Hybrid learning in El Salvador: what did we learn from global experiences?
This blog is available to read in Spanish. Click here for the Spanish version.
Using diverse and inclusive learning and teaching modalities has become increasingly important for providing educational continuity, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May 2022, EdTech Hub worked with the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office (UNICEF-LACRO), the UNICEF country office in El Salvador, and the El Salvador Ministry of Education to develop a report entitled Blended and Hybrid Learning Initiatives: A curated list for El Salvador. It includes examples of hybrid and blended learning across the globe, emphasising school-based initiatives using multimodal approaches.
In July 2022, as part of the same collaboration, we also held a series of interactive online sessions for educators in El Salvador, where they could share their own experiences of hybrid learning.
We focussed on teachers, and findings and insights from the EdTech Hub report informed the sessions. The series aimed to improve teachers’ understanding of blended and hybrid learning by examining the characteristics and differences between these approaches and considering the socio-emotional aspect of tech-based education. We looked at global examples, experiences, challenges, lessons learnt, and teacher training approaches that can be used as a guide when designing a multimodal strategy for the education sector in El Salvador.
In this blog, we summarise what we learnt about hybrid learning in El Salvador and relevant lessons from global experiences of blended and hybrid learning.
What are hybrid learning and blended learning?
Decision-makers have increasingly started to use terms like ‘hybrid learning’ and ‘blended learning’, and they have become more relevant in education. But what do they mean, and what do they look like in practice?
While often used interchangeably, in our report, we refer to hybrid learning as the combination of face-to-face and distance learning experiences (see also Munoz-Najar et al., 2021). Blended learning, on the other hand, is the combination of face-to-face and digital learning experiences (see also this 2020 report from the Inter-American Development Bank).
Why is hybrid learning important for El Salvador?
Although 95% of the population in El Salvador has access to 3G (mobile internet), according to a 2018 GSMA report published in Spanish, the internet penetration rate is only 42%.
This disparity highlights the relevance of low-tech modalities (SMS, radio, or television) in bringing education to as many students as possible.
As the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, public schools in El Salvador reopened progressively. This gradual transition required strengthening teachers’ digital skills to help them feel more comfortable using various tech tools and implementing hybrid pedagogies to support learners in person and remotely.
The El Salvador Ministry of Education also recognised the importance of investing in hybrid learning not just to weather the Covid-19 pandemic but as an essential means of providing educational continuity in the face of other crises and disruptors to education.
To facilitate teacher training, the ministry created a programme called ‘Enlaces con la educación’ (‘Links to education’) as a support mechanism to universalise teacher access to tech resources. This programme includes four components:
- Strengthening students’ competencies at all levels
- Teacher professional development in digital skills
- Providing internet connectivity to the school community
- Providing educators with technical support.
What do we know about effective practices for designing hybrid learning initiatives?
Here are some practices we consider effective and relevant when designing hybrid learning tools.
- Ensuring that tech-based tools are accessible, inclusive, and adaptable for students who are part of minority groups, including native language learners and students with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
- Using multimodal approaches that consider ‘low-tech’ alternatives such as text messaging, radio, TV and which are not limited to tools that require internet connectivity.
- Creating teaching communities where educators can share challenges, lessons learnt, and best practices for hybrid modalities.
What did we learn from teachers about hybrid learning?
Here are some insights and reflections teachers shared with us in the online sessions.
- Students’ social and academic reintegration into the classroom after the isolation experienced during the pandemic is a priority.
- Teachers acknowledge the need to adapt hybrid learning content to a broader range of platforms to make it more helpful for students.
- Teachers feel empowered when trained in effective practices for combining in-person and remote learning and approaches to strengthening students’ emotional well-being.
- Although online platforms are helpful for remote learning, they can be challenging for science and maths teachers. They have to adapt content to make it work on the platform used by the El Salvador public school system — for instance, adding formulas with special symbols for maths and chemistry is a particular challenge.
What does this work mean for you as an educator?
While there is no single formula for designing pedagogies that respond to a hybrid learning format that applies to all contexts, we recommend considering the following points.
- Listen to teachers’ experiences, challenges, best practices, and needs.
- Identify different practices and global lessons learnt to adapt hybrid methods to specific contexts.
- Content contextualisation should encompass iterative methods to be continuously corrected based on educators’ changing requirements and needs.