Opinions on Hybrid Learning Seem to Differ by Class Year
Months after the initial outbreak of Covid-19, many schools have turned to hybrid learning models. Incarnate Word Academy is one of many schools implementing this model. Half of the school’s students come to campus for in-person classes on Monday and Thursday; the other half appears in-person Tuesday and Friday. On the days that students are at home, they are completing online activities, online assignments, pre-recorded lectures, and Zoom check-ins. Nearly all assignments are turned in online rather than in-person. The result is that some students are thriving with the flexibility and independence of the hybrid learning model, while others struggle with the more unstructured environment.
Hybrid Learning’s Flexibility Helps Certain Students Excel
Many students I talked to find their online days a lot easier than physically being at school. “I like that online I don’t have to follow a schedule and manage my time. I also like that I get a few more hours of sleep that I would spend commuting if I went to school, ” said Elise Potier, an IWA junior. For many upperclassmen, regulating their own schedules based upon the parts of the day that they are more attentive and productive is preferable to a regularly structured school day. The extra hours of sleep are also helpful to those students who find it difficult to stay awake at physical school.
Hybrid Learning as Preparation for College
Seniors notice that the flexibility and the independence that come with hybrid learning’s online assignments are actually useful practice for college. Anna Cook, a senior at IWA, stated, “I think we should continue with how we do assignments during hybrid for full-time school… We cover more content and our assignments do feel heftier. It seems that in college you’ll rarely get assignments where you have to turn them in the next day or within the next two days. With hybrid learning I’ve learned to do time-management and focus on assignments that are four or five days out, like college would make me do.” Not everyone feels the same. While upperclassmen like the flexibility of the hybrid learning model and have found success with their studies, other students, many of them underclassmen, miss the rhythms of a traditional school day.
Struggling to Connect Socially
“School without knowing most of my class has made it hard to enjoy school,” Holly Cromeens, a freshman at IWA told me.
Social distancing and returning to school with 50 percent capacity has been really hard for some students, especially freshmen. They started high school online, not really having a friend group or having a concrete way to get to know their classmates. Hybrid learning has helped a little. But it’s still hard to meet people outside your in-person class day. At lunch, social distancing guidelines mean students sit two to a table, and eating with only one other person makes it hard to get to know many people. Some freshmen suggested that having more socially distant after-school activities would help their class come together as a group.
Differing Expectations Between Students and Teachers
An unintended consequence of hybrid learning seems to be that there is a disconnect between students and teachers. That’s made the transition to the hybrid model difficult for some students.
Unfortunately, the miscommunication that has been created is due to the separation in students between classes and coursework. Many teachers differ in expectations for class experience, and because each student has around eight classes, it can make it confusing to catch up. Some teachers rely heavily on a schedule sent out at the start of each week, while others rely heavily on updating each assignment to every student's Google Classroom feed. Some teachers prefer to teach via video and others via Zoom class. This disconnect has also made itself known among students that have trouble learning via video and who have to return to school the next day for a test on the information.
Danielle Bartholet, a sophomore at IWA stated, “I am struggling with the lack of in-person teaching, and the amount of testing in certain classes. My grade in one class has dropped because the only learning I had was by video, but we were tested on it on our in-person day.” Overall, students would have an easier time during hybrid if there was an easier way to clearly communicate these concerns, and for the teachers to regulate the teaching, testing, and assignment methods.
No Easy Answers
Obviously, schools want the best for their students, and every school is trying to navigate the strange dynamic of Covid-19. Many students told me they liked hybrid learning because it gave them independence, but I heard just as often students have had a hard time adjusting to this method of classwork. There’s no definitive opinion when it comes to the hybrid learning model. But, as it is the current reality for so many students, one thought for getting through this phase of the school year is to take it one day at a time.
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