In preparation for the NMC Beyond the Horizon > The Hybrid Experience event taking place on April 20th we wanted to share our perspective on the subject, along with some core definitions and examples to set the stage. Please be sure to register to join in on the conversation!

Understanding “The Hybrid Experience”
Creating a hybrid experience in educational settings is an increasing trend that has been highlighted in multiple sector-focused editions of the NMC Horizon Report. Hybrid learning, also referred to as blended learning, is the integration of both online and face-to-face modalities to create a cohesive learning experience and providing learners with flexibility and support. This emerging model of learning allows educational entities to cater to consumer demand and provide a better value proposition for learners. The hybrid approach has the potential to foster independent learning and collaboration, as well as provide more channels of communication among students and instructors. The integration of online tools provides instructors with the ability to track student success and engagement while the face-to-face instruction incorporates the human touch.

The Higher Education Perspective
As highlighted in the NMC Horizon Report > 2016 Higher Education Edition, Higher education institutions are upping the ante of innovation in digital environments, which are widely considered to be ripe for new ideas, services, and products. These institutions are adopting innovative curriculum designs that blend online and face-to-face offerings. Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous tools will continue to advance the state of hybrid learning and keep it compelling though many of these methods are still the subjects of research. The affordances of hybrid learning are now well understood, and its flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies are high among the list of appeals. The integration of online tools provides instructors with the ability to track student success and engagement throughout the duration of the course. Faculty can then use that feedback to tailor their in-person instruction to better meet the learning needs of their students. Drawing on best practices in online and face-to-face methods, hybrid learning is on the rise at universities and colleges and takes many forms. Virtual laboratories, for instance, provide opportunities for risk-free, repeatable experimentation and simulation. Additionally, the flipped classroom is a blended learning model in which students can access discussion forums, problem-solve, and actively apply their newfound knowledge. Another approach combines massive open online courses with classroom instruction and peer interaction.

  • International Technology University – Pakistan
    Pakistan’s International Technology University employs a blended design where its students enroll in courses on the edX or Coursera platforms while simultaneously participating in on-campus modules for credit.
  • University of the Sunshine Coast
    The University of the Sunshine Coast adopted a blended learning strategy to cultivate technology-based teaching and promote deeper learning through pedagogical innovation.
  • University of Pennsylvania
    The University of Pennsylvania’s Virtual Online Teaching (VOLT) Certificate Program equips instructors with the skills to critically evaluate the use of technologies in their blended learning environments before implementing them.

The K-12 Perspective
The NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition details that hybrid learning is on the rise in K-12 schools and a growing number of well-funded initiatives and studies are solidifying the impact of this trend. Perceptions of online learning are becoming increasingly favorable as more schools experience the benefits of these learning models. Schools that embrace hybrid learning are finding that online learning environments offer different but complementary functions to physical institutions, and can potentially be used to free up class time for activities that make the most from face-to-face interactions in the same space. Additionally, these emerging models support personalized learning, resulting in more engaged, self-directed students. When designed and implemented effectively, hybrid models allow students to practice and achieve mastery of content at their own pace via online learning modules and adaptive software. Teachers are then freed up to focus on small groups of students who need more support to succeed. Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge digital platforms will continue to advance this trend toward integrated online learning and keep it compelling.

  • USC Hybrid High School
    USC Hybrid High School, a charter school in Los Angeles, has leveraged a blended learning model to promote teacher autonomy by allocating stipends for them to choose their own software according to their preference.
  • European Schoolnet
    The “The Future Classroom Lab” initiative by European Schoolnet, a network of 31 European Ministries of Education based in Brussels, is formalizing visions of how technology and new models of learning will impact the design of the classroom, to reflect the new paradigm of education and work.
  • SPARK Schools Network – South Africa
    The blended learning model implemented by SPARK Schools network is the first of its kind in African primary schools. The school day is divided between teacher-led instruction and personalized, online learning enabled by adaptive software.

The Library Perspective
The NMC Horizon Report > 2015 Library Edition references current research that points to the benefits of blended learning models to reshape the student experience and expand access to quality educational opportunities for students. Online learning has experienced a surge of interest and is garnering greater acceptance as a mode of learning that can augment face-to-face instruction in blended learning approaches. Academic and research libraries are poised to play a major role in defining and helping facilitate future incarnations of online learning by guiding campus faculty. These entities are being looked to, to provide support in the development of online learning approaches, assist with media production, connect special collections to courses, curate content for courses, and more. Furthermore, libraries’ own digital offerings can be enhanced as more research is being conducted on the promising impact of virtual instructional design and delivery platforms for the research community. As online learning continues to gain traction in higher education, university library departments and their personnel are evolving to accommodate the need for more specialized, sustained support.

  • Victoria University
    Victoria University (VU) Library works deeply with VU’s colleges to support the latest virtual learning methodologies and the implementation of blended learning frameworks that integrate library resources and services into the curriculum.
  • University of Western Ontario
    At the University of Western Ontario, an e-learning collaboration between Western Libraries and the Faculty of Engineering resulted in the development of an online module, which allowed students to improve their knowledge of information literacy through a blended learning format.
  • Marquette University
    Librarians from Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries partnered with the English department faculty to implement a flipped classroom approach for first-year students.

Hybrid learning reflects the reality of a world where work and productivity happen in both physical and virtual settings. Through the combination of online work with classroom practice a new learning environment is created that provides students with greater control of time, pace, and path of instruction. In many cases, blended learning paves the way for other pedagogical approaches that enable personalized learning, promote skill-mastery, and inform new roles and responsibilities for instructors. The hybrid experience has the potential to reshape the student experience and expand access to quality educational opportunities to all learners. The support of institutional policies can foster the creation of successful hybrid learning experiences and ensure their effective implementation in educational spaces.