, that they may feel too overwhelmed to even start.

While the traditional classroom has been turned upside down, there are PDF tools out there that can solve a host of document management needs for both teachers and students to make a collective leap to a fully digital classroom.

Here are some points for teachers to consider about document management or PDF tools before implementing them:

  • What PDF tools do I need as a teacher?
  • What PDF tools do my students need?
  • How many licenses will my entire class need?
  • Does my school have a budget for PDF software?
  • Do other teachers in my school also need PDF tools?
  • What document and information security features do we need?

Armed with this information, teachers can research PDF tools and document management resources in line with all their requirements. If teachers team up together and communicate the need for these tools to the school administration, the school might use the number of licenses needed to leverage better pricing and higher-level resources for their staff and students.

Psst! We're just a little biased, but we think our PDF tools are a great place to start.

What Can Teachers Do To Bridge the Gap Between in-Person & Remote Learning?

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Photo by Max Fischer from Pexels.

The hybrid classroom can come with a host of benefits drawn from both the traditional and remote classroom, but with this difference in teaching environments, there can be many junctures in the learning experience teachers can help iron out for a smoother, more seamless transition from remote to traditional learning—and back again.

Communicate Consistently

When the learning environment is mixed as with hybrid or blended learning, something as simple as the method of communication can be a stabilizing factor for both students and teachers.

Digital communication can be a useful tool to support any learning environment, but when it's applied to the hybrid classroom, it can be powerful in connecting two very different learning environments and equalizing how information is shared.

It's important, though, for teachers to lead the way in this communication. The opportunity for confusion and disorganization is ripe when digital and paper communication are used interchangeably and inconsistently. The best bet in this case is for teachers to choose a set of tools to communicate across both environments that make up the hybrid classroom—and stick with those.

Get the Basics Right

Before the hybrid classroom can even begin to take place, it's important for teachers to ensure their students have both the hardware and software they'll need to be able to participate in remote learning. This should be done with the help of parents.

Some of the basic hardware students might need include:

  • A desktop or laptop computer
  • Webcam
  • Good audio functionality (headphones or microphone and speakers)
  • A good internet connection
  • A comfortable, supportive chair
  • A desk or empty surface to work on

Some of the basic software students might need include:

  • Video conferencing software
  • Classroom management software
  • Email software
  • Texting or messaging software
  • Tools to manage, organize, and share PDFs

Advocate for Technical Support for Students

Navigating remote or hybrid learning can overwhelm students and parents alike, especially if parents have limited technical experience with computers and software, or if there are limited financial resources to equip their children with the tools needed for remote learning.

Teachers have an opportunity here to leverage the school's resources, not only to connect students with the technology they need, but to secure IT assistance for students and parents who may need help with the initial setup.

Embrace the Paperless Classroom

Even though there are so many document management and PDF tools to choose from, this variety means that teachers have their pick of tools and software, many of which are free. Having an organized, needs-based approach to choosing the right PDF tools for the classroom can help teachers weed out all the tools that won't work and hone in on a handful that respond exactly to their needs.

A paperless classroom comes with a host of benefits, including cost and time savings, enhanced collaboration and learning efficiency, plus the added bonus of consideration for the environment.

If you're looking for simple PDF tools for your class or school, register for a free trial of Smallpdf for Teams today, or contact us for a custom package, and try out 20+ PDF tools that will best support your hybrid classroom.

Jennifer Rees
Jen
UX Writer