Pandemic Education: A Glossary

Learning in the age of COVID-19 comes with its own vocabulary. Hybrid, concurrent, flipped, synchronous, asynchronous: these terms may be related, but they are not interchangeable. 

Of course, as students and parents digest guidance from their schools and state departments of education, it can get confusing and hard to imagine what, exactly, the classroom will look like this fall.

To bring some clarity to the semester ahead, here of these some common terms and how these various learning styles are being implemented at Commonwealth School: 

Hybrid/Blended: Hybrid, or blended, learning models combine in-person learning (i.e., students in a physical classroom) with remote learning (students learning from home, joining classes via Zoom or other platforms). Classes may occur synchronously or asynchronously. Commonwealth plans to reopen the school for the fall 2020 semester with this model using concurrent classes and cohorts (see those definitions below). At Commonwealth, no student will be required to attend in-person classes. Students may switch from in-person classes to all-remote learning and vice versa, but they must give notice. 

Concurrent: Concurrent classes (sometimes referred to as “HyFlex”) are delivered both in person and online at the same time by one faculty member. Some students will physically be in the classroom, while others will join remotely via video technology in each classroom. 

Cohort: A fixed group of students that will be in the school together at a given time within a hybrid learning model, so as to allow for social distancing and mitigate risk of transmission of illness. For the fall, Commonwealth plans to have two equally sized cohorts of students, with only one group in the building on a given day. 

In-Person Learning/Fully In-Person Learning: The model of learning where all students and faculty are in the school building together. Commonwealth hopes and plans to return to this model only if state health metrics determine it is safe to do so. 

Online Learning/Fully Online Learning: The model of learning where all students and faculty are learning remotely via a digital platform, such as Zoom. This was the model Commonwealth used during the spring through Virtual Commonwealth. While the school is planning to conduct as much in-person learning as is safe for students, faculty, and staff this year, Commonwealth is prepared to revert to fully online learning at any point.

Remote Learning: Any learning that occurs from home, with students or teachers joining classes virtually.

Virtual Commonwealth: Commonwealth’s remote learning platform, which uses Zoom to create a virtual version of our building and classrooms.

Learning-Management System: A software application that collects, delivers, and tracks educational resources, class materials, assignments, student work, and more. To create consistency for all students and faculty, Commonwealth is using Google Classroom. This will give students a single place to look for all their assignments, and it will make it easier for teachers to collect assignments from all their students (present or remote) and to share information with advisors.

Synchronous: A type of learning that happens together, with students and teachers all involved in the lesson, whether that means fully online, fully in person, or a hybrid of the two. 

Asynchronous: A type of learning where students work on material independently, at a time and location of their choosing. To limit screen time, Commonwealth classes provide asynchronous class periods, in addition to the standard synchronous learning, where students can work on the material offline on their own. 

Active Learning: A system of learning that engages students directly and asks them to do meaningful activities and think about what they are doing. Here, the teacher is a facilitator, rather than a one-way provider of information. 

Flipped: A flipped classroom is one in which students first engage with the material individually and then gather as a class to work through the material together, rather than first getting exposure via lecture or class discussion and then working on homework individually. For example, students might read new assigned material on their own during an asynchronous class period and then go over it with the teacher in the following synchronous class.