Entry by Elena Arias Ortiz, Andrea Bergamaschi, Marcelo Pérez Alfaro, Madiery Vásquez and Miguel Brechner.
The prolonged closure of schools during COVID-19 has been a challenge for students, teachers, and parents. Today many countries are planning to reopen schools in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and social distancing measures make it very likely that distance learning will continue to be part of our daily lives, at least partially. The strong distancing restrictions necessary for reopening, together with the need to reduce the number of students per classroom by approximately 30%, make hybrid education models a possible solution. But what is hybrid education? How can it help solve this challenge? And how to make it happen?
What is it? Hybrid education combines face-to-face and remote education through different channels such as online learning platforms, television or radio. However, experts point out that more is required than just distributing tasks between one modality and the other. It is necessary to rethink education and develop teaching and learning models that capture the students’ attention and interest to learn differently in each of these modalities. Different technologies should be used as a tool to accelerate learning rather than as a simple channel to deliver content. With less time in school, it is essential to prioritize the development of collaboration skills among students, both in the face-to-face and in the remote education activities.
Is it something new? The model itself is not. Tertiary education has long offered semi-presential programs, generally structured with a first part of the program online and a second part in person, or vice versa. More recently, educational models have been identified where the two modalities alternate in short periods of time. For example, in technical-vocational education, Nucamp, offers coding bootcamps where students complete online assignments at their own pace on weekdays and attend a face-to-face workshop with an expert instructor on Saturdays to review assignments.
How can it help promote learning? Hybrid education experiences assessed so far are models that incorporate online education components within the classroom, such as using educational applications and online learning portals. Compared to 100% face-to-face modalities, positive effects have been observed in student engagement, achievement and positive perception of learning. This model can also increase students’ ability to learn at their own pace and to self-direct learning, both key skills to stimulate learning and, additionally, avoid parental overload. The learning personalization that hybrid education offers is among the most effective means for accelerating academic and cognitive growth. In the region there are successful experiences such as the case of CEIBAL in Uruguay, in which in-classroom online classes with remote teachers have been used for English and computational thinking lessons since 2014 and 2018, respectively. The results have been positive: English lessons were universalized for 4th through 6th grade and the expected learning results were achieved for 80% of participating students. In that case, the policy also allowed to address the coverage gap in subjects where there were not enough local teachers.
How to make it a reality? We have identified four key ingredients for a successful hybrid education:
- New skills and teaching profile. The duality of hybrid education is an opportunity to optimize what to do in person and what to do remotely. Technologies should be harnessed to make the student’s experience more engaging and capture their interest in learning while framed in deep and meaningful learning. The student and the development of key transversal skills for life and for a new pedagogical model are at the center of the proposal: autonomy in learning and in the use of time. This puts teachers in front of a new educational model focused on skills and the adoption and use of new technologies. The key is to ensure a smooth transition and finding effective models for teachers to develop these competencies.
- Contents and platforms. During school closure, parents and sometimes even students themselves have been overwhelmed by the amount of content. In the hybrid education model, curriculum content should be prioritized and made more flexible, focusing efforts on mathematics and reading / writing, as well as 21st century skills. There is a wide range of useful platforms, software and content that fulfill different roles within a hybrid education model with different levels of effectiveness. The content offer must also contemplate nondigital strategies and adapt to the conditions of access to connectivity and devices for the most vulnerable students (Rieble-Aubourg & Viteri, 2020). As in distance learning, parents play a new, more leading role; support systems and specialized materials must also be developed for them.
- Student monitoring and information. It is important that governments make informed decisions and monitor and assess student learning in order to improve or adapt the content offer. The Educational Management and Information Systems (EMIS) are the central platform that allows students to be uniquely identified throughout the entire educational system. The transition to a hybrid education model requires having a comprehensive vision of EMIS and how the different applications should operate to guarantee efficient education system management. Efficient management systems for students and digital contents allow learning monitoring and to protect students’ individual paths throughout the student cycle.
- Equipment, infrastructure and connectivity. Gaps in access to connectivity and devices continue to be a challenge in LAC, both at school and at home. Governments have made significant efforts to expand internet access, such as lowering costs through agreements so that students and teachers can access educational content without consuming data. More than transitory measures, countries will have to guarantee their continuity and complement with other innovative ways to close digital gaps. To expand device access, one option to consider is device libraries in schools with preloaded educational content, where students can borrow mobile devices to take home.
Educational innovation requires governance that leads the change in the regulatory framework, that structures the digital transformation of education and that guarantees, in addition to these four elements, considerations on data ethics, privacy and cybersecurity arrangements. Countries that reopened schools are already moving towards a hybrid education model. Its implementation must go beyond the context of the pandemic. Hybrid education should be framed within a broader strategy for transforming the education sector to make it effective, equitable and sustainable, for students, teachers and parents.
How do you think hybrid education will work in your country? Tell us in the comments section or on Twitter mentioning us with @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion.
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