How to Plan for 3 Types of Interaction in the Hybrid Classroom

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By: Deana Senn


Planning template for hybrid classroom


Hybrid classrooms have a few unique challenges. Whether the enrollment in your hybrid classrooms is static (with the same virtual and in-person students every day), or hybrid-flexible (in which students float back and forth between the learning modes), this post will help you plan for rich interactions to engage students and improve learning outcomes.

This blog also includes an example of an enterprise technology tool for self-directed learning – Student Evidence Tracker – that educators are using to solve the top challenges in the hybrid classroom. The tool lets you share learning targets with students, engage students to self-assess, and track learning progress to school and district goals over time with transparent reports – which are all key components of the three types of learner interactions.


Structuring hybrid classes and activities:
3 types of interaction

Researcher Michael G. Moore (1989) identified three types of interactions that are necessary in distance learning classrooms:

    1. Learner-Content Interaction
    2. Learner-Learner Interaction
    3. Learner-Instructor Interaction

It is interesting that this research and information about interactions in distance learning has been around for so long and is applicable to all learning environments: virtual, hybrid, and brick and mortar. Yet, these interactions are not really talked about or emphasized in schools. Now is the time to bring them back.

Thinking about the three categories of interactions allows teachers to plan out how learners can get support and learn in any environment. Since many of us are navigating hybrid for the first time, let’s look at these interactions specifically with that lens in mind.

1.  Learner-Content Interaction: When the learner interacts with the materials from which they learn.

Learner-Content is probably the interaction that is least utilized in the hybrid classroom.

How can you set up the lesson for students to learn from places other than you? Is there something they can read/watch that will impart information or teach a skill to not only give you a moment to not be leading, but to also give the students a perspective that might not be the exact same wording as yours?

In order for students to stay focused on what they are meant to be learning from the content, the use of learning targets and criteria is critical.

Learning targets describe the knowledge and skills students should be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson. Learning targets are broken down into criteria – once students meet all the criteria, it means they have achieved the learning target.

Tips for overcoming Learner-Content obstacles in hybrid classrooms:
    • FINDING CONTENT: Consider leveraging videos that someone else has already created. At this point, you can find videos on just about every content topic and grade level. Remember that the video doesn’t need to be worded exactly the way you would. The content needs to be correct, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.
    • SETTING UP INDEPENDENT LEARNING: Remember that you can leverage any asynchronous time for learners to interact with content independently. Be sure to use clear learning targets and criteria that students can access without interrupting their concentration on the content.
    • KEEPING STUDENTS FOCUSED WITH SELF-ASSESSMENT: Learning targets and criteria help students stay focused and self-assess their learning. When classes shifted to virtual, many teachers began putting the learning target and criteria on the first slide of their presentation or on the top of student assignments. The limitation of this is that students need to constantly look back to access the learning target and often lose their place when they are interacting with the content. The Student Evidence Tracker allows students to access the learning target in both virtual and in-person learning while still maintaining their focus on the content. Students can have the learning target open in a separate tab or in a separate browser (see figure 1).

Figure 1. An example of a learning target and criteria a teacher has created in Student Evidence Tracker. You can easily copy and paste the learning target from their lesson plan and students will have easy access to it while they interact with the lesson’s content.





2.   Learner-Learner Interaction: When the learner interacts with other learners, in pairs or teams, with or without the real-time presence of an instructor.

Students thrive when given the opportunity to talk to each other; that is no different in hybrid classes.

You can leverage the hybrid classroom environment to your advantage by partnering up a virtual and an in-person student when possible. Each student will have different perspectives and can create richer interactions.

Partnering in-person and virtual students will also give you another view into the virtual classroom as you walk around your physical classroom and watch your onsite students interact with your online students. Plan questions that will foster student interaction, whether that be in breakout rooms or through polls.

Tips for overcoming Learner-Learner obstacles in hybrid classrooms:
    • CREATING CONSISTENCY WITH ROUTINES: Set up simple routines so students know where to meet their partner/team and their responsibilities in their team. It might be as simple as who opens the document and who talks first. Don’t overcomplicate the routines – start simple and add new routines as needed.
    • ENCOURAGING PEER DISCUSSIONS ABOUT LEARNING PROGRESS: Part of the Learner-Learner interaction process should include a conversation about students’ progress toward the learning target as students engage in the student-initiated formative assessment process. The Student Evidence Tracker allows students to easily access the learning target and criteria for the lesson (see figure 2). This helps the conversation become an easy part of student routine and not “one more thing.” Tracking and discussing their own progress will not only help students know what they still need to learn/demonstrate, they’ll also stay more engaged in learning.

Figure 2. An example of what students see in Student Evidence Tracker – they can check off each criterion as they work toward the lesson’s learning target. Students can use this information to discuss their progress with peers. Students can also virtually raise their hand to request assistance from you.


3.   Learner-Instructor Interaction: When the learner and teacher are in conversation.

Learner-Instructor interaction is not only the time when you are leading a whole-class lesson. More importantly, this time is also for providing feedback and guiding the learner.

Feedback given during the lesson as part of the formative assessment process provides students with the chance to make revisions, which further deepens learning and engages and motivates students.

Tips for overcoming Learner-Instructor obstacles in hybrid classrooms:
    • PLANNING FOR YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH STUDENTS: Plan for both the instruction and the feedback. Don’t expect the feedback to simply occur as a natural part of the instruction with students; feedback needs to be planned for and given to students in a timely manner so they can use it during the lesson. See the planning template below, where you can plan for instruction and feedback separately so that they are not conflated.
    • PROVIDING QUICK FEEDBACK DURING THE LESSON: Student Evidence Tracker provides a specific place for quick feedback on students’ progress toward the learning target. You can access both virtual and in-person students from the dashboard and provide immediate feedback to their entire class regardless of the students’ individual learning environment (see figure 3).

Figure 3. An example of what the teacher sees in Student Evidence Tracker. You can click the blue star symbol to accept a student’s self-assessment of whether they achieved the lesson’s learning target. Or, you can click the red X symbol if there is not sufficient evidence, and the student can try again. You can see which students are virtual and if students have raised their hands to request assistance.


Student Evidence Tracker

Getting Students to Self-Assess for Effective Formative Assessment

View Demo


Planning Template for a Hybrid Classroom

The following planning template can help you prepare for the three types of interaction. The template ensures processes are intentional and organized for both in-person and virtual students.

Learning Target:





In-person Routines




Virtual Routines




Learner-Content Interaction
Time allotted: ______ min
In-person Activity



Virtual Activity



Learner-Learner Interaction
Time allotted: ______ min
In-person Activity



Virtual Activity



Learner-Instructor Interaction (Instruction)
Time allotted: ______ min
In-person Activity



Virtual Activity



Learner-Instructor Interaction (Feedback)
Time allotted: ______ min
In-person Activity



Virtual Activity





Summary: Creating Your Interaction Plan for a Hybrid Classroom

Planning for all three types of interactions is necessary in all classrooms but especially critical in hybrid classrooms.

    1. Learner-Content Interaction
    2. Learner-Learner Interaction
    3. Learner-Instructor Interaction

As part of planning, determine about how many minutes of the lesson you will spend in each type of interaction before you determine the activities in the lesson. This way you are more likely to plan for your students to spend time in each of the three types of interactions. There is no specific amount of time students must spend in each type of interaction, but it is important that every lesson contains some of each type.

We often think new learning should be mainly in the Learner-Instructor interaction (in the form of instruction), and that simply isn’t true. Students need time to process and challenge their new learning. To do this, they need Learner-Content interaction and Learner-Learner interaction. Students also need feedback on their new thinking as part of the Learner-Instructor interaction.

Regardless of the routines in your hybrid classroom or the amount of time your students spend in each type of interaction, the Student Evidence Tracker is a great example of a tool you can use to solve the top challenges of the hybrid classroom.


Student Evidence Tracker

Getting Students to Self-Assess for Effective Formative Assessment

View Demo




Moore, M.G. (1989). Three types of interactions. American Journal of Distance Education. 3(2), 1-7.


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