Story by Meridian Pearson, Opinion Editor
Some say that when COVID-19 hit, education suffered for it. Classes moved online, students moved home and things fell by the wayside while we grappled with how to educate in an isolated world. When we began moving back in-person, many professors still offered an online option for students not ready or able to return to campus. Today, nearly all classes are in-person. The question is, are we losing something by going fully in-person? Or would we be losing something by remaining in a hybrid format?
You could argue that classes simply don’t thrive in a hybrid format. Having to develop a model that exists online or accommodates both in-person and online capabilities adds a huge workload for professors and a new learning curve for students. It can also be more difficult to understand instructions online, and there is a loss of some nonverbal communication. Plus, it requires a stable internet connection and video capability. All of this makes online classes seem like a poor idea.
On the other hand, there are many positives to hybrid classes. It’s much easier to attend school online. Even if you are sick or traveling, you can attend class. This could help students who are struggling with their mental health and find it difficult to leave their dorm. It also presents a unique service to those with auditory difficulties. Programs like Google Meet and Zoom have a closed captioning option that generates captions while we speak. And if a student has difficulty speaking up in class, they can utilize the chat feature. The hybrid model elevates our ability to be accessible to many types of students.
Online classes were a game changer for me. I deal with unpredictable chronic pain. Some days, it’s impossible for me to attend class. Now that my classes are 100% in-person, I am struggling again. I know I would benefit from a hybrid model where each class had an in-person and online option.
I know not all classes are well-equipped to be hybrid, and it definitely adds more of a hassle for professors. But the truth is, there’s no easy way to create a more accessible world. It takes dedication to meet an array of needs. So for classes where a hybrid format is a possibility, I strongly believe the option should be available to make the move toward accessibility.