By Doug Cauthen

When it comes to the future of education, everyone and his chatbot has an opinion.

The future will not be the manufacturing-line, whole-group classroom tradition we have known, nor will it be the fully online model we experienced during the heart of the pandemic. Smart money says it is somewhere in between, in a complex matrix that uses both online digital learning and paper resource learning, strategically intersected with on-demand live, teacher-led experiences. And this will be enacted as a subject-by-subject, symphony of personalization that won’t sacrifice social interactions.

This learning model, known as Hybrid Logistics, will be infinitely more efficient  when it is modified by adding A.I. calendaring.

On-demand, live teacher-led experiences within a complex matrix is a mind-bender to consider, especially if you are still thinking in terms of whole-group learning classes and old-fashioned master schedules. You may even still be thinking in terms of courses rather than paths.

Write it all down and then erase it

Erase all that thinking and replace it with A.I. calendaring, which has the ability to automate large groups and invite them to a class which is not yet set on the calendar but “floats,” and will set once it assigns its first full cohort out of that larger group.

As an example, let’s say there are five students per cohort. Once the fifth student completes the work written in the instructions section of the meeting request and hits “accept,” the A.I. will search the teacher’s open time and drop in the class to all five students and the teacher. The A.I. will already be accruing the next five students.

There’s more to the story of how this A.I. works to manage time and space differently, but the key here is that it allows all learning to be pace-based while not sacrificing the intersection with live teaching moments which could be long labs, lectures, group discussions, or even short check-ins. The design is highly flexible so that every subject can find its norm of class meetings versus the individual studying of resources.

When not land-locked in classrooms, which could be used now as meeting spaces and teachers’ offices, teachers can now spend time customizing aid for learners and roaming to aid those in need. Students could mostly be in study halls or homerooms or “Flex spaces.” On some campuses, these spaces would be converted extra-large classrooms overseen by a rotation of teachers or para-professionals. Digital calendars could appear in those homerooms with a look akin to airport flight boards, showing who needs to go where and when.

One of the goals here is to leverage teachers while providing time equity to all students on every subject.

As you grasp this concept of one class disaggregated into smaller cohorts, each pacing independently, you can see in your mind’s eye how over time this can allows faster students to zoom ahead. They’d be in meeting five when others were only on meeting two, and so forth, owing time needed to their differences as learners.

Now, imagine a student joining your school a few months into the year. All the meetings are still open, and they can join at the beginning. The A.I. will trigger a class of one with that teacher. Or you can test that student and put him in at any point on the continuum of that subject’s progression and they join their nearest fellow traveler students for upcoming meets or wait for a few behind them to catch up.

Subjects become pathways, something beyond courses, because they are always open and there is no definitive start or end date, which for higher ed could be revolutionary.

You would also find that you’d need all these teacher meetings, classes if you will, to have open time that is still bracketed. Those are called “holds.” Holds can cover multiple hours of the day but would subtract out breaks such as would be normal in a school for transit time and lunches, etc. In this way a normal hour that would have otherwise been for 6th grade math with a separate hour for 5th grade math teaching by one teacher can actually be thought of as one block of two hours for any 5th or 6th grade meeting to land.

A schedule will be given to everyone, advising what to study when, and will include time slots when teachers are available to take meetings or roam.

Students would remain within their social age groups. They could be given an incentive to try to save minutes by getting through materials perfectly, intersecting with teachers for those needed moments, but most would use flex time on individual or group projects and electives such as robotics, art, esports, and special online excursions for extra credit or workforce readiness.

Learning Counsel research indicates it is this level of customization with time and task that is of high interest to the public because they can find it commercially. Students well behind in subjects would have their schedules take up not just the regular minutes in core but also most of flex time, but since everyone’s schedule is not 100% aligned and the patterns look random, there is no social stigma. Johnny has an extra math meeting during flex time; Amy has an extra literacy meeting with a teacher; and this may be their prerogative, and not an indication of being behind. They may be working towards a future in STEM or literature while others are hoping to get a career later in building esports games, etc. This will be a cultural thing for school leaders to create. Everyone will have their own path of emphasis.

Identifying teachers as masters of several grade subjects will help. Breaking grade-groups-by-age would eventually have slightly mixed age groups without necessarily having an older student identify that he or she is behind.

It is only an assumption that we need to teach all core subjects every year rather than having a couple years that are only math, or only literacy, and so forth. Again, breaking our thinking of the old model to make learning and not time the constant could take many directions in the future.

Until some legislative changes are made in most states, preparation for high-stakes tests for grade groups would still have to happen and would be planned into the master schedule. School leaders would have to find out if one student who is in disparate grade levels by subject is tested with their age group in every subject, or how their local laws require them to do it. If it is okay to do tests-by-subject with the appropriate age/grade group to the individual, that would be the best fit with pace-based learning.

The reasons are compelling to believe that A.I. calendaring for schools is inevitable.

The U.S. has a non-homogenous population encompassing hundreds of languages and cultures, an epic teacher shortage, an overabundance of absenteeism, general economic fears, a dramatic shift away from offices to distance work in most industries, and a different experiential expectation of schools since the pandemic are all contributing to a need for a change in learning structure. This is quite different than learning programs calling out things like STEM or literacy. It is altering how time and space are used. We have not “played with structure” since we thought up distance and online learning, neither of which are a good fit for everyone.

Learning that provides the correct fit for every student requires more of a restructuring of time and space than a restructuring of teaching techniques. Fifty percent of our students learned better during the pandemic when they were mostly online but still had some video conferencing time with their teachers. The other fifty percent learned very little and reportedly needed the social energy of co-learners around them to ignite their own learning. That’s the human condition, and there are probably many shades of gray in there for every individual based on subject and their daily condition of health and their emotional outlook.

What’s true for most people today is that we need human connection and human teaching. We just need it leveraged to perfection. When we have whole group only, we leave some students behind and others bored. When we have teachers attempt to always teach to small-groups and fix every individual need with direct instruction, we overburden the teacher. Our system is built to normalize for a society that no longer exists.

Our present society expects great digital experiences and the EdTech field has built truly great learning online, but human teaching is still needed. How do we use both and break the old norms?

School A.I. Calendaring now offers a commercial school A.I. calendar. Piloting schools are seeing great success. Schools going in the direction of Hybrid Logistics as part of their strategy to leverage fewer teachers, provide better personalization and more still have to get their whole tactical plan in place with curriculum. It’s time to begin the journey, deciding which grades, subjects, and curriculum will be included in first steps towards a true transformation of teaching and learning.


About the author

Doug Cauthen is Chief Operating Officer at the Learning Counsel.

Learning Counsel News Media would like to thank Cisco for their continued support sponsoring the Hybrid Logistics Project.