My Hybrid/Virtual School - PSD Global Academy
Do you know a student living in the state of Colorado who would be interested in attending our hybrid or virtual program? We are currently enrolling for this or next school year!
I spent about a year out of the classroom working full-time as an EdTech consultant, and although I loved (and obviously still do love) helping teachers integrate technology in their classrooms, I felt disconnected from the heart and soul of why I worked in education - the students.
As I began to look for new positions as a classroom teacher, I worried that I would have to give up my EdTech life completely, because (as you know) being a classroom teacher is so entirely consuming - there isn’t much time or energy for much else.
That is, until I stumbled upon a job posting for a 75% teaching position at a hybrid school - PSD Global Academy (PGA), in Fort Collins Colorado. I was intrigued by the idea of a part-time teaching job that would allow me to work part-time from home a few days a week, and continue my EdTech consulting, as well as working a few full days in a traditional classroom. I was also incredibly skeptical. What does “hybrid” even mean? And what type of students would I be working with?
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Essentially, a hybrid school combines traditional in-person, brick-and-mortar education with online learning. The “hybrid” component refers to a physical environment that blends in-person and remote (at-home) learning.
Every hybrid school approaches this combination differently. The amount of time students are spending in the building vs learning at home/online will vary from school to school, as will the nature and pacing of online resources. At PGA our school closely resembles a traditional public school, with the big exception that a few days a week students are either learning online via video conferencing or working asynchronously on an assignment their teacher created and posted for them to complete during their hour-long class block. Teachers are creating, grading, and assigning all the work (meaning there isn’t any pre-packaged online curriculum purchased or used by the school).
In regards to what type of student chooses a hybrid school, I genuinely couldn’t predict what the student population would look like before I started working at PGA; but what I found, of course, is that there are a wide variety of students who chose hybrid learning for a number of reasons.
Our PGA students:
Wanted smaller learning communities, and closer relationships with their teachers and peers.
Have been previously homeschooled, and have parents who enjoy more involvement in their child’s education.
Have extracurricular hobbies/careers that they are pursuing (elite athletics, music, businesses) and need a more flexible schedule.
Cope with social anxiety, and have a hard time attending school five days/week.
Have medical conditions that often mean they are in the hospital or home-bound for long stretches of time.
Are teen parents.
Travel often with their families.
Want more control of their learning.
Whatever the reason, a hybrid school works well for some students and not as well for others. In my experience, the hybrid model tends to work best for students who:
need more flexibility in the pace of their learning.
Those who need more time to complete their work, or who can complete work more quickly than their peers, are allowed that flexibility when working asynchronously/remotely. They aren’t confined to the pace of the “average.”
are highly self motivated, or have a parent/guardian at home who holds them accountable for doing their work.
are organized, or have a parent/guardian at home who is able to help them stay organized and prioritize their time.
are naturally more introverted and enjoy being at home for a greater percentage of their week.
These are the ideal qualities of a hybrid school student. In reality, very few of our students have all of these characteristics. In fact, there are some students at PGA who have none of the above, but still thrive in our environment because our teachers tend to have more time to work individually with students who need extra support on the days when the rest of the class is learning asynchronously.
As we’ve already seen, the hybrid model works better for some students than others - In no way do I believe every school should be a hybrid model or that every student will thrive in a hybrid school - but when it works for a student, there are so many benefits:
Students are able to work at a pace that suits their learning styles.
Parents are more invested and involved in their student’s education.
Students build digital skills.
Students build executive functioning skills.
Some teachers have more time to properly prepare lessons and assess learning.
There are more opportunities to work with small groups, or have smaller class sizes.
There is greater flexibility if students and/or teachers can’t make it to school.
School building operating expenses may be reduced.
During the pandemic our school was able to quickly and easily adapt and become a 100% virtual program from March 2020 until August 2021. We did all of our live/synchronous teaching on Google Meet three days a week and still assigned two days of asynchronous to maintain some flexibility in student and teacher schedule and routines.
When we were preparing to return to a hybrid model, there was so much demand for a virtual school, we decided to keep a track of fully virtual students for middle and high school.
Our virtual students share many of the same qualities as our hybrid students, and benefit from the school culture and community already established by the hybrid program. We have adapted all of our school events to include virtual options.
The other fantastic part about having a fully virtual model is that students from anywhere in the state of Colorado can enroll and benefit from having a personalized, community-focused school experience - online.
I applied to teach at PGA with some reservations about the school model and the students. I returned to teaching with the fear and anxiety of it consuming all my time and energy. What I found at PGA, however, is the most supportive community amongst the staff, students, and families; the loveliest, most interesting students; and a work-life balance unheard of in education.
Now that the pandemic is waning, we are losing many virtual student who chose our school due to COVID-19 risk, which mean, for the first time in years, we are opening space to students all over the state* who found that virtual learning worked well for them.
Do you know a student living in the state of Colorado who would be interested in attending our hybrid or virtual program? We are currently enrolling for the next school year!
*We would love to be able to enroll students from anywhere (we are called “Global” academy after all), but as we are a public school we only receive funding for students with a Colorado state address.
Want to learn more about Hybrid Teaching? Check out my book "The Hybrid Teacher"