Start With the Big Picture When Planning for Hybrid Learning

Plan for hybrid learning to maximize your time and build connections with students.

Grades K-12 15 min Resource by:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the hybrid-learning model a popular way for schools to improve health and safety by reducing the number of students in a classroom. It can also make lesson planning more complicated for teachers.

In a typical hybrid model, half of the students are attending class in-person while the other half are learning remotely. In some cases, school districts also require a fully remote-learning option for students who are uncomfortable returning to school in person. This can leave teachers preparing three different lessons for each class period: one for the face-to-face group, one for the remote hybrid group, and one for the full-time remote group.

This type of hybrid schedule might look something like the sample below:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Group A Face-to-Face Remote Face-to-Face Remote Face-to-Face
Group B Remote Face-to-Face Remote Face-to-Face Remote
Group C Remote Remote Remote Remote Remote

Many school districts who start out with a hybrid model are being asked to pivot their delivery systems on short notice to adapt to new infection rates in their areas. This essentially means that teachers must be ready to flex between face-to-face instruction, a hybrid model, and fully remote learning at any time. While this makes a lot of sense from a health and planning perspective, it can very quickly become unmanageable for teachers. It is not realistic for teachers to triple their planning load and prepare three lessons per class per day. If they do, many will burn out.

To be successful in a hybrid model, rethink how you are planning your lessons and units. Do not create three different lessons for every class period. Rather, create one flexible lesson that will work effectively across any instructional delivery model. This flexibility will not only reduce significant workload demands, but it can also provide several key instructional benefits at the same time. With the proper approach, teachers and students can thrive (not just survive) in the hybrid-learning model.

“With the proper approach, teachers and students can thrive (not just survive) in the hybrid-learning model.”

The key to thriving in a hybrid-learning model is to maximize the positive aspects of each learning environment. Ask yourself these two simple questions and let the answers guide how you divide learning between your face-to-face and remote learning days:

  1. What learning requires a face-to-face experience?
  2. What can students do on their own?

These questions really drive the planning process for hybrid learning. Anything that students can do on their own should immediately be moved to remote-learning days, and anything that requires a face-to-face experience should be planned for in-person days. While many learning activities can work in either environment, with some adjustments, use the face-to-face time to leverage personal connections and collaboration whenever possible.

What learning requires a face-to-face experience?

Use the in-person classroom to foster student interaction and connections. Resist the temptation to use this valuable time for lecture or direct instruction. Instead, consider activities like class discussions, experiments, debates, role-playing, and more. The face-to-face classroom is also a great environment for checking in with individual students, providing interventions, answering questions, and working with small groups. While video software allows for some of this to be done remotely, the personal connection that happens when you are in the same room as your students is powerful, so be sure to maximize the relational opportunities during in-person classes.

What can my students do on their own?

Remote-learning environments are well suited for many learning activities. While lecture and direct instruction should be limited in face-to-face environments, it can work well remotely by recording mini-lectures or lessons with screen capture software like Loom (Tips). In fact, this can even provide students with functional improvements over a face-to-face experience. They can pause, rewind, go at their own pace, and watch at their own convenience. This can be a win-win scenario for both students and teachers.

Remote-learning time is also great for independent practice, research, and project time. When planning these remote experiences, it’s critical to make the learning as student-centered and student-empowered as possible. Asking students to watch a video and complete a worksheet every day will not work, and you are likely to lose students quickly. Instead, provide them with voice and choice in their learning. Let them be creative. Let them solve problems. Let them find answers on their own through research.