In what will be the first CIAED to be held after the end of the health emergency, we decided to rescue the theme of that CIAED that was the last before humanity entered this unusual period. We do this not because of the lack of new possible themes, but because of the increase in importance, scope, and diversity that hybridization has gained in society in general - and education in particular - from the collective experience lived over the long period of prioritization of physic distancing. We have accumulated thirty years of experience, not just three. It is as if the students we now receive belong to a new generation and another society.
Everything we discussed in 2019 about hybrid education remains valid (or almost everything), but many new demands and possibilities have emerged. The world of work discovered and embraced the benefits of blending, when possible, the physical with the virtual. Society, in general, has lost its prejudice against the home office, e-health and even e-dating. All segments and social activities now incorporate live transmissions. Metaverses have resurfaced with force, now more immersive, powerful, and potentially becoming the new form of internet access, boosted by the arrival of 5G and the spread of the Internet of Things. Many students enjoyed the experience of having the power to pause, fast forward, skip, rewind, speed up and slow down their teachers during lessons. On the other hand, everyone started to value face-to-face moments even more, as long as they were well used. It makes no sense for learners, as the pedagogues have been saying for a long time, moving to a specific physical space to attend lectures. Active learning, the flipped classroom, among other teaching-learning strategies, especially hybrid ones, have never been so necessary. Equally, there has never been such an auspicious moment to disseminate, implement, evaluate, and improve them.
In 2019, when “hybrid education” was the theme of the 25th CIAED, this concept was practically synonymous with blended learning. It represented a planned and systematized mix of learning activities developed in physical and/or virtual spaces, supported by analogical and/or digital learning objects. In general, the hybrid experience was planned for the learners, in some cases, with the possibility of particular customization of content and media. A few months later, however, came the period of emergencial remote classes, followed by a gradual return to the physical space, intermittently and erratically. In this context, a hybridization phenomenon began to occur, very different from the traditional application of blended learning. This new hybridization of education does not exclude the conventional concept. But it still brings others greater flexibility, such as simultaneous education, when a specific activity is developed simultaneously in physical and virtual spaces, with part of the students and even the teacher participating remotely. Today we need to reinterpret the concept of presence as it no longer makes sense to attribute the “in person” label exclusively to activities carried out under the same roof. Concomitantly, the concept of “hybrid learning” appears abroad, a broader term that includes any mix of remote and local, analogic and digital, physical presence and virtual presence, structured and planned, and/or flexible and ad hoc. Translating hybrid to Portuguese will collide with the commonly adopted translation of blended. One more point for discussion during the 28th CIAED.
The Distance Education community already uses hybrid. DE community also pioneered the effective and widespread use of digital technologies in pedagogical mediation. Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) were born and developed in DE and are now widely used in conventional courses held in physical spaces. These have been of great value during emergencial remote teaching. A well-known cliché says that what works in the physical classroom does not work in DE, which has justified the development of specific methodologies and tools for distance learning. What few realized is that the buzzword mentioned above is not bidirectional. What works in DE can, indeed, work in courses planned to take place in physical spaces, as demonstrated by the VLE and the emergencial activities developed throughout the health emergency. CIAED will share the knowledge that is, therefore, of interest not only to the DE community but to the entire field of education.
We are in a unique moment where this exchange of experiences and knowledge between researchers, educators, managers, professionals, schools, and companies is essential. A system that was already complex becomes even more intricate with the demands and possibilities of hybridization. Learning spaces and times, physical, virtual, or hybrid, need to be rethought, improved, and evaluated. Methodologies, tools, contents, experiences, proposals, studies, theories, innovations, challenges, and visions must be shared and discussed. The principles of Open Education need to be revisited regarding their potential to transform educational practices at all levels and models.
Much has been said about the new normal. At the 28th CIAED, we will discuss and envision the new future: the future of education and, consequently, of our society.
President of the ABED Scientific Council
Coordinator of the CIAED Technical-Scientific Committee (CTC)