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Shifting to Online Learning—in the Classroom

As schools prepare for the start of the academic year amid the COVID-19 crisis, there is a lot of uncertainty what school will actually look like. Will students be required to attend class in person? Will schools pivot to all distance learning? Will there be a hybrid model, with some students in class and others online? This uncertainty is particularly challenging for teachers who are trying to plan lessons because the varied learning models can require very different kinds of instruction. In fact, many educators are currently making multiple sets of plans in order to accommodate all the possibilities.

But what if, in places where safety conditions allow, teachers could have one approach that maintains the classroom environment and is adaptable to contingencies so that they have to plan only once and could pivot in a moment’s notice to fully online, fully in-person, or hybrid instruction?

The approach I refer to is dynamic hybrid learning, a distance-learning model I designed at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 2013. This model blends online and in-person students for live, interactive learning. Unlike typical distance-learning models, this one seeks to fully integrate the online students in order to make them feel like they are sitting right in class with their peers. The dynamic aspect comes from using multiple cameras, or one camera that can capture multiple areas in the classroom. This makes the experience of online learning much more engaging because students can follow the flow of the lesson in a more natural way.

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