“Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster” are the words written by Dave Matthews in his song “The Space Between” that seem to perfectly sum up the college experience during a global pandemic. Everyone has different situations and experiences with their courses, but there is no doubt it has been a crazy ride for all of us. Sure, online classes are challenging and attending in-person classes has many risks. However, I have come to believe that hybrid classes or the space between in-person and online courses has become the most difficult challenge of all.
The term “hybrid” is a title given to courses that meet in-person as well as online. This might mean courses only meet once a week instead of the typical two in-person sessions. This is a great compromise to lessen the exposure for COVID-19 while also maintaining some in-person instruction. Hybrid courses aren’t new at Rhode Island College, as they have existed before the pandemic began. What is new for students now is a hybrid education.
I define a hybrid education as an experience where students have a mix of in-person, hybrid and online courses. On paper, it doesn’t seem like much of an issue to take courses with a variety of instruction modes. However, what does that actually look like in a real life schedule?
Surely I am not the first student to point out the struggle endured with different types of courses. This semester, I have a relatively even distribution of instruction modes in my courses with three in-person, three fully online and one hybrid. This does not mean my schedule is evenly distributed. I find myself rushing around more than ever to be on time to my courses, no matter what kind they are. Having such a small amount of time between online and in-person classes makes it difficult to remain calm throughout the day. Every day is a rollercoaster when frantically searching for Zoom links after attending an in-person class.
Before you say it, yes, I do know students are allowed to use the library for a space to attend online classes while on campus. For students in this situation, you know exactly how it feels to sign on to Zoom after dashing across campus only to get that dreaded message saying your internet is unstable. This makes it extremely difficult to experience online class in a way that is fully beneficial. Did I mention how difficult it is to hear what someone is saying through Zoom when they are wearing a mask? Not only are you enduring a spotty internet connection and having to repeat yourself due to a muffled voice under a mask, but you likely don’t have a break between your classes. I already discussed my opinion on not having time to take a break and eat in my article Skip class or starve in a previous issue of the newspaper. That has undoubtedly become a contributing factor in the difficulty surrounding hybrid education experiences.
The bottom line is, a hybrid education is tough for many reasons that aren’t apparent unless you have experienced it. I think there are ways in which we can reduce the stress associated with the combination of instruction modes. Whether it’s allowing more time in between class start times or improving the school’s wifi strength, there needs to be some action taken. As we continue to navigate college amid a global pandemic, I hope improvements can be made to help reduce some anxiety students are currently facing.