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Disruptions and opportunities: Navigating hybrid education

Barbara Holzapfel, GM Education, Microsoft
02 Oct 2020
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Disruptions and opportunities: Navigating hybrid education

When COVID-19 disrupted traditional classroom instruction and forced system and school leaders, IT professionals, educators, faculty, and students to pivot to remote learning, it also prompted re-examining education more broadly. We know from the whitepaper “The Class of 2030 and Life Ready Learning” that today’s students will need a high level of cognitive skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. And social-emotional skills have become even more important in remote and hybrid settings and require solutions that integrate pedagogy and technology accessibly and cohesively.

In “Education Reimagined: the Future of Learning,” the experts from New Pedagogies for Deep Learning suggest that there are three phases that learning institutions are navigating to move education systems to a successful and sustainable hybrid model: Disruption, Transition, and Reimagining.

The Three Phases of Reimagining Education

By now, many schools and universities have worked their way through the initial disruption and have been adapting to online learning for several months. As the next school year begins, there is new data showing some best practices for supporting smooth transitions for students and teachers.

Microsoft have now shared a new whitepaper, “Disruptions and Opportunities: Lessons from the spring of 2020,” commissioned in collaboration with Manchester Street Research. The report surveyed 400 K-12 educators and 381 IT professionals in the United States to understand their perspectives about the transition experience, the technology used for remote learning, the quality of student engagement, the assessment of learning outcomes, and more. This research focused on K-12 teachers, IT professionals, and the added challenges of keeping younger students engaged in learning online. Some key insights from the study are:

1. Microsoft Teams encourages student engagement and facilitates learning assessment

One of the most challenging aspects for teachers when moving online was how their relationships with students changed when meeting only on screens. For remote learning to be effective and sustainable, technologies that encourage meaningful engagement and interaction, with features that help teachers evaluate student progress, are critical.  The study found that Microsoft Teams users were 29% more likely than those who didn’t use Teams to describe most of their students as highly engaged. Also, Teams users were on average 23% more likely than those who didn’t use Teams to say they feel confident in their ability to assess learning outcomes while teaching remotely.

2. Microsoft Teams provides a collaboration lifeline for teachers

Teachers who developed a community of support among colleagues reported that this support was critical for them in developing confidence in remote teaching and learning, trying new things, discovering best practices, and solving problems. Educators in the survey who used Microsoft technology, especially those who used Teams, were 42% more likely to collaborate with their peers than those who used Google Classroom.

3. A clear strategy integrating technology & pedagogy is critical in hybrid learning

Expecting teachers to select from a multitude of technologies burdens them with the added responsibility of learning and assessing different technology platforms. When leaders provide clarity and direction by selecting a single set of online learning technologies, rooted in the key pedagogical approaches, teachers can get up to speed faster and have more time to focus on teaching. The data shows that for remote learning, too many options can actually cause negative outcomes. One of the study respondents, K-12 teacher Yolanda M., noted that when it came to her students, “I have noticed the difficulty for a lot of the kids is all the different platforms that the teachers have in relaying information to them. That has been really difficult for students and for parents.”

Looking back at the last school year, it’s clear that transitioning to remote learning at scale was a monumental task. And it’s been most successful when pedagogy and technology are adapted to work together to encourage collaboration, engagement, and quality learning outcomes.

It’s inspiring to see the efforts of so many dedicated education leaders, teachers, and IT professionals as they define a new era of learning: one that’s open-walled, student-centred, and unlimited by time or space. As the next academic year gets underway, it’s clear that we’re still in a transitional period and that schools and education systems are still determining the best path forward. While there are still challenges to address, we can see that when pedagogy is coupled with scalable technology for online and hybrid learning, it can help drive enhanced learning outcomes, increase well-being, and create a more fulfilling experience for teachers and students.

For a deeper dive into the findings, visit Microsoft Education’s hybrid learning page and download the complete whitepaper.

This article was originally posted on Microsoft’s Education Blog on August 25th 2020. You can read the original article here.

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