The debates about hybrid education rage on and may continue to do so.
According to The New York Times, there have been over 6 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. so far, resulting in nearly 184,000 deaths. "Case numbers remain persistently high across much of the country," the article states. "A year that started out normal [...] quickly became defined by the pandemic."
The pandemic is, after all, largely responsible for the e-learning and hybrid education debates in the first place.
The Hybrid Education Progress Report
How has the American education community responded to COVID-19? We've already reported that online education (a.k.a. "e-learning") is on its way to the next level. Over the summer, schools have had the opportunity to figure out how to use e-learning platforms, such as Zoom, Curriki.org, and Google Hangouts. Once you get the hang of those (no pun intended), it's time to modify the lesson plans. Yet once you've built your lesson plans, can you set it and forget it? Let's hope that's not the prevailing policy.
Schools have also had the summer to look at scheduling concerns. Everyone seems to be at least sort-of-ok with hybrid course schedules, in which students attend a few classes in person, and the rest of the coursework is taken care of online. Sure, there are nay-sayers in both extremes on the opinion of social distancing--one camp says the corona-virus is a hoax and masks are a violation of personal freedom; the other says we should never go back to the classroom, ever. There will always be extremists. What will the more even-tempered among us say six months from now?
There are also college students who are saying, "Hey, wait a minute. Why does college cost so much if I'm doing most of the coursework on the internet now?" We can't discount this concern, no matter what we feel about the answer to that complaint.
Secondary Education Issues
What about students without access to a reliable internet connection or a decent computer? Some internet service providers have stepped up to help with that monthly internet bill--if the families who ask for it can prove fiscal hardship. And some schools can provide a laptop solution, more often than not, in the form of a Chromebook.
But as many Americans without health insurance in the age of "affordable care" can tell you, there is a large swath of people in this country who make too much money to qualify for aid programs but not enough money to pay what they're expected to pay. Will this be an issue with the e-learning half of hybrid education? Hopefully, not. We can expect to hear more over the Fall 2020 semester.
Free and Low-Cost Solutions
It's interesting to observe how free and/or low-cost solutions can be used in education today. For example, if someone from ten or fifteen years ago climbed into a time machine set for today's date, they'd be amazed at the functionality that CurrikiStudio offers for the sum cost of nada, nothing, zilch--because it's completely free to use. This wasn't necessarily a corona virus-related gift from the gods, either. The company was just trying to revolutionize teaching.
Look at the Curriki features list, too; how much would you pay for a platform like that? You'd pay a lot, that's how much. But you don't have to. Just "design and deliver," as the brochure says. "You can forget the technology and focus on your specialty."
Chromebooks, mentioned a few paragraphs above, are also an amazing thing to have around right now. No, they're not free. But you can pick up a Chromebook for a few hundred dollars.
Rising to the Challenge
Hellen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."
It's a strange time to be in education, but it's a strange time to be in any industry. What's going to be most interesting will be the proverbial cream that will rise to the top.
One of the biggest concerns is: Where does this leave the youth of today? No matter where you stand on the subject of hybrid education, you must strive to make sure that we do, indeed, educate these young people. Let us not do them the disservice of letting an entire generation slip through the cracks; the results would be catastrophic.