Challenges of Distance/Hybrid Learning

Disclaimer: Many teachers, including us, are working together to redefine our teaching to overcome the challenges and change our professional lives every day.

All students are not born equal. The gap in students’ learning and achievement from the new education setting resulted from COVID-19 is the undeniable reality of learning inequity.

Educators and school leaders are forced to make an important decision: Do we prioritize achievement over students’ learning?

To simply put it: Do we lower our expectations and standards to make sure more students are passing?

What is hybrid learning?

Hybrid learning is a combination of in-person and distance learning; therefore, the challenges of hybrid learning also include distance learning challenges. Adding in-person learning to virtual learning could add another layer of challenges for many teachers, even though it seems that the in-person component would add support. Combining the two very different learning settings introduces inconsistent daily schedules, learning settings, and many challenges.

The challenges of hybrid learning, as much as distance learning, are often beyond the control of educators and school leaders. For how long or how many times can today’s educators, school leaders, students, and parents continue to blame the uncontrollable influences for failures resulted from hybrid or distance learning.

Only when we accept and have an honest discussion of the challenges of hybrid learning can we come up with practical solutions and regain control of our students’ learning and achievement without sacrificing students’ learning.

Distractions

Before COVID-19, we create a safe and distraction-free learning setting for all students. We design each aspect of our classroom, from cheating chart to classroom expectations; all the details are intended to promote a lively and rigorous learning setting. We spot any off-task students quickly and immediately re-engage the students with different classroom management tactics. More importantly, we can focus our attention on supporting high-risk students to ensure they are on track to be successful. When students are on their phones, we remind them to up them away or confiscate them. When students watch random YouTube videos or play online games, we block the websites or call parents. Our students rely on us for their learning, reminding them to do their work, recognizing their successes, and providing individualized intervention. Teachers are controlling most of the students’ overall learning process.

However, the learning setting of hybrid or distance learning replaces classroom teachers from students’ physical learning settings with unlimited distractions.

With full distance learning, students are hiding behind their screens with many distractions at home. With hybrid learning, students only see their teachers a few days per week for a shorter period. Their learning is divided into synchronous and asynchronous learning. Their interaction with their teacher in-person has been reducing to less than 25%.

The new learning settings of hybrid or distance learning force teachers to relinquish their control of students’ learning outcomes and achievement.

On the surface, the challenges of hybrid or distance learning seem to be uncontrollable distractions. However, it is more about empowering students’ to be active owners of their learning.

Instead of focusing on removing distractions, we need to focus on strategies to empower and support students to gradually take ownership of their own learning as much as their own fates and lives. We cannot rely on traditional teaching methods and hope for the same learning outcomes. It is foolish to expect all students to pay attention to us when we teach behind the screens. It is naive to expect students to solve problems when we don’t grade students’ answers for corrections. It is hopeless to ask students to study if we do not provide meaningful feedback.

We have to redefine how we teach our students in these new learning settings expected by hybrid or distance learning. The strategies and ways we are taught with, and we are teaching, are will no longer work.

We may not have control over the distractions in front of students in this learning setting; however, we can innovate or learn new teaching strategies to empower students to be active owners of their learning and control their own distractions.

Procrastination

Procrastination has always been a problem for all students, even with in-person learning. However, procrastination has become magnified with hybrid or distance learning. We don’t see students daily and make sure that they complete their work before due dates. Likewise, teachers are expected to empathize with students’ struggles, and some students would abuse it as many times as possible. Combining with the distractions, students procrastinate and try to do things at the last minute.

Cheating

With the power of Google, the internet, and social media, cheating is easy. Students can search for all the answers in seconds if their teachers download worksheets online or their publishers.

If students figure out that their teachers do not grade the works, students find more creative ways to earn the points without putting in a lot of effort.

As educators, we can joke that students cheating in schools are only cheating on themselves. However, it is our responsibility to guide and support our students to cheat on themselves.

Passive Learning

Passive learning is like not learning at all, especially through hybrid or distance learning settings. If we think that our students will passively pay attention to us behind their screens, they are just fooling ourselves. Just like students are cheating on themselves when they search for answers online, we are also lying to ourselves; we believe students can passively learn behind the screens.

Misunderstandings

“The worst distance between two people is a misunderstanding.” The physical distance between teachers and their students from hybrid or distance learning makes it easier for students, parents, teachers, and administrators to misunderstand. Teachers think students are not putting in the minimum effort; students and parents think teachers are too mean and give too many works, and administrators think teachers do not emphasize students’ struggles. Who is right?

With hybrid or distance learning, it is even more crucial for teachers to maintain a comprehensive and updated gradebook. Teachers who do not update or maintain a comprehensive grade book will find many students falling through the cracks.

Students Lack Prior Knowledge or Skills

Students are developing human beings; expect all students to come to our classes with the same or with the minimally required prior knowledge and skills are unrealistic. The diversity among our students will only be more significant as our community becomes more diverse.

Providing individualized learning, intervention, and support will be the most difficult challenge for all teachers in the new learning settings of hybrid or distance learning.

Conclusions

Using today’s technology, we can re-innovate and redefine our roles as educators in these challenging times. We have to integrate today’s technology to redefine teaching and provide achievement equity without sacrificing students’ learning.

It is not the time to blame what we cannot control, nor is it the time to blame each other. We need to look beyond our traditional teaching comfort and redefine our teaching with today’s technology to empower students to be active owners of their learning processes and outcomes.

Join us on this journey to redefine your teaching to overcome these challenges of this new era in education.

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About Us: We are current teachers who co-founded Win Elements LLC to solve schools’ problems with effective and sustainable solutions. We provide StreamlineED as an all-in-one, sustainable, and effective solution to streamline education equity by providing and training teachers on how to use the provided Learning Management System website and Blended teaching strategies that integrate their current technology and resources. We also provide Safe Pouches for phones to create a phone-free learning environment and  to provide a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support

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