How to Create a Schedule that Encourages Best Practices During Hybrid Learning

Kelly Nelson-Danley
Kelly Nelson-Danley
Assistant elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
Classroom with young students and a teacher wearing masks and recording the lesson.

Hybrid learning has created many obstacles in education. One of these obstacles is scheduling. What does a typical day of hybrid learning look like? The humor in this question is there isn’t a typical school day anymore due to COVID-19! While flexibility can be utilized during this global pandemic, it is important to create schedules that provide structure to students and families while building routines for students. Learning expectations should be set and communicated to students and families so that students are aware of when and how they will participate in learning.

How to Make Hybrid Schedules Work

When considering how to make hybrid schedules work, it’s important to remember that hybrid schedules should lend themselves to best practices, just as a “normal” school year schedule would. Ideally, schedules will include all subjects, allow for flexibility where possible, be consistently implemented, and will include support staff.

Planning and reflection is key when making scheduling decisions. Grade levels can meet to create schedules that work best for their students. Schedules may also need to be revamped at times based on reflection.

Additionally, providing students with live teaching sessions is vital. This is the most important instructional time. Teacher and student interaction ensures that students and teachers are in contact with each other for face-to-face instruction. Family work schedules may not allow for all students to attend live sessions. Considering this, sessions may be recorded and shared with students that are not able to attend.

Furthermore, support staff such as teacher assistants should be assigned to be present in virtual and in-person classrooms during core instruction. Teacher assistants, for example, can be assigned to classrooms during guided reading so that they can take a group of students for small group reading. This can be done via Zoom through breakout groups or in person.

Examples of Hybrid Schedules

Various school districts across the nation are approaching the logistics of hybrid scheduling in a variety of ways. In some cases, districts lay out schedule expectations for their schools. In other cases, schools within districts are allowed to create their own schedules. Here are a few examples of hybrid schedules, including pros and cons of each.

Flipped Classroom Model

Flipped classroom models involve students spending a portion of their time watching instructional videos and preparation before they come to class for in-person instruction. This allows for teachers and students to utilize in-person time for remediation and hands-on work. For example, in a fifth grade science class, teachers may assign a video to watch on force and motion during their virtual days so that they can participate in hands-on force and motion activities while they are in school.

Pros of this schedule include more time for face-to-face intervention and hands-on activities. A downside of this schedule is that it is impossible to ensure that students will do the prep work on their virtual days before coming to school for independent practice, activities, and interventions.

Split Schedule Model

In a split schedule model, students are divided into two groups. One of the groups attends school during morning hours and the other group attends school during afternoon hours. Students who are in school in the morning are expected to complete virtual activities and work at home in the afternoon and vice versa.

The pros of this schedule are that all students receive in-person learning each day and small groups allow for implementation of social distancing. Some cons of this schedule are that cleaning must be done in between the groups of students that attend school, creating a logistical challenge for staff. This also requires multiple transportation runs by buses and child-care issues for families with working parents.

AA/BB Schedule Model

An AA/BB schedule means that one set of students (AA students) would attend school on Monday and Tuesday while the other set of students would work virtually on those days. In turn, BB students would work virtually on AA days and come to school in-person on BB days. Wednesdays on this schedule would be reserved for cleaning and planning. In this plan, teachers and schools have the option to either teach the same content on in-person days and assign independent work on virtual days, or teach the same lesson the in-person learners and virtual learners each day by streaming their live lessons each day so that virtual learners have access to teaching when they are not at school.

This model can be challenging — but achievable — as teachers will have to navigate teaching in-person with recording this for virtual students to watch live. Although this can be done, it has the potential to produce technical difficulties. On a positive, this schedule allows students to come into the building each week to work with peers and build relationships with teachers. The Wednesday deep cleaning day also allows for teachers to have a full day of planning.

Tips for Creating Hybrid Schedules

With any schedule it’s important to understand that this school year is unlike any other education has experienced. While it can be challenging to imagine what a hybrid schedule might look like, creating one that includes best practices is doable. The following tips can help educators create a virtual/in-person schedule that teachers and students can feel good about.

  • Research options for hybrid schedules.
  • Collaborate with colleagues to create a schedule that works.
  • Create schedules that are consistent throughout grade levels.
  • Include recordings of live sessions for students that aren’t able to attend.
  • Administrators should do “virtual walkthroughs” to check for scheduling issues and successes.
  • Reflect on schedules and make changes as needed.
  • Create a clear and consistent routine for students and communicate this to parents.
  • Utilize online educational tools and platforms wisely.
  • Schedule a time for student interaction to build relationships!
  • Don’t make yourself available 24/7. Of course you want students to know you are there for them, but set boundaries. Instead, manage your time wisely and take care of yourself!
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