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Answered by Jennifer Wotherspoon, OCT, Student Success Lead Teacher, Halton District School Board

We have seen many positive and not-so-positive impacts on student achievement since entering the world of online and hybrid learning. Some students have thrived in the different settings enabled by remote learning, while others have struggled to learn via a computer screen.

As restrictions lifted during the pandemic, students were given the green light to return to in-person learning, just not all students at the same time. To reduce class sizes, maintain flexibility and maintain social distancing in the classroom, hybrid learning was introduced.

Hybrid learning allows for students to split their time between learning online and in-person. This style of teaching and learning has certainly allowed for flexibility in terms of staying home when unwell, having access to material and to differentiated instruction. Students with learning disabilities (LDs) specifically, have seen some very positive outcomes to learning in an alternative environment, such as the ability to establish personal routines, working at their own pace and taking frequent breaks, all the while being able to access their teacher when needed. Having said that, it has also complicated daily structures and routines, while dividing teachers’ attention, as they teach, accommodate and support students online and in-person at the same time.

Why hybrid learning can be harder for students with LDs

Having students adapt to a new style of learning, longer classes, and new routines has been a cause for stress and anxiety in some. Students with LDs often require consistency, routine, and predictable situations in order to ease transitions. Hybrid learning presents several factors that would not allow for consistency and predictability. Furthermore, students with LDs require prompting, choice in assignment production, ongoing support during lessons and additional individual work time, which is often more difficult to provide in a hybrid learning model. Online learning and in-person learning are two completely different models that require different strategies to support students, combining them makes it all the more difficult to consistently support students that need it.

Although the hybrid model can make aspects of learning difficult for students with LDs there are ways to ensure students are consistently supported and accommodated during online and in-person learning.

Difficulties students with LDs may face when hybrid learning What hybrid teachers can do to support students with LDs
New and alternating daily times and locations, can make it difficult to transition between classes/tasks in a positive way.


Establish consistent routines and schedules for students in-person and online.

Ensure constant communication with parents; talk about routines and learning habits at school so they can be supported at home.

Encourage daily routines at home, to maintain as much consistency as possible during online and in-person routines. For example, the student gets up, brushes their teeth, gets dressed, and goes to the designated school space (if possible).

Have breaks when needed and communicate with teachers to maintain break schedules across the online and in-person environments.

Ensure continuity in learning and lessons.

Not having access to the same predictable and routine support from their teachers, SERTs or EAs due to modified schedules and unpredictable distractions and events in the classroom.

Managing triggers brought on by a change in their environment, surroundings or routine.

Discuss current barriers for your students with LDs and develop ways to accommodate them should you not be able to support them directly during class time.

Discuss triggers for students and provide strategies upfront, in case you are not immediately available when needed.


Getting their required accommodations and support while online (with teachers needing to go back and forth from online to their classroom, to support multiple students).


During hybrid learning, rely heavily on the principles of Universal Design for Learning by presenting information and allowing students to demonstrate their learning, in multiple ways:


  • Have PowerPoint and supplementary notes and/or organizers available to print, as well as printed copies at the school to take home.
  • Provide alternative/more interactive resources and lessons for students to watch/play/practice that would provide the same knowledge as an in-person lesson.
  • Provide students with alternative ways to complete assignments to minimize screen time.
  • Be creative with assessments - allow students to earn marks in a variety of ways not only by completing assignments.
Focusing for longer periods of time during longer classes while online. Have students practice concepts in real life by engaging in activities, such as: reading a book, creating projects with materials in the home, going outside, etc.

Find online programs that give access to students who require specific tools like text-to-speech or speech-to-text or scribe pens etc. When students are learning at home, they may not have access to these tools that are readily available in schools.

Provide a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement.


Engaging students online can be difficult under any circumstances, regardless of the delivery model. Constantly modifying online tasks to make them ‘user friendly’ can be daunting, even more so when trying to engage and accommodate students with LDs.

For more information on increasing student engagement, click here to read the article Seen, Understood, Accepted, and Celebrated: Using Broader Lenses to Assess Online Engagement in Learners of All Ages

For more information on ways to adapt online lessons to meet the strengths of students with LDs, click here to watch the Webinar Recording: Teaching Students with LDs Online - Engagement, Work Completion, and Evaluation.

Despite the flexibility and different opportunities for students’ success that hybrid learning can provide, full-time in-person learning facilitates and maximizes students’ ability to effectively develop and practice coping strategies when dealing with stress, transitions, critical thinking, executive functioning etc. Any benefits that students with LDs get from online or in-person learning can easily be lost by the constant transitions and disruptions to their routines. While hoping that we will soon be able to safely return to in-person learning full time, hybrid teachers will continue to minimize the impact of the learning curve that hybrid learning brings and will continue to support students with LDs who are disproportionately affected.