Could 'hybrid-flexible' teaching work for you?

If some students are self-isolating, teachers can teach them from the classroom using the 'hybrid-flexible' approach
28th October 2020, 3:00pm
Helen Pepper


Could 'hybrid-flexible' teaching work for you?
Covid & Schools: Why I'm Happy As A Teacher Delivering Hybrid Learning

I looked forward to the start of this academic year more than any other in my career. While online learning has been useful and effective, nothing matches the magic of the classroom. 

But the excitement of teaching again was tempered by the knowledge that approximately 40 students would be on the school site but not present in the lessons for the first two weeks of teaching. 

These would be international students, flying to the UK from countries currently on the quarantine list. While their friends attended classes, they would be quarantined in a separate boarding house or working from home.

We decided that we should do everything we could to integrate these students into the classrooms with their peers. Rather than simply setting work online, we wanted students to participate in a live-streamed lesson they should be in, to be able to contribute to a class discussion, to work with their peers, and to be part of the hustle and bustle of the classroom. 

To achieve this, we decided to adopt a type of blended learning called "concurrent" or "hyflex" (a contraction of "hybrid-flexible"). This has been utilised in some universities internationally, but there was little evidence of it being implemented in UK schools before Covid-19. 

Coronavirus: The benefits of 'hybrid-flexible' teaching

Although a relatively new approach, aspects of concurrent teaching may become much more common this academic year. 

It is realistic to expect higher than average absence figures for both students and teaching staff, for students to go into periods of quarantine or shielding, or for large groups of students to be asked to stay at home. In these situations, concurrent teaching may be an effective Covid-19 mitigation strategy. 

How did we do it? We built our strategy around a webcam, Bluetooth headsets, and Microsoft Teams.  

The teacher teaches the class in front of them and chooses whether to show themselves on the webcam or share their screen. The online students can communicate verbally with the teacher at all times via the headset. The teacher can choose whether to have a private discussion with the online students or to play the question through the speakers so the rest of the class can hear it. 

When the class is engaged in group work, online students can work together or the webcam can be placed within a group in the classroom. Written work can be viewed as it is being composed, so teachers can give live feedback verbally or by typing a comment.

Reading material, worksheets and assessments can be distributed via Teams, either during or before the lesson.  

So, how well did it work?

Embedding the use of this new technology across the school presented some challenges. However, the response of the teaching staff has been excellent. 

Each department is moulding the technology into a form that suits the requirements of their subject. Student voice showed those in quarantine felt included and enjoyed the opportunity to participate (some doing so more than usual), but all students felt reassured that a similar provision would be in place for them if they were to require it. This has supported students' learning and their wellbeing.  

Of course, these approaches might not work in all schools. It simply might not be realistic, depending on your access to technology in school or the access that students have at home. But if this is an approach you are interested to try, here are some tips for making it work.

Three tips for rolling out live-stream lessons

  • Get started ASAP. Find a core group of tech-savvy teachers who can be the pioneers. They will help you to solve problems as they arise. 
  • Start with recordings. Learn how to navigate the use of the technology with no audience. Teachers could record sections of their lessons for revision or professional development purposes.  
  • Collaborate. Work with other schools that have trialled this approach and share best practice.

Helen Pepper is assistant headteacher in charge of teaching and learning at Ampleforth College 

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