- Project-based learning can work in a hybrid learning environment.
- Educators must carefully consider which projects lend themselves to hybrid learning settings.
- Using the right communications solution enables successful project-based learning.
💻📚👩🏻🏫 What are the essential elements of online project-based learning? Read our guide to find out.
Throughout 2020, the big question on everyone’s lips was how to adapt to a virtual learning environment. Now, in early 2022, that question has lost much of its urgency. The new issue is how to adapt to a hybrid learning environment. Proponents of project-based learning, or PBL, have more cause to rejoice than most.
As real-life careers and problems increasingly mix the in-person with the virtual, educators see a clear need to familiarize students with these types of problem-solving stratagems in school. But what’s the best way to maximize the potential of project-based learning with the strengths (and weaknesses) of a hybrid learning environment? Which hybrid learning tools can help?
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Tips for project-based learning in a hybrid learning environment
Here are RingCentral’s top tips for project-based learning in a hybrid learning environment:
1. Consider the hardware
When dealing with software, you first need to know what your students have in terms of equipment, including operating systems.
What exactly does that mean? Well, here’s a brief checklist of helpful questions:
- Do students have access to laptops, iPads, or other devices?
- Does this apply at school as well as in their home environment?
- What can your school or district do to improve access to the necessary technology?
- What contingency plans are in place if a vital piece of hardware should break?
- Does the software or application you want to use run on various types of operating systems?
- Is there an experience discrepancy between mobile and desktop devices?
This is an important place to start. The best hybrid learning tools in the world won’t do much good if half of your students can’t access them!
It might require a collaborative effort between educators, administrators, and IT specialists to hammer out a functional, schoolwide policy, but it’s absolutely critical as a baseline measure.
2. Ask the right questions
To prompt engagement and maximize the educational return, students need to tackle driving questions with real-life applications. Abstract questions don’t do much for project-based learning; they need to be questions with tangible obstacles and solutions.
Ideally, the critical question should be inquiry-based, complex, interdisciplinary, motivating, and self-directing. It also might involve a complex network of stakeholders. That’s not a bad thing, especially at higher levels of education. Real problems are complicated, and for project-based learning to be effective, your example problems will require a certain level of complexity as well.
Finally, you want a question that prompts collaboration and an exchange of ideas both within and outside of the classroom.
3. Plug into the community
Hybrid learning tools are at their most potent when used with a creative, innovative, and open mind. That means plugging yourself (and your students) into some of the brightest personalities of this generation.
YouTube, Khan Academy, Udemy, and other video-based websites are invaluable for learning. They’re great for teachers, too, because it leaves educators in the classroom free to tackle higher-order problems while virtually conducted video sessions teach simpler topics.
Remember that ecosystem of stakeholders? Those stakeholders might be theoretical, but they represent the thoughts and priorities of very real people. Use whatever media you feel is necessary to introduce your students to the key stakeholders of whatever problem(s) they may be trying to solve.
Finally, you’re not the only educator addressing these issues. Use the Internet to see what other teachers or professors have done to alleviate the main issues. We’re all in this together.
4. Use the right communications solution
Technology is a vital part of solving problems in the twenty-first century, and communications platforms have become a critical and unavoidable aspect of solving everyday issues.
In fact, a particularly hot-button issue right now is digital citizenship, the art of using technology in a positive, effective, and safe way to interact with and influence society.
More and more educational institutions are looking for ways to encourage digital citizenship among their students, and nearly all begin with communications platforms.
Video conferencing and team messaging have become almost objective requirements for an effective online learning experience, especially because PBL usually involves a group component because problems in real life are rarely entirely individual.
Communications platforms provide communications solutions, a solid foundation for groups to connect when not in the classroom.
The key takeaway? Communication tools aren’t going anywhere after school; they’re ubiquitous throughout the professional domain. The sooner your students are acquainted with communications platforms, the better prepared they will be to tackle complex problems later in life.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices on offer, that’s natural. Luckily, as a cloud communications platform, RingCentral’s specialty is introducing relevant, effective technology into the classroom.
5. Give solid feedback
Suppose you’ve given a complex question. The students have considered it both in the classroom and out. They’ve communicated with each other and considered the stakeholders, and they’ve presented a solution.
Is it any good?
This is the moment to reflect upon both the solution and the process. What could have been done better? Is the solution workable? Would you do it differently next time?
You can guide these discussions, and you should, but it’s also crucial that students be granted the autonomy to consider these questions on their own, or at least among groups of peers. After all, the ability to view past processes and solutions with fresh eyes, seeing the flaws inherent in those approaches, is itself a skill that can be developed over time. When taking a PBL approach, it’s also one of the most valuable skills a student can take from the classroom into the real world.
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Originally published Jan 13, 2022, updated May 15, 2023