Countries in the Asia Pacific are at various levels of development when it comes to digital infrastructure and perspectives toward hybrid learning
Ever since the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns compelled educational institutions around the globe to radically alter the way they teach and engage their students, the hybrid learning model has been gaining traction worldwide. Combining elements of face-to-face classroom instruction with online teaching, this method of teaching has taken off, with more and more schools delivering online programmes.
According to a McKinsey report, the number of learners reached by massive open online courses (MOOCs) – online courses with video for many participants at the same time – increased from 300,000 to 220 million from 2011 to 2021. The number of hybrid and distance-only students at traditional colleges rose by 36 per cent between 2012 and 2019, and in 2020, COVID-19 sharply accelerated that rise by an additional 92 per cent.
Several variables have influenced the broad acceptance of hybrid education. First, the strength of unified collaboration has been enhanced by the rapid advancement of technology in video conferencing and collaboration tools. Second, classrooms are increasingly implementing a dynamic structure supported by technology to handle interruptions without interfering with the flow of instruction.
However, countries in the Asia Pacific are at various levels of development when it comes to digital infrastructure and perspectives toward hybrid learning. Traditional teaching approaches still predominate in some markets, while in others, they need to be modified to work with currently available technologies.
Regardless of the different market nuances, students gravitate towards this model. Many find that the hybrid learning experience allows them to learn in a more engaging environment while not restricting them to a particular time or place for learning.
A report in June 2021 found that 49 per cent of the student population worldwide affirmed having enrolled in an online course in the previous 12 months. In addition, 95 per cent of students indicated being satisfied with online education and that web-based learning is more engaging and helps them retain information more rapidly. This is adding impetus to the need for schools to include some form of hybrid or blended learning instruction.
Challenges to making hybrid learning work
However, hybrid learning requires a multi-dimensional involvement made possible by technology. Roadblocks to implementing hybrid learning include not just inadequate technology but also the lack of compatibility among devices.
When the lockdowns arrived suddenly, many schools were faced with an urgent need to cobble together solutions utilising a variety of devices and platforms that did not “work well” with one another or were too difficult for instructors to use while teaching.
Additionally, faculty staff with little remote teaching experience have struggled to teach when using devices or platforms with less-than-intuitive interfaces. Poor audio and video solutions can further impact an instructor’s ability to teach effectively – especially when they are teaching from the classrooms where they are most comfortable.
The risk of security issues has also been a potential bottleneck. A broad range of devices run on a campus or district network and platforms or machines accessed by staff and students with limited cybersecurity oversight across less-than-secure public networks can be potential headaches for a school’s IT department.
The same holds true for on-campus faculty, guests, and devices – connectivity and access to the network must be carefully managed. School networks need to be protected from increasingly sophisticated malware.
Hijacked video services and bring-your-own-device type issues are also sources of potential security breaches as devices are transferred between home and the classroom for hybrid learning. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial that educational institutions educate students and faculty about data security risks; teachers themselves may also be unaware of the basic security problems and how to prevent them.
Giving everyone an equal seat
Besides taking into consideration the factors above, schools also need to be mindful of maintaining a consistent online learning user experience for everyone, no matter their location, while still tailoring the solution to the instruction or meeting space.
It is also important to ensure meeting equality in virtual sessions such that everyone has an “equal seat” at lectures, virtual classrooms, or group meetings. Schools need to ensure that the platforms are easy to use, are purpose-built, and are able to provide intelligent video, clear audio, localised AV options, intuitive content distribution, and effective video conferencing solutions for accessible and equitable learning experiences.
Hybrid learning solutions should also include scheduling tools as well. This ensures that classrooms and instructional technology are available when needed by faculty staff, thereby improving efficiency and productivity. Additionally, such solutions should offer the ability to scale by allowing web-based conferencing to be added to existing and new instructional spaces to support those environments. Lastly, the platform should be future-flexible – which means that it can handle upgrades as and when new technologies are developed.
Putting a hybrid learning solution together
To implement a hybrid learning solution, educational institutions should start by clarifying their needs and identifying the current issues and limitations in their infrastructure, and then choose the right solution that addresses their requirements. Different schools will have different needs depending on their platforms and operating system preferences, scale, and percentage of remote students and instructors.
The first step in implementing a hybrid learning solution is, therefore, Assessment and Awareness. Schools need to understand the challenges it and its chosen system will be confronting. They need to determine whether students and faculty want the flexibility of learning or teaching from anywhere and consider peoples’ preferences and need when it comes to using personal devices for collaboration and connecting with others.
They also must keep in mind that as new teaching methodologies emerge, IT pain points will increase. So, while the demand for software-based conferencing solutions is surging, they need to be aware that there could be initial compatibility and interoperability problems.
Second, schools need to define objectives and craft their plans accordingly. They should identify the limitations of current learning and instruction methods, examine how technology influences an equitable learning experience for students when learning remotely, conduct site audits and explore use cases.
Additionally, they need to define their desired outcomes for consistency, performance, and connectivity, as well as outline the institution’s objectives and needs for web-enabled conferencing and collaboration solutions.
Finally, educational institutions need to find the right partner in Implementing a hybrid learning solution. An end-to-end partner — preferably with an ecosystem approach that provides a breadth of solutions and services to help schools meet their objectives – would be an ideal choice. Such a partner would help them craft a strategy that gives faculty the freedom to choose applications while staying fully interoperable with all tools.
Their solution should also be built on an open platform on which new web-based conferencing tools can be integrated with legacy technologies. Additionally, the partner should have an open sensibility towards natively supported third-party solutions and the expertise to deploy and manage every device across the campus or school district, and who will help keep the learning experience top-of-mind.
Combining these strategies together will help enable educational institutions to provide a seamless, meaningful, and equitable learning experience for students while at the same time empowering instructors and educators in their teaching experience.
With the right technology partner, schools and teachers can bring the education experience for students to the next level and be well-prepared to adapt to whatever new learning possibilities that the future interconnected world will bring.