Special Report

Hybrid and Blended Learning: Poor Planning and Rising Opportunities in Uncertain Times

September 15, 2021
onsr edtech blended square
The 2021-22 school year is already turning into a bumpy ride for many schools as misplaced early-summer optimism and the sometimes-rigid priorities of state leaders limited the ability of educators to put in place flexible plans for teaching and learning and the use of educational technology.

Instead of building strategies that would have empowered schools to pivot back to hybrid learning if necessary, most district and school leaders focused all their energy on implementing plans to welcome back all students to fully in-person learning or stand up full-time online schools for a small percentage of students. Those approaches are now leaving many school officials flat-footed as the Delta variant spreads rapidly across the country, forcing schools to quarantine students as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations for children rise.

Yet some schools and districts did take a more forward-thinking and flexible approach for this school year. And in addition to being ready to pivot back to hybrid learning if necessary, they are using the wider array of technology tools now available to students to experiment with new approaches in blended learning environments that combine digital learning and face-to-face instruction. Some educators, for instance, are taking the initiative to flip their classrooms, allowing students to learn new material at home via online tools and spending class time on group work, class discussions, or digging deeper into the material.

This report examines the role of digital learning to help schools face the rising challenges of this school year and experiment with new instructional approaches.