How Hybrid Learning Can Close the Education Gap

5 min read

Most of us remember our school days as a seven-hour classroom slog with occasional breaks on the playground. Modern education techniques are flipping that narrative. Hybrid or blended learning uses technology to mix in-class sessions with distance learning, making learning more convenient and efficient.

Hybrid learning takes time, thought, and technology to implement properly, but when done right, it can supercharge the education experience. It isn't a new development. Distance courses have been available since the mid-nineteenth century via the postal service, but technology evolved the concept, first through TV and then on computers via CD-ROMs and the web. Until recently, though, hybrid scholars were forced to adapt the way they learned based on the tools available.

Thanks to technology innovation, hybrid learning is no longer about making compromises. Modern connectivity and inexpensive devices that are easy to set up have made this concept accessible to more students by lowering the barriers to entry.

Prices for cameras and audio equipment have dropped substantially over the years, while their quality has improved. This, combined with increased accessibility via mobile devices, makes it possible to do things with a cellphone today that would have taken tens of thousands of dollars per classroom in the past.

Whether classes are fully remote or hybrid, it is critical that learning spaces be approached holistically with new modalities in mind. Modern technologies can bring remote students directly into the classroom. Cameras such as Panasonic's PTZ series can track teachers and students around the room, ensuring no lecture or in-class interaction is lost. Reliable and quality audio matters too. For example, audio products like digital wireless microphones have enabled lecturers at the Ross School of Business to engage students seamlessly while filtering out cross talk from nearby classrooms.

Exploring the benefits of hybrid learning

While technology was already fueling the growth of hybrid learning, the pandemic supercharged it. In its early days, the health crisis sent 1.4 billion students — 82% of all enrolled learners — learning from home, according to UNESCO. Just before summer break 2021, nearly one in ten learners were still affected. The global health crisis forced educational institutions to adopt hybrid learning. Technology including online video conferencing services helped them to pivot. It also opened up some exciting benefits.

A hybrid learning environment opens up the learning experience to more people, including not only children who are ill and cannot travel easily, but also adults who might not be able to make it into every class. Those with parental or other family responsibilities, and those whose working hours conflict with class time can all benefit from a hybrid classroom which enables them to participate at a distance. They can pick up learning materials and recordings of classroom sessions themselves, including lessons and student Q&A segments.

Hybrid learning can also solve one of the biggest challenges for educators: data gathering. A common complaint among teachers is the time they must spend compiling data on student performance and attendance. This burdensome but necessary task can get in the way of their teaching. Technology-powered solutions that encourage online interactions make it easier to track attendance and performance, just so long as educational institutions observe student privacy rules.

While these benefits are all on the table for educators, there are still challenges in moving to a hybrid environment, especially for teachers that haven't done it before. To unlock the real benefits of hybrid learning, educators must adapt their teaching styles to take full advantage of the technology that's available. Simply throwing a PowerPoint slide onto a Zoom call won't engage students in a hybrid classroom.

Hybrid education means new lesson plans and changes to curricula. It means using technology such as virtual breakout rooms to emphasize and encourage collaboration between students. It also means considering their accessibility to technology and keeping tabs on those that disconnect or zone out, to identify potential problem areas for remote learners. Doing this at a distance requires a new set of skills for many teachers.

Shooting for a stellar hybrid learning experience

Panasonic continues to set its sights on the future of education. In partnership with renowned educator Dr. Sonny Magana, Founder and CEO of Magana Education, Panasonic has developed Project Moonshot EDU, an initiative designed to help education institutions leverage research-driven online teaching strategies to measurably accelerate student learning whether in-person or online.

Project Moonshot EDU uses Dr. Magana's T3 framework for innovation, which integrates modern teaching tools with best practices in education. "Our intention is to package AV tools with the T3 Framework’s concrete strategies, protocols and resources so that our AV equipment is not just used but used in the most reliable way possible to improve learning outcomes," says Darryl Krall, National Sales Manager at Panasonic.

T3, which is listed in the Oxford University Encyclopedia of Education, takes teachers through three phases in their technology development:

  • Translation: The first focuses on translating existing manual paper-based teaching practices onto technology platforms.

  • Transformation: The second transforms students into teachers by articulating what they've learned using technology production tools.

  • Transcendence: The third and final phase sees students use technology in their own unique ways to innovate by tackling topics and solving problems.

Project Moonshot EDU addresses the recognized issues due to the pandemic slide as more than 97% of educators reported seeing some learning loss in their students over the past year when compared with children in previous years.  Project Moonshot EDU is Panasonic's service to teachers, ensuring that they move beyond what some educators call 'thousand-dollar pencil' syndrome. Educators can use these three phases to unlock the transformative benefits of hybrid classroom technology and to boost students' education in new and powerful ways.

"It’s not just about the AV; it’s about reliably and consistently improving remote and hybrid learning based on the research evidence on what works,” says Krall. The T3 framework is proven to double student productivity, and teachers have already applied it to their existing curricula following pioneering Project Moonshot EDU sessions in 2020.

The possibilities for hybrid learning are boundless. Panasonic is already working with schools to promote esports as a learning and team building activity that will engage students in hybrid environments. It also serves as a recruiting tool for STEM and STEAM (STEM with arts) students, opening up teaching opportunities across a wide array of disciplines.

For many educational institutions, however, the first task will be to put the right tools and techniques in place to foster sustainable long-term hybrid learning opportunities. Then, they must help those students who have been struggling with makeshift distance learning environments to catch up and feel comfortable with the material in their curricula. As teachers get access to the technologies and teaching patterns to support hybrid learning, they'll be able to create the classroom of the future, today.

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