During the 2020 school year, many students around the world, including Salisbury University students, have been introduced to an infamous and unfamiliar learning format: hybrid courses.
Hybrid courses have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a study from the Institute of International Education surveying 520 U.S. colleges and universities, 87%, or nearly nine out of 10 of them, planned to utilize a hybrid model for classes during this fall semester.
The popularity of hybrid courses is likely due to the tried-and-true practice of in-person instruction combined with the newer, yet safer method of online instruction ultimately limiting physical social interactions between students.
Though hybrid courses may be safer than in-person classes, the courses themselves have created a plethora of new challenges, the first of which is their inherent clumsiness.
For instance, in some hybrid classes some students attend class in person while other students attend class via Zoom.
This creates a conundrum for professors: How are they able to give equal attention to students in the class and students on Zoom?
Also, how can students both in class and on Zoom work together in groups?
There is also the issue of students getting to know their classmates, which is especially tricky with hybrid courses.
If a class were in-person, this socializing aspect wouldn’t be an issue.
If a class was fully online, it would be difficult for students to get to know each other, but professors could increase social interaction by having group discussions where students share answers to get-to-know-you questions.
In hybrid courses, students get to know their classmates to some extent. In my experience, they are likely to develop connections with students who are also physically in the classroom.
However, in-person students may not be as familiar with the students who have been separated into an online course format.
In other words, when it comes to creating connections in the classroom, hybrid classes don’t have any real advantages when comparing them to in-person or online classes.
Hybrid classes also create complicated routines for students.
Instead of coming into class every day, whether that’s walking into a classroom or logging into a Zoom meeting, students are juggling these two aspects, which can be confusing.
This admittedly doesn’t create a major impediment for students, but college is stressful and confusing enough — figuring out whether to come to class in person or online on a given day is an additional potential stressor that students shouldn’t have to face.
Additionally, hybrid courses, due to their in-person component, present a potential health risk for students, even though a hybrid class is safer for students than a fully in-person class.
The likelihood of contracting COVID-19 while staying home and attending class online is almost nonexistent.
However, this likelihood is higher if students meet in person for class, even if they are staying at least six feet apart and wearing face masks, since, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze.”
Thus, the physical aspect of hybrid courses could potentially put students at risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Therefore, hybrid classes provide a mode of instruction that is safer than completely in-person learning, but despite that benefit, they are also clumsy, complicated and confusing.
Additionally, they do not completely guarantee the safety of students or professors.
As the semester has continued, issues regarding the hybrid courses have risen to the surface, causing professors to change course modalities.
For instance, two of my classes, that were originally designated as hybrid classes, have gone fully remote.
Despite this, SU is planning to have most of its classes in-person or hybrid next semester.
“Modalities for spring courses will be similar to this fall, with roughly 55% taught as face-toface or hybrid sections and 45% as online (asynchronous) or remote (synchronous) sections,” according to an email from The President’s Office.
Regardless of your stance on hybrid classes, they bring with them unique challenges that many students and faculty are facing for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By ALLISON GUY Editor-in-chief
Photo by Olivia Ballmann.