Hybrid Logistics is Solving Education’s Most Urgent Challenges
By Chris McMurray
Post pandemic, our schools are fraught with challenges – not the least of which is a teacher shortage that threatens to leave our learners with nearly a million fewer teachers than they need. Student attrition to alternative programs and charters means that school districts will have less funding, causing reflexes like consolidation or program elimination. Add to that a history of tactical fixes piled up on top of a structure for teaching and learning that dates to the industrial era, and our schools are facing burnout and unsustainable system overload.
Fortunately, many of these challenges, the teacher shortage among them, can be abated by moving to personalized and flexible learning supported by a delivery model called Hybrid Logistics.
Unlike the hybrid learning that many students and teachers experienced during the pandemic, Hybrid Logistics utilizes innovative technology that “uberizes” live teaching’s intersection with students and resources, maximizing the human element. In this model, the movement of learners follows personalized pathways, allowing students to exercise agency, increase engagement, and grow at their ideal pace rather than along an artificial construct of seat time, bells, and blocks. From the teacher’s perspective, Hybrid Logistics creates greater efficiencies, giving time for more individualized attention to students, and minimizing time spent on tasks that are better served with automation. These ideas can be a major part of new community schools, traditional public or private schools, and even homeschooling.
The purpose of this model shift is to give schools, whose primary brand is human teaching oriented, the ability to retain relevancy over fully online and mostly teacher-less consumer models, stop the attrition of students, and manage to deliver learning despite the mass teacher shortage.
The primary benefits of Hybrid Logistics are:
■ More efficient use of teachers’ precision skills
■ Personalization of learning experiences and individualized pacing
■ Equity for all learners
■ Flexibility in space use and schedule
Research by the Learning Counsel indicates these main trends will drive Hybrid Logistics in the next couple of years. Most urgently, a deficit of up to 1 million teachers is expected by Fall 2022.
■ 75% of districts in cities of any size report teacher shortages, and the Learning Counsel predicts schools will be 28% down in their total teaching staff by Fall of 2022. No turn-around of meeting school’s need of teachers seems likely until at least 2030.
■ Meanwhile, 74% of teachers indicate they are overwhelmed or burnt out according to the Learning Counsel’s 2021 Digital Transition Survey. Such levels indicate teachers have been operating with new duties not designed for the old organizational patterns and a new model should be considered.
■ 24% of teachers cite spending over 30 hours per week on 1) finding digital materials, 2) building digital content and lesson sequences and 3) digital traffic of assignments and email. Another 27% cite 15-30 hours a week. Again, this suggests the traditional model was not built for digital overlay.
■ 37%, or 21 million students are “opt-outers” of traditional schooling now. They may be in public online only, charters, private schools or homeschools, with another small percentage of the remote learners who rarely attend physically on campus but are enrolled and “attend” via web conferencing only. There were slight gains with “back to school” in 2021, but accelerating homeschooling in 2022
■ Active school disruptions have spiked since the peak of the pandemic, and it is likely they will continue to spike during cold and flu seasons each year.
■ 46% of Administrators citied their number one pressure is time and space management. 29% of Teachers cited their own time management was their second highest pressure after random student absences.
■ Failure rates and loss of students are evident where the traditional schooling model has increasingly modified its original design with innumerable new layered-on programs, thereby creating exacerbating complexity and faculty exhaustion.
How Does Hybrid Logistics Work?
First, the big idea is “uberizing” learning. Like the ride-share app, Hybrid Logistics relies on a software layer that facilitates connecting a learner to a teacher and some resources, to move along a learning path or to a goal. Hybrid Logistics is the application of workflow to manage student learning pace, class or group meetings and space use on campus. It is based on a new learning structure that includes course workflow management of live class time with teachers, and it’s a new structure for education that is not quite traditional and not quite online learning, but the best of both worlds.
There are many parts to creating such an ingenuity for schools including sophisticated layered calendars and master schedules with logistics recommendations engines. Logistics refers to the “art of calculating” and the intersection of resources moving in time and space. Logistics have been used in workflow by companies like FedEx, Amazon and Uber to create huge advancements in their fields. Hybrid refers to the mixing of live on-campus teaching with digital learning, which may also be on campus or remotely online.
The Hybrid Logistics Interchange Technology: “Uberizing” Learning”
A Hybrid Logistics interchange is an emerging technology delivered on an open platform where schools or individual teachers can hold individual accounts. The ingenuity of “uberizing” learning allows for auto-cohorting of students based on pace and proficiency. The components are:
■ An interchange system where users create “unset” class meetings and invite their roster. These meetings can be set to trigger once x-number of students arrive, such as 10 students in the first advancing cohort. Later cohorts would then start accruing.
■ The anchoring organizational principle is the course, not grades or classes and classrooms. This is even true for the youngest students, except course planners may supply more time for group activities, foundational skills and learning play.
■ All courses and learning paths have instructional materials aligned with standards and purpose, and engineered in the learning pathway for access by students as needed.
Moments of live teaching can be shorter than the full traditional class meeting time and are based on need rather than seat time.
■ Teaching is transactional and focused on specific times a lesson requires direct instruction, dialog, assessment, or hands-on activity as one of its steps.
■ Some learning is asynchronous, including study of content and application of skills in courseware and discrete learning objects such as text, video, or other digital and analog resources.
■ Teacher time is a premium mostly leveraged for individual direct instruction, intervention, and formative assessment.
■ Partial or whole schedule and space change, especially a rearrangement of physical spaces into House(s) and classrooms-as-meeting spaces, teacher offices, and the rework of flow and oversight.
What are the Steps to Transition to Hybrid Logistics?
Several changes to traditional mindset and operations must occur, and behind these are recommended stages for administrators to work through to arrive at a quality difference in teacher efficiency and personalization for students.
Designing for Learning vs Planning for Teaching. In traditional operations, teachers may have instructional materials that sequence lessons or experiences, or they have curated the curriculum and materials, and matched it to a scope and sequence. These are most often some forms of live instruction, activities and a distribution of one or more resources. Unless designed with personalization in mind, lessons and learning experiences are not necessarily designed as experiential pathways or put into a sequence of steps that allows self-pacing, and rarely support student voice and choice.
In a Hybrid Logistics Contemporary Model, lessons that will auto-cohort based on pace must have been designed in sequenced pathways, with specific live teaching or group meeting points as steps in a series, sequencing materials in the correct order for learning to occur. Designed learning experiences must allow students to move between learning experiences fluidly, accessing resources, teachers, specialists, and peers as needed, while allowing proficiency and progress toward goals and benchmarks to dictate pace. Experiences must remove artificial caps or limitations to progress while setting a floor of high expectations for learning.
Master Scheduling. Use of space and time changes to intersect teachers with learners in a different way can dramatically alter a master schedule. One-teacher school groups of a teacher plus students need not have a complicated master schedule, but once two or more teachers in a school group or district are using auto-cohorting live intersection, the master schedule needs to have grades, subjects, courses, and a partitioning schedule that uses grade groupings, month segmenting, weeks, days, blocks, tracks, classes and possibly multiple sections of courses. In addition, overlay calendars that show pacing by grade and by subject of units need to be a part of teacher lesson planning. A Hybrid Logistics infrastructure, therefore, builds layered calendars and schedules in uniquely different ways than Student Information Systems or Learning Management Systems.
About the author
Chris McMurray Currently serves as Chief Academic Officer at the Learning Counsel. He is engaged with school leaders across the country working toward transforming teaching and learning experiences through a culture of entrepreneurialism and personalization, leveraging technology. His work with the Learning Counsel is to strengthen the services available to schools through oversight of the Learning Leadership Society as well as the Expo Achievement Schools and Hybrid Logistics Project professional networks, in addition to leading the Innovation Services division of the Learning Counsel.
Chris has a passion for creativity, and has been in educational, community development and business leadership roles ranging from teaching to strategic business development and systems implementation. Previously an assistant superintendent, principal, staff developer and classroom teacher, he combines his passion for teaching and learning with marketing and strategic development, to foster innovation in the education sector. Prior to entering education, Chris enjoyed a career in advertising as a creative director, then shifted to the information technology field to lead marketing and initiatives in new product development and strategic business alliances.