Post secondary institutions and their departments, instructors, and supporting staff will become much more flexible in the way courses are offered to meet the needs and demands of students and instructors. Many students have experienced a new form of learning since March, 2020. Some have adopted a new schedule based on their new flexible learning schedule. Students have found they communicate better online. Many students have simply found that online learning has accommodated to their schedule and learning preferences as it never has before. Many students don’t want to go back into the classroom while many others would be open to a flexible hybrid model.
Institutions and some instructors feel that students should prioritize learning over work schedules, and to an extent that is true. I wish I had committed myself to learning while I was in university to reduce stress levels and improve grades. Necessity dictates and in these times work shifts are more scarce so we have to understand that prioritizing education above income is a luxury for vast majority of students. Therefore, flexibility will be the key when going back into the classroom so no one needs to drop a shift and they can keep up on their course work.
Flexibility will also be demanded by instructors. There are many models of hybrid learning, from the very basic: Offering a few items on a learning management system and the rest is taught face-to-face (F2F). On the other end of the hybrid spectrum is the HyFlex classroom: HyFlex is bringing in remote students synchronously while teaching other students F2F. If you speak with 10 instructors, you will get 10 variations of a hybrid model that would best achieve learning outcomes in their courses. There can be compromise, but overall an instructors knows what will work best for their course and therefore they should be allowed to design their course to fit the needs of their students (and adjust on the fly).
Let’s look at some common hybrid models. Instructor A, for example, may want three classes at the begin to build community and the rest online. Instructor B want every other week in a F2F class. Instructor C wants to meet four times a semester. Instructor D wants optional open F2F classes to meet in person and everything is taught online, Instructor E wants two 90-minute classes each week while Instructor F want the same but every other week. You can see many variations stemming off from these traditional hybrid models.
When students can’t make it to a mandatory F2F class they must have access to a recording of that class. Students who prefer online learning can have the option to complete different assignments than in-class students, assignments that can be completed more efficiently in an online environment. Other instructors want to offer optional assignments to every student, which is a great step towards equity diversity, and inclusion (EDI).
Will students have the option to come to class or stay online or will it be mandated to come to a F2F if they are not self-isolating? Students request that they want the flexibility of coming to a F2F or attending online regardless of their situation. Before the pandemic many hybrid classes start with 20+ students attending F2F with as many online but by mid-point of the semester there are only three or four attending F2F while everyone else attends online. Will this be allowable? Certain policies have to be implemented to restrict any undesirable flexibility.
I‘m not going to get into institutional policy regarding logistics or pricing, but those are key components when defining a hybrid model of learning. For example, if students register for only online do they have to pay student union fees or bus passes? Is registration differentiated between online and F2F?
Post secondary institutions will have to be flexible in offering hybrid course and we will also need to be flexible while the courses are running. Being accommodating will demonstrate just how accessible institutions can be. Teaching and Learning Centers will be available to equip any classroom with a webcam and microphone at the very least to record and class and make it available for review and to those who couldn’t make it.
We are coming up to the summer semester which means only one semester separates us from the clicks-to-bricks fall semester. If we start planning now and consult every stakeholder before we commit to a hybrid model, it will be a great option to learning modalities and won’t be as stressful as it was going from bricks-to-clicks.