What is the future for hybrid learning? (Opinion)

Please note the issues and questions raised in this blog come from anecdotal and personal experiences.

With the rise of COVID19 the UK saw a surge in remote working, as people took their businesses out of the office and into their homes. Reports six months into the pandemic, by the BBC and similar large media sources, suggested that hybrid working could be seen much more once the pandemic ends.
These reports suggested that, since the rise of remote working, the business world now sees that the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, office model isn’t the only way to work. The figures show more productivity can be achieved by cutting the daily commute, as well as decreased overheads, all of which could actually be a boost to smaller, struggling businesses.

So hybrid working may be here to stay. But what of the future of hybrid schooling? Enforced lockdowns have moved learning out of schools and forced a shift in traditional classroom teaching.
In the first lockdown, my daughter’s school used an online website to set work, but had no face-to-face interaction with the students, and the onus was on the students and their families to commit to the work. On a personal level I had to disengage with my own work, as I was required much more to involve myself in, what felt like, traditional home-schooling. The work set by the school was not filling much of my children’s time, and in the case of my eldest daughter, not challenging her gifted brain.
We ended up with a small downstairs school set up, a book case full of books and notepads, a timetable on the fridge, and we were engaging in a lot of our own projects.

It was not all a struggle, and indeed was fun, in that I was able to teach my daughters subjects I was passionate about, such as the rise of women’s rights and powerful women in history as well as poetry, and trying to instil a love of language in them that I felt the current school curriculum, as enforced by the government, strangles the life out of.
It also meant pursuing subjects they were interested in, such as space, science experiments, and lots of art. Much more it fell in line with their own interests and strengths. However, keeping the learning balanced, and teaching them subjects such as algebra and grammar, involved reaching back into a past I hadn’t accessed since leaving school.
It proved a strange experience, in that I was relieved on their return to school, yet a little sad since having experienced home-schooling.

However, my youngest daughter struggled to return to school. Her autism diagnosis involves a lot of school-related anxiety, and we experience frequent episodes of, what is colloquially known, as school refusal.
This is a slight misnomer, as it seems to imply truculence or misbehaviour. In my daughter’s case, the reasons underlying her refusal to go to school involves large elements of anxiety, and an inability to cope with the demands of the school day. It started prior to the pandemic, as she approached the end of primary and school became more challenging.
However, upon return to school, having to deal with the transition on top became all too much and her attendance was greatly affected.

In this lockdown the dynamic in the remote learning shifted, as schools adapted more to the change in how teaching had to be delivered. Both my children now have spots in the house, (including my office, leaving me relegated to a lap tray on the sofa!), where they have lessons delivered by a teacher using either Teams or Zoom, with worksheets and notebooks to complement the lessons.
This has freed me up to be able to do my own work, as well as feeling more comfortable that the subjects I was struggling to teach are being delivered by somebody far more qualified, as well as being reassured they aren’t falling behind in their schooling needs. The biggest difference is that is there is no resistance from my youngest daughter to her schooling. In fact, she is up and getting dressed most mornings before I am, and enjoying engaging with her teacher and class group online.
The learning is far more suited to her needs. In the afternoons she frequently speaks on video calls to her friends, and I hear giggles and squealing coming from her bedroom as she enjoys interacting with them unburdened by anxiety.

This begs the question of what will happen as the pandemic unfolds and ends. In my opinion social distancing and masks are much more here to stay. But what of hybrid learning? The traditional schooling model is very suited to the child who runs straight down the middle in terms of their needs, but the child who struggles or exceeds can find it difficult having a curriculum tailored to their individual circumstances.
Hybrid learning takes a lot of that difficulty away. My daughter can access her learning, without the anxiety of having to deal with a school day that challenges her social and sensory issues. It also doesn’t have to preclude a lack of social interaction, with the pandemic having increased the use of video socialisation, through apps like Houseparty and Whatsapp.

Added with an eventual return to being able to play with her friends, after school and on weekends means, I predict hybrid learning being a scenario where she is able to access her school and social needs in a way she can deal with.
So does the future involve a mixture of classroom learning and remote learning? Could it involve a classroom where some children attend physically and others via screens? Or where screens can be used on the days where attending a classroom isn’t possible?

To my mind this would improve outcomes for schools as well as individual children, with learning much more adapted to their needs, which would probably improve interaction with learning, improved attendance levels if a remote learning day were treated as an attendance, and improved test scores proving beneficial to both school ratings as well as children’s educational outcomes, as children who would have previously lost lesson days from school refusal access their learning remotely, and are able to engage with it far better, without the anxiety and exposure to sensory challenges impeding them.

Only time will tell.


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