Creating a Hybrid Learning Community

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What might a 21st-century community look in which students direct their own education? In this world, the following scenario could take place: a student, engrossed in his favorite video game, puts down his gaming console and decides that he has an innovative idea for a new game of his own. From the convenience of his home computer he signs on to his profile at his school website and posts a bulletin within the “projects” section of the school’s online network. His bulletin states the reasons why his video game idea is innovative and what kind of people he needs to help him bring his idea to fruition. After a few hours, seven other students have shown an interest in his idea and want to join him in the endeavor. The intended critical mass of interested parties having been reached, they must now seek out the relevant information and processes to make the project happen.

The group is assigned a teacher/mentor that will aid them in facilitating the achievement of their goal. A meeting time is set and the interested parties meet up in a conference room located at the online school’s Hub complex. The Hub Complex is a state of the art building that acts as a meeting ground for the physical aspects of project based learning. In some rooms there are students working on massive science projects while in other rooms students are studying the fine arts related to current cultural topics. The video game designing student has contacted fellow classmates in the carpool list, but due to no one traveling to the Cambridge progression test Hub at the time he had to travel via public transit.

With notes scribbled on whiteboards and paper, the student’s initial idea is fleshed out. It is determined that computer programming, graphic design, and physics are crucial aspects of the forthcoming project and, while the students have some experience in graphic design, their first challenge is that they lack the requisite programming skills. The group decides to sign up for a programming session where other groups are learning the tools necessary to write video game code. A student with a strong interest in the visual aspect of the project works with a student from another group to walk through an online tutorial in game graphic design. The project continues with the mentor acting as consultant, ensuring that the students are not getting overwhelmed and are finding the resources they need. When the video game is completed, the students reflect with the mentor on what was the most difficult part of the project. It may be determined that the project would have gone much more smoothly if a tutorial on some particular facet of the process had been made available to them. This would have saved some time on trial and error and unnecessary difficulties. The group works to publish documentation wherein their reflections won’t just benefit their own future project endeavors, but will also serve as an available resource to future student projects and other users around the world.

How do we achieve this vision while working to simultaneously ensure that our students are well educated and allowed to pursue their passions? Perhaps the Internet is the answer public education has been looking for. Over the past decade, online schools and universities have opened at radically increasing rates while many colleges are adopting some form of hybrid online/traditional classrooms to facilitate learning. In the traditional classroom, students interact with other students and teachers, an interaction which creates a relationship that can be treasured for a lifetime. Online lectures and textbooks are still lectures and textbooks, which can be very difficult and confusing. Without another person to help us and without challenging projects that require human interaction the online classroom will be devoid of the life naturally attained within the traditional classroom. Lectures and textbook based learning is why the current form of “online schooling” will never be completely successful. Project based learning with a human face to face component must be included in this new online paradigm in order to facilitate personal and meaningful engagement of students.

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