Wednesday, August 4

The future of education is hybrid. Here’s how to make it work for learners and educators.


  • As the pandemic closed schools last year, new teaching models developed that mixed online and in-person instruction.
  • Customized approaches and flexible models could expand options for students.
  • Educators will have to tinker with evolving hybrid models to see what works best.

When the pandemic struck, 1.5 billion students across 191 countries saw their schools close. In an instant, students moved out of classrooms, lecture halls, and labs, shifting to completely online learning. But as things slowly go back to normal, it’s clear that the pandemic has been a catalyst for new teaching models that combine online and in -person components.

Through March 2021, the Global Education Recovery Tracker found that 51 countries had returned fully to in-person education. However, over 90 countries rely on multiple approaches, with Denmark, Germany, India, and many others offering hybrid learning options. The key to success is an approach that works for both students and teachers.

“As institutions continue to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic, they’re realizing that student and faculty experience are critical to drive engagement,” Renee Patton, leader of global education and healthcare at Cisco, said. “Better engagement leads to better retention , and ultimately, to better outcomes.”

Far-ranging impact

Flexible hybrid models can help deliver personalized education to suit different learning and teaching styles, and provide students with more choice. “We are going to see stackable credentials, where students can mix and match curricula, or even mix and match universities as they achieve their learning qualifications,” Patton said.

For example, a student could take classes at three different universities, but still come out with a recognizable degree. “That means institutions will start partnering up to offer more variety in their degrees, potentially adding more certification programs and expanding credit for internships and other work-study programs,” she said.

Hybrid models affect not only how students learn, but who can learn. One question is whether higher education institutions will use the technical opportunities to better reach people already in the workforce who are looking for professional development and reorientation, said Michael Gaebel, director of the Higher Education Policy at the European University Association, a Brussels-based association that allows its members in 48 countries to share ideas. “There is currently a strong emphasis at European policy levels on microcredentials,” he said, referring to skills and knowledge attained from short courses and modules.

The concept of hybrid also applies to student services and activities. “Educational institutions are re-imagining how to use collaboration tools to support students for financial aid and planning, mental health and well-being, and academic planning,” Patton said. “They are also using these tools to deliver hybrid activities, including school clubs and groups, and new eSports programs.”

During the pandemic, Jonas Rohleder, a gymnastic lecturer in the German Sport University in Cologne, tackled what seemed like the impossible: teaching gymnastics virtually. He created a flipped classroom model, also referred to as asynchronous learning, which means he wanted to give students the flexibility to complete lessons according to their own schedules. To do so, he quickly produced a library of video tutorials, which he shared using Webex. He also used Webex for theoretical lectures, seminars, and breakout sessions. The effort was a success. Not only did his students quickly take to online instruction, but Rohleder and his team won the university’s e-learning award and and received €1,000 to further develop this approach to learning.

He believes digital instruction will remain a key component of his instruction going forward. However, it won’t completely replace in-person teaching. “If you want to do a handstand, you cannot only talk about and think about it,” he says . “You have to do it to really understand.”

How to make hybrid successful

Hybrid models will certainly require some tinkering. Some school systems are hiring new virtual-learning teams to develop and provide high-quality virtual instruction to students who choose to stay remote, and using in-person teachers for in-person learners. Other schools have individual teachers handle both the online and in-person components. In these cases, the teachers often have a prep day, where they prepare both online and in-person content, during which all students are remote.

Collaboration tools such as Webex will enable secure connectivity and support greater engagement. For example, educators can observe student interaction through video, understand the types of learners they are, and use features such as automated transcription, gesture recognition, and noise removal to truly engage with students in an immersive and inclusive manner. As security is always a major concern — especially in a hybrid environment — Cisco has built security features into every product it develops.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, it’s critical to take the lessons that have come out of it and look for opportunities to truly transform education, Patton said.

“Identifying ways to drive better engagement, rethinking the traditional models of teaching, and ensuring that security becomes part of the fabric of everyday learning – are all critical actions to take,” she said. “Now is the time to reset.”

Find out more about how Webex by Cisco can help teachers and students around the world.

This post was created by Insider Studios with Cisco.



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