Updated: Apr 27, 2022
On March 29th, ClassIn presented a distinguished panel at its latest Thoughtful Leadership webinar, addressing the concept and implementation of Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) learning. Moderated by ClassIn’s Lingyue Zheng, the event welcomed Matt Allen, Academic Affairs Coordinator of I Can School, and Francis Miller, Director of College Counseling at Xi’an Tie Yi High School.
Speakers framed the concept of OMO learning in their respective fields, primary level education and college counseling, and clarified frequently asked questions: How is OMO learning different from other approaches, namely HyFlex learning and blended learning? What are some tried-and-true interactive activities for students in an OMO class? What are the software and hardware requirements for a seamless implementation?
OMO Learning in K12 Education: I Can School in Vietnam
What is OMO learning?
“Unlike a traditional classroom, OMO learning, a type of hybrid learning, provides a shared learning space with both online and in-person students…and we try to emphasize the flexibility and authenticity of OMO learning,” moderator Lingyue Zheng set up the event with a working definition.
To further clarify the approach in practice, Matt Allen drew on the transition from online learning to the OMO model at ICS. “The amount of activities in a fully online environment is quite limited. This is where the big change, OMO, comes in. We have way more hands-on activities and practical activities,” he said.
What does an OMO class look like?
Visualizing the OMO model in a real-life class setting, Allen introduced basic hardware requirements to realize a hybrid learning environment. “It is more complicated to set up an OMO class, but once it is set up, it provides more flexibility and opportunities for effective and differentiated teaching,” he emphasized.
For the wider teacher community, especially those working with younger kids, it comes down to how and if the teacher can effectively engage students using the OMO model.
“So the opportunities here are pretty limitless. You can have group projects done where one group contains both online and offline students working together, or you can also have the online students be their own group and do their project using breakout rooms or some other ClassIn tools,” Allen explained.
He went on to take the audience through an actual hybrid learning activity at ICS where the school held a virtual food fair. On-site students created their favorite meals with paper cutouts, and those online completed the same task on ClassIn.
3 key factors to effectively implement OMO learning
For those who are looking to adopt or better implement OMO learning, Allen outlined three main things to keep in mind.
1. Universal learning design
Allen stressed that teachers bear the responsibility to create useful and effective learning environments for all regardless of their skills or prior knowledge. In the meantime, for online and hybrid classes, it is important to make sure everyone is interacting as opposed to staring at the screen.
2. Take advantage of ClassIn tools
“You have a blackboard for them to write or draw their ideas. You have the small blackboards for more individualized work. You have breakout rooms for groups activities and stuff like that…ClassIn has done a really good job making virtual alternatives to many of the tools teachers use in a normal class,” he highlighted.
"ClassIn has done a really good job making virtual alternatives to many of the tools teachers use in a normal class." --- Matt Allen, Academic Affairs Coordinator of I Can School
3. Balance student interaction
Interaction in a hybrid environment is more elaborate: online students and in-person students need to talk to each other as well as amongst themselves. In balancing interaction between student groups with well-designed activities, the teacher also has to meaningfully engage everyone in hybrid spaces.
“It takes a lot of experimenting in finding out what works for the teacher and what works for the student. So my number one advice would be to try everything and see what sticks,” Allen said.
Hybrid College Counseling at Xi’an Tie Yi High School in China
Reflection on current offline/online models in schools
“Having the awareness that our students do have access to technology but are not always using it productively, I think, is a helpful context,” Francis Miller set the scene for his presentation.
Distinguishing between platforms students are on for college applications and more generic and entertaining platforms they enjoy using, Miller proposed mindful questions for schools to consider when it comes to technology adoption.
Online platforms and resources for college counseling
With experience conducting counseling sessions in virtual and hybrid settings, Miller introduced online resources and platforms that can best support and streamline the months-long application process.
1. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Major Explorer
“We provided students with this online tool to explore majors they might be interested in…basically the goal of this class is to complete an assessment, which produces a Holland Type to identify the fields and paths you may be interested in,” Miller explained.
Demonstrating best practices of the UIUC Major Explorer, Miller showed the audience how he guided high schoolers in discovering their academic and professional interests, finding a list of matching majors, and understanding the specific skills required.
However, settling on a major is merely step one of the application process. As the Counselor in Residence of Cialfo, an college application platform, Miller gave a detailed virtual tour on its comprehensive features and how the platform caters to counselors, students, as well as parents.
Beyond meeting scheduling, which characterizes the most essential part of college counseling, Cialfo has the application process covered with features such as
University visit planning
Application materials management
“There are many moving parts to a college application. Having the data accessible in Cialfo allows me to give more precise recommendations and guidance for students based on what schools they are interested in and whether or not they actually have a chance to be accepted,” Miller stressed.
From the perspective of a college counselor, Miller highlighted how helpful it is to have user activity records on Cialfo. Small things like whether students are using the platform, when they logged in, and if they have opened important emails are essential to more efficient communication.
Following Miller’s segment on college counseling, audience member Echo took the stage with the question that “Things like the lockdown and online learning changed the way students apply for college and how they learn in school…what is valued more in applications?”
“Overwhelmingly, there are two factors to decide where they apply and where they enroll, which are ranking and costs,” Miller spoke to his experience counseling mostly with students applying to colleges outside of their home countries.
Addressing audience questions from the live streaming channel, the speakers elaborated on OMO learning regarding the platform of choice, inclusivity for special needs students, compatibility with asynchronous activities, and how OMO compares to HyFlex or blended learning.
“We looked at a couple of different platforms, but we ended choosing ClassIn because the tools they provide are very close alternatives to what we would use in class…which are very specifically effective for education, especially young learners,” Allen explained.
However, putting aside fancy terms for different teaching models, Allen noted that “The important part is finding activities and learning content that students can relate to and engage with.”
As a result, the learning platform and model of choice should be as accommodating as possible. “I don’t think the platform of OMO prohibits or encourages anything really. What we do is that we try to balance synchronous and asynchronous learning as much as possible…We haven’t found it to be a hindrance to what we generally do,” Allen reflected.
"I don’t think the platform of OMO prohibits or encourages anything really. What we do is that we try to balance synchronous and asynchronous learning as much as possible…We haven’t found it to be a hindrance to what we generally do," Allen reflected.
On the other hand, with much of the work done asynchronously and individually in the college application process, Miller stressed that “Different students have different tasks to complete…understanding their situation and having information accessible and easy to recall to guide students and motivate them well are kind of our challenge.”
Additionally, both speakers engaged in mindful reflection on how the platforms can cater to special needs students and acknowledged room for improvement.
“Many traditional Chinese high schools, especially international programs, select students who they think will not only pay the tuition but also be competitive in the college application process…we don’t really have a schoolwide policy or accommodation,” Francis said.
“It’s definitely on a case-by-case basis. In general, ClassIn has a lot of interactive tools where, for example, if a multiple-choice question is presented, students can click to answer. Tools like that can help many of our students with special needs remain focused during class…It’s ultimately the teacher’s responsibility to create materials that are useful and effective for all students regardless of their needs and abilities,” Allen stated.
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To learn more about Cialfo, reach out to Weiyuan Lim at email@example.com
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