This Isn’t What We Meant by Hybrid Learning

Let’s get real. This is two jobs.

Female high school teacher offering assignment assistance and three students in classroom setting wearing face masks and working at desks observing social distancing using technology of laptop computers and digital table.

This week I met with one of the teachers I coach. It was our first session of the 2020 school year. I knew she was teaching in person and online at the same time. So, I asked her to describe her schedule in the hopes of learning more. Here’s what this teacher is dealing with every day (I know she isn’t the only one and she gave me permission to share her story).

This is Hybrid Teaching in 2020

She doesn’t know which students will be in person or online. If one of her kids isn’t feeling well, they have the option to stay home and learn online even if they typically go to school in person. She wears an earbud in one ear so she can hear her kids online and her face-to-face learners at the same time. She prints handouts and posts them in her LMS. Her workload has doubled. Her attention darts from one group of learners to the next, and she’s added tech support to her regular list of teaching tasks.

Did I mention that her curriculum isn’t designed for this, so she has to customize her lessons so they work for all of her kids, which means spending hours making slide decks?

Oh, and let’s not forget that spotty internet, and kids getting kicked out of the Zoom class slow everything down for her and her kids.

As I listened my heart was full of empathy and my mind was full of rage: how are we asking teachers to do two jobs at once every day? Let’s get it straight because this isn’t fair: this isn’t what we meant by hybrid learning.

Whatever this is, it’s not okay

I thought hybrid meant that students learn both online and in person, not that the teacher will teach students online and in person at the same time every day. I thought hybrid meant smaller classes so students could safely return to classrooms two days a week and learn online the other three. Whatever you call it, what’s happening right now isn’t ok, and here’s why.

Hybrid learning isn’t teaching the same curriculum online and in person 

By design, hybrid learning is meant to combine the best parts of face-to-face learning and online learning to maximize students’ learning experience and potential. Asking teachers to take one curriculum and teach half of it online and half of it in person at the same time does just the opposite of that. It’s like putting a square peg into a round hole: it doesn’t make fit no matter how hard you try. 

One teacher shouldn’t have to teach two different classes at the same time

Unless you are Hermione Granger, it’s impossible to teach two different synchronous classes at the same time (one in person and one online). This is exactly what many schools using hybrid models are asking teachers to do every day. To fix this problem, we need two separate teachers (one for students learning online and another for students learning in person). Or we need thoughtful planning and instructional design where a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning create a schedule where a teacher can focus on one group of students at a time, whether they are F2F or online. This means resources. Which means equitable access to technology and teacher training.

There is more frontal teaching than ever and it’s not best for our kids

If a teacher has to teach kids online and in person at the same time, it’s harder to circulate the room. Some teachers are putting their laptop on a rolling cart so they can move freely, yet still see and hear their online learners. Depending on what technology teachers have, many have to stay at their desks or in the front of the room so they can click back and forth between their virtual class and their slides on one computer. We all know that good teaching isn’t standing in front of a class of students sitting in rows before you. Yet, here we are. Teachers need the freedom to move about their classroom and facilitate learning rather than send the message that they are the “sage on the stage.”

Planning feels impossible and workloads have doubled

In some hybrid models, cohort A comes to school Monday and Tuesday and is remote Wednesday-Friday. Then cohort B comes to school Thursday and Friday and is learning online Monday-Wednesday. The routines and procedures that teachers use to help students are a lot more complicated in this setting. If you support students to set goals on Monday and circle back on Friday, when do you do goal setting with cohort B if you don’t see them on Monday? Do they set goals asynchronously? If so, you are now managing two different systems for goal setting and one group of students has a different experience from another. You can see what I mean here. It’s impossible to keep both cohorts together. At least when we taught four sections of the same subject, we had one lesson plan. Now we need two. 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. No teacher should have to do two jobs at once. This isn’t the first time that we’ve gone above and beyond what we signed up for, and it won’t be the last.

How do you feel about hybrid learning? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.

Plus, How Do I Teach Online and In Person At The Same Time, Your Questions Answered

This Isn't What We Meant by Hybrid Learning

Posted by Julie Mason

Julie Mason is a Senior Editor at WeAreTeachers. She taught middle and high school English, and is a blended and personalized learning instructional coach. She loves reading a book in one sitting, good coffee, and spending time with her husband and sons.



  1. This is a very pessimistic article. Teachers in my high school are doing this – teaching in-school and remote kids simultaneously. It can work, it’s not two jobs, and it isn’t (and shouldn’t be) two curricula. We teachers, with the right tech gear, and the right approach, can do this well. I’m surprised the story is so negative.

  2. Maura Fitzgerald October 2, 2020 at 11:47 am

    WOW! That poor teacher’s experience is just too crazy. She’s going to burn out!

    I teach 8th grade and our school has live students assigned on an A-Day (Tues and Thurs) or a B-Day ( Wed and Fri) schedule, and distance learners do everything via the internet with no live broadcast. Monday is all distance learning, so we can plan, and have meetings, etc. Internet service is poor or non-existent in many parts of our rural area. Did I mention we had one month to learn the new LMS (we’d previously used Google Classroom if we wanted to) and received content from the state two weeks before school started? It ends up, the prepared content from the state was awful and incomplete – it only covered literature lessons, and we teach literature and writing! The district teachers, in all subjects, got together by grade level to decide what the most essential concepts were that needed to be taught, so we are covering the same concepts each marking period county-wide, but we each decide in what order and how. After struggling through the first two weeks with the state lessons, I now do my own lesson planning, presenting the same lesson material for all the students, each day. My daily modules are very detailed, so my distance learners get the same information I share with the live classes. I create each module, containing the lesson (slides, assignments, etc), one module per day, on our LMS, and add my wonderful presence in the classroom via Google Meet Tues – Friday (I’m teaching virtually). The modules are small. For example, this week one module covered notes and practice on compound sentences, and another covered notes and practice on complex sentences), which is mostly “review and remember” for 8th-grade students. I also field Emails from Distance Learners, some A/B students, and some parents all day and into the night, at least five days a week. LOL! It is a LOT of work – much more than just planning and making copies as needed. Now I actually have to write my lesson, in detail, and not stray at all into other topics or discussions. I miss that. There is no more ad-libbing the material and adjusting it as I go, or winging-it if a lesson bombs either.

    I can retire this year, but I’m not ready to, and I’ll be darned if this virus and associated “stuff” is going to make me!

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