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Looking at a hybrid approach in higher education in the endemic phase

The advent of Covid-19 threw the teaching and learning universe into a breathless adjustment period; schools, colleges and universities struggled to adapt to the new normal of primarily online learning. Institutions and educators also had to ramp up their digital capabilities hastily.

Increased engagement in hybrid learning, new hybrid assessment methods, and post-class learning continuity should all be central to the new digital classroom. Photo: iStock

"The 'great resignation' phenomenon sweeping the world of work is mirrored by a surge of preference for students to remain in remote learning mode"

Issues of connectivity and access to digital devices at the students’ end had to be addressed quickly to avoid the phenomena of ‘lost years’ in education from significantly impacting their learning progress. Parents had to also play a part in ensuring attendance and on-time submissions of assignments for their children in both schools and tertiary institutions.

The world has now started its journey back to some form of pre-pandemic normalcy. However, the landscape of what constitutes normalcy has changed significantly.

The ‘great resignation’ phenomenon sweeping the world of work is mirrored by a surge of preference for students to remain in remote learning mode. Additionally, the increasing questioning of the value of online education vis-a-vis fees paid for face-to-face education was also an additional concern. This new normal is not a stable one.

“This new normal is not a stable one”

With the current situation, we would strongly argue that the case for a hybrid approach to learning is more crucial than ever.

We define hybrid learning as catering to both face-to-face and online learners simultaneously, not just homogeneously undertaking a blended learning approach to the same group of learners. As such, the assumptions of both the educator and the learner must be revisited.

We believe redefining what constitutes the new digital classroom is the critical factor underpinning the hybrid approach. What would these new digital classrooms look like? More importantly, what are their primary goals?

As a guidance, we believe that the new digital classroom should focus on achieving three outcomes: increased engagement in hybrid learning; rethinking assessment methods that maximise the hybrid approach; and post-class learning continuity.

Taking the cue from how business schools and news interviewers interact with their students/interviewees, the importance of the educator to see the faces of all the learners is vital. Smoothly interacting with both face-to-face and online learners is arguably an entirely new skill set that would trigger discussions in both visual and auditory requirements of the tools, as well as the educator’s agility in ensuring engagement to both parties.

We have observed an increase in parents and students preferring a more projects-based and activities-based approach to assessing the learning.

This view is mirrored by many companies that we work with in the field of talent development; a hybrid system of academic and apprenticeship model of education is seen to be preferred. How the digital classroom addresses these moves towards optimising this balance is a focus area in EduCity.

Continuing learning after (and before) the hybrid class session is also paramount. We believe that the flipped classroom principles would well inform the approach required, strongly supported by the learning management systems that could play a more prominent role in the new digital classroom.

These discussions and many more key topics we hope to take place on our new digital platform, https://futureofeducation.my. We will also be organising a hybrid conference called the International Digital Classroom Conference in EduCity from August 19-23, 2022. We look forward to your participation in this conversation.

About the author: This is a sponsored post from Wan Ahmad Saifuddin Wan Ahmad Radzi, managing director of EduCity Iskandar Malaysia. With extensive experience in education, eBusiness, management consulting, as well as corporate transformation, Wan set up an  eLearning company for Petronas from the ground up.

Before he joined EduCity as a Managing Director in 2019, he was the Executive Vice President of Special Projects, Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB), focusing on the Corporate Transformation of the IIB Group of Companies, as well as its Digital Strategy.

Now he leads EduCity, a catalytic development driven by IIB. As a fully integrated education hub, EduCity is positioned as a feeder of talents to support Iskandar Malaysia’s various economic activities whilst grooming future generations of leaders. Partnering with world-class education institutions, EduCity with its universities, colleges and international schools, R&D centres, and integrated with student accommodation and recreational and sports facilities is the first of its kind in Asia.

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