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As a teacher, your students’ hybrid classroom learning environment is essential for their educational success. From classroom design to the structure of your curriculum, there are many factors for educators to consider when creating comprehensive in-person and virtual learning spaces.

Implementing a hybrid learning model for the first time can feel scary, especially if your students are new to the roles and responsibilities of a virtual learning environment. 

Fortunately, by asking yourself these four questions, you can feel confident about establishing a hybrid learning environment that promotes collaboration, mindfulness, responsibility, and STEAM-based activities throughout your lesson plans. 

1. How can I establish the right hybrid learning culture?  

As you introduce students to this new teaching method, explain the purpose of a hybrid learning strategy and its benefits at the beginning, as most students will be out of their learning comfort zones. This proactive approach will allow you to start creating a positive culture around hybrid learning course requirements and expectations.

Then as the school year progresses, continue to revisit the topic with your students every few weeks. Dedicating class time to discuss everybody’s experience will encourage students to share insights that may help their peers. With this approach, you’ll foster a supportive culture in which students feel close to each other — even while at a distance.

2. Does the learning environment enhance educational experiences?  

When developing your hybrid learning model, the design of your classroom should support the types of learning experiences you plan to create. Most hybrid learning models focus on in-person student collaboration, stronger teacher-student relationships, and virtual lessons that inspire independent thinking. 

To account for all three of these learning strategies, an open classroom environment is beneficial. With less wall-to-wall separation and moveable desks, chairs, tables, and whiteboards, you can design different layouts to facilitate both cross-classroom teamwork and remote independent learning.

To make the classroom experience something that students look forward to throughout the semester, consider remixing the environment! Add new posters, write different quotes on the board, and introduce new games and tools into the classroom. Variety prevents in-person educational experiences from getting stale.

3. What should my students learn independently?  

Independent learning is a key component of a well-constructed hybrid learning strategy. But what should your students focus on while outside of the classroom?   

Online activities should provide asynchronous (or self-paced) learning that allows your students to absorb and analyze the specific subject matter, as well as reflect on what was learned through collaborative discussion boards.

Virtual learning environments are also great for preparing students for in-person activities. Whether your remote students are required to complete short true-or-false quizzes or watch a video tutorial, mixed-media online content will allow learners to come to class prepared for subject matter enrichment and social collaboration with peers.

4. What learning activities require collaboration? 

While online learning activities are reserved for self-paced exploration, class time at school is meant to facilitate brain-nurturing collaboration and face-to-face interaction. Supplementing online instruction, your in-person hybrid lesson plans should provide your students with team-building activities and deep-dive discussions.

For example, in-person instruction could include: 

  • Student presentations or lab experiments  
  • In-depth discussions covering online student work 
  • Quick writing responses or summarizations of subject matter 
  • Teaming up to problem solve and experiment  

These types of collaborative assignments allow students to bond and develop their own working relationships with one another, as well as participate in active learning techniques that showcase their retention and progress. 

Incorporating STEAM-Based Activities Into Your Hybrid Learning Model

No matter if your students are working in the classroom or remotely, STEAM-based activities are easy to incorporate into your hybrid learning model. In fact, many of these activities can help break up your standard weekly routine and get your students up, moving, and thinking critically while having a blast with their peers. 

For example, if your online lesson plan covers programming concepts, your students’ in-person activities could feature Sphero’s programmable robots. With the help of the Sphero Edu app, your class could visualize the real-world impacts of programming by completing exciting activities with their robot. If your online focus is more engineering-oriented, littleBits modular electronic building blocks and littleBits Classroom allow for innovative creations that support whole-brain learning.  

Start Small, Describe Processes, and Explain Expectations 

Small steps are key to any new learning experience, so don’t hesitate to start off with low-commitment assignments to familiarize your student with your lesson plan. Be sure to walk through the technology and software necessary to complete assignments and provide easily accessible support for remote learners. 

Your students should also have a solid understanding of assessments, as well as what kind of feedback you and your students will provide. And, because time management and communication skills are a crucial part of online learning, make sure your students have access to helpful tips and tricks to stay on track in their virtual learning environment at home.

Finally, it is important to remember that hybrid learning models transform the “authoritative” educator into a learning “facilitator,” as the educational technology involved in your curriculum becomes a primary source of information for learners. 

Create a Successful Hybrid Learning Environment for Your Students 

From creating a classroom that supports collaboration to establishing a positive hybrid learning culture, answering these questions will help you facilitate hybrid learning experiences that spark creativity and set your students up for success. Plus, with STEAM-based activities and Sphero’s educational tools in the mix, you can ensure your learners are developing important 21st-century skills needed to thrive in the future. 

To learn more about how to use Sphero robots and littleBits STEAM kits in the hybrid classroom, check out our socially distanced learning resources! 

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