Design Flexible Lessons for Hybrid Learning

Explore five flexible lesson design models to enhance hybrid learning.

Grades K-12 15 min Resource by:

If you design hybrid lessons like you would design a traditional, face-to-face lesson, you will likely end up creating multiple versions of every lesson, with one for each learning group (face-to-face, remote hybrid, and full-time remote). This approach is not very efficient, and it is probably not sustainable.

On the other hand, to keep your workload manageable, you might be tempted to record your live class and then require remote students to either tune in live or watch the recording later. This practice is not effective either, and many students will find it boring and quickly disengage.

Rather than trying to fit what you have always done into a hybrid-learning structure, rethink how you are designing your lessons. Whenever possible, create lessons that will work effectively across any delivery model and in any learning environment. This common design will also enable you to pivot quickly to other learning models, if needed, and you will be able to switch modes without recreating all of your lessons. Since you are implementing best practices and creating well-designed lessons that are both effective and flexible, this work can be reused in the future with any instructional model you may be using. Consider this work an investment in the future as well as a benefit for today.

One core hybrid design concept is to design your lessons for remote learners first. This will be the most versatile lesson design. If remote students can complete the work on their own, face-to-face students will be even better able to complete it with a teacher in the room. Once your core lesson has been developed, then you can adjust your face-to-face classes to be more personal and interactive. Since it’s easier to convert remote work to in-person learning than it is to turn an in-person lesson into a remote experience, start with the remote lesson plan.

While you will focus on the remote lesson first, it’s still critical to make the most of your face-to-face time. Whenever possible, find ways to make this in-person time as interactive and collaborative as possible. Take advantage of the fact that you have students together in the same physical space. If you plan for an online discussion, your in-class students could still have that virtual conversation. However, you could also easily transform that experience into a live, face-to-face discussion with very little extra effort. Consider what changes will increase interaction without requiring you to create a whole new lesson.

As you plan, your content will guide your lesson design process to some extent. Consider if your content must be learned sequentially or if you have some flexibility in the order that students learn it.

Sequential Lessons

For lessons that must be completed sequentially, your most efficient approach will be to design for remote learning, and then modify for those attending in person. For example, remote learners may watch a short screencast to receive the core content. In-class students could view these same recordings. However, a teacher could adjust this and present this same content live to the face-to-face students with minimal extra work. In any of these models, however, think of yourself as a facilitator or coach first, and reduce the amount of time presenting content. Whenever possible, keep the face-to-face experience student-centered and interactive. Three lesson design models work well for sequential content.

  • Self-Paced Online
  • Playlist
  • Project- or Inquiry-Based

Non-Sequential Lessons

If you have lessons that do not need to be completed in a specific, sequential order, you will have more flexibility in your lesson planning. In fact, all of the models on this list can be used with non-sequential content. With non-sequential learning modules, you may also find that you have additional opportunities to increase student interaction during the face-to-face classes. Consider these opportunities as you explore the models.

  • Self-Paced Online
  • Playlist
  • Project- or Inquiry-Based
  • Flip-Flop (A/B Model)
  • Virtual Station Rotation

Remote Learners

With either sequential or non-sequential lessons, you will need to make sure that any remote-only students can still engage in a rich learning experience, even if it must be slightly modified. For instance, instead of meeting with these students in person, you might schedule a virtual meeting with Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to provide a similar learning experience. By planning for these remote learners first, you will usually find that your lessons can work in any environment. For unique experiences that require in-person connections or resources that are only available at school, you will need to make some modifications.

5 Ways to Design Flexible Hybrid Lessons

In the self-paced online approach, you will design every lesson so that students can complete it on their own regardless of their learning model. Oftentimes, this will include a short screencast introducing core content or explaining the tasks for the day. This is then followed up with some type of engaging learning activities where students dig deeper into the content, research on their own, practice a skill, complete online activities, or interact with other students remotely through interactive technology, such as discussions, Flipgrid (Tips), collaborative documents, email, and more.

While the group at home is working independently, you will have an opportunity to work more closely with your in-class students. You can set up individual conferences with each of these face-to-face students while the rest of the class works through the lesson either individually or collaboratively. You can answer questions or facilitate in-person group learning. In this model, students can complete the coursework no matter where they are learning, and you can provide in-person attendees more individualized support. You will want to check in on your remote learners regularly, as well. There are many ways to do this, such as reviewing their online work, reaching out via email/messaging, or by scheduling a video meeting.

 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Group A Face-to-Face
Online lesson with F2F support
Remote
Online lesson
Face-to-Face
Online lesson with F2F support
Remote
Online lesson
Face-to-Face
Online lesson with F2F support
Group B Remote
Online lesson
Face-to-Face
Online lesson with F2F support
Remote
Online lesson
Face-to-Face
Online lesson with F2F support
Remote
Online lesson
Group C Remote
Online lesson
Remote
Online lesson
Remote
Online lesson
Remote
Online lesson
Remote
Online lesson with optional live video meeting

A playlist is a list of tasks that a student must complete. Ideally, students have some choice in which tasks they complete on their journey toward mastering the content. A choice board is one popular version of a playlist. In the playlist model, you can either provide a different playlist each day, or you can provide one for the entire week. In the case of a week-long playlist, students often receive it on Monday and are required to have all the work completed by Friday.

The playlist model is similar to the self-paced online model and can be used in similar ways. In-class time is once again leveraged for interpersonal connections, check-ins, and interventions. Playlists can contain group and partner options to encourage collaboration. Fully remote students can also complete collaborative tasks, but they will need to connect with classmates virtually.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Group A Face-to-Face
Playlist with F2F support
Remote
Playlist
Face-to-Face
Playlist with F2F support
Remote
Playlist
Face-to-Face
Playlist with F2F support
Group B Remote
Playlist
Face-to-Face
Playlist with F2F support
Remote
Playlist
Face-to-Face
Playlist with F2F support
Remote
Playlist
Group C Remote
Playlist
Remote
Playlist
Remote
Playlist
Remote
Playlist
Remote
Playlist with optional live video meeting

This model is another variation of the self-paced online model. In the project-based approach, students are all working on a project whether at home or in school. This way, they are all completing the same lesson at the same time. However, you should take advantage of the in-class time to conduct formative check-ins with each student to see how they are progressing. You could also facilitate peer check-ins and group think time to take advantage of the peer-to-peer connections that can best happen in person. It’s a good idea to schedule virtual check-ins with your remote-only students, as well. You won’t want them to fall behind.

The project-based approach is very student-centered and offers considerable voice and choice. It also allows students to develop important skills, such as creativity and problem-solving. If you wish to increase the collaboration aspect of the project, assign each student a “study buddy” or “project partner.” They can connect remotely and support each other through the project.

 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Group A Face-to-Face
Project kick-off and answer questions
Remote
Project work
Face-to-Face
Project work with F2F support and check-ins
Remote
Project work
Face-to-Face
Project work
Group B Remote
Project kick-off with optional live meeting
Face-to-Face
Project work with F2F support and check-ins
Remote
Project work
Face-to-Face
Project work with F2F support and check-ins
Remote
Project work
Group C Remote
Project kick-off with optional live meeting
Remote
Project work
Remote
Project work
Remote
Project work
Remote
Project work with remote support and/or video meeting

While you will likely use all of these five design models at some point during your hybrid experience, the flip-flop model is especially helpful for working in those highly interactive, in-person experiences. This model is much like it sounds; you flip-flop the in-person and online lessons during each A/B cycle in the schedule. For example, on the first day, you might facilitate a Socratic Seminar, a lab, music rehearsal, or a class discussion with the face-to-face students while the remote learners conduct research on a related, but non-sequential topic. Then, the next day, you flip-flop the lessons. The first in-class group is now remote and completes the research assignment while the first remote group takes part in the face-to-face activity. While you will need to design two lessons at a time, this model allows you to take full advantage of the in-person classes while still only creating two lessons over a two-day span.

The biggest challenge with this model will come if you have full-time remote students. For those learners, you will need to modify the in-class lesson to work remotely. One idea is to allow remote students to attend the live class virtually. An in-class student could use their device as a portal for the remote students. For labs, you could have students record their experience, so the remote students can “look in” and be a part of the process (either live or through a recording). While this is not perfect and requires a little extra work on your part, it is often worth it to be able to offer these rich, interactive learning experiences. As with any instructional design, you will want to make the experiences as equitable as possible. In some cases, you may need to find a comparable activity that the remote-only students can complete online.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Group A Face-to-Face
Live Lesson 1
Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 2
Face-to-Face
Live Lesson 3
Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 4
Group B Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 2
Face-to-Face
Live Lesson 1
Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 4
Face-to-Face
Live Lesson 3
Group C Remote
Modified Self-Paced Lesson 1
Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 2
Remote
Modified Self-Paced Lesson 3
Remote
Self-Paced Lesson 4

Many teachers implement station rotation in their classrooms. Traditionally, this would mean that during a class period, students would rotate between several learning stations. Most often, these stations could be completed in any order. In an English classroom, for instance, one station might be for grammar, one for peer editing, one for a mini-lesson with the teacher, and one for independent reading. This model has long been a popular strategy in elementary classrooms, and it has seen significant growth at all grade levels in recent years.

To maximize the advantages of face-to-face time, consider a station rotation model where students rotate to a new station each day rather than several times within the same day. This way, you can use the face-to-face days for collaboration and direct instruction while using the remote days for more independent tasks. In the English class described earlier, this might mean that the in-person days are for peer editing and the mini-lesson while the remote days are used for independent grammar lessons and reading assignments. If station rotation is blended with the flip-flop model, you could have students complete two independent stations remotely and two collaborative ones in-person.

 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Group A Face-to-Face
Station 1: Teacher Station
Remote
Station 2: Independent Offline
Face-to-Face
Station 3: Group Work
Remote
Station 4: Independent Offline
Group B Remote
Station 2: Independent Offline
Face-to-Face
Station 1: Teacher Station
Remote
Station 4: Independent Offline
Face-to-Face
Station 3: Group Work
Group C Remote
Station 2: Independent Offline
Remote
Station 3: Virtual Group Work
Remote
Station 1: Teacher Station
Remote
Station 4: Independent Online
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