Harvard is running hybrid classes this semester for select courses at the Business School. As a member of the student association that helped create the hybrid classroom setup with our professors, I am deeply proud of the outcome. Still, I decided to go for online classes over hybrid classes. Here’s why.
What does a hybrid class look like?
Hybrid class is a mix of students attending in-person and online. If I am attending the class online, not much changes for me. But when I want to pitch in on the discussion, I would raise my hand physically instead of virtually over zoom. This is a refreshing change that makes me feel like I am in the classroom physically.
There are bigger changes for the students in the classroom. Typically <15 students are spaced out in a classroom that has the capacity of 100+ students to ensure 6-feet distance. We wear a mask through the entire class. And we log into laptops to the online link so our classmates can see us when we talk.
Why aren’t all the classes hybrid?
One reason is that each classroom that has been converted to a hybrid setup needs hardware investment in the form of extra screens at the back of the class. These are to help the professor in looking at the in-class and online students parallely. With the limited time that university had to setup the classrooms over summer, not all classrooms could be made hybrid-friendly.
The bigger reason, however, is that not all professors felt comfortable shifting to this model. Our professors risk exposing themselves and their families to Coronavirus by interacting with the students in/around the class. Also, I feel that their job becomes exponentially harder in this setup. If I were teaching, I would also find it extremely hard to do justice to students in-class and online simultaneously. I might call on the students in class more often to chime in the discussion. Or if I focused too much on being equitable, I might not be able to get more meat out of the discussion.
Online v/s Hybrid
While Hybrid classes are a great reason to be back in the classroom again, it’s not the same. I looked forward to chatting with my seat mates on the comments made in class. I enjoyed being able to go up to the professor to have follow-up discussions. And it was great to just go up to my classmates to chat before and after the class. None of that can happen anymore.
The additional hassle of having a laptop right in front of me during the class prevents me from taking notes. And it distracts me from the ongoing discussion in the class. I agree that that happens with online classes too, but it is the idea of a known v/s unknown devil.
And most important of all reasons, now that we are increasingly getting comfortable with doing everything online I have started appreciating being online. The comfort of taking a class from your own room, with a fresh coffee far surpasses the every morning hurry to make it to the classrooms on time. The idea of having back to back sessions become feasible in the online world. The possibility of making a small snack between classes of my choice instead of eating the standard food in the food hall is also enticing.
Many of these reasons may not sound right to everyone, but there is definitely a subset of people who would agree to do online classes over hybrid classes for their reasons. And I truly believe that getting comfortable with all things online is a step forward and represents what future can look like.