By Noah Isherwood, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Sydni Byerley, COM 303 Editor
MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — Hybrid class styles are placing unique strains on students and faculty alike, according to the Academic Success Center and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development.
Berry College underwent a major shift in pedagogical format in the spring of 2020, in response to COVID-19. All classes went online as students were sent home after spring break, a major source of stress according to Anna Sharpe, director of the Academic Success Center.
“Certainly in the spring when we went completely online, we did hear more confusion and frustration on the part of students,” Sharpe said.
The abrupt shift in delivery of teaching was hard to cope with for many students, but it was a necessary formative experience. By the start of the fall semester, it was made clear that most classes were to be delivered in a hybrid format, that is, partly online and partly in person. The experiences of the previous semester helped prepare students according to Sharpe.
“Now I think students are clear on what the expectations are, they understand what they need to be doing, they understand where the information lives on Canvas,” Sharpe said.
Though the spring was helpful in preparing students for the fall, certain aspects of the hybrid model had simply not been tested or experienced. Some professors are finding that connecting with students personally has become rather difficult, according to Casey Dexter, associate professor of psychology and the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development.
“One thing people have been thinking hard about is, ‘what are ways I can get to know them and engage with them outside of class,’” Dexter said.
According to Kinsey Farmer, coordinator of peer to peer programming at the Academic Success Center, the sentiment is shared by students.
“With things being on Zoom, some students might feel a disconnect from their professors,” Farmer said.
Faculty have tried to creatively build in ways to personally connect with students, something that usually would be done face to face in class, with new assignments such as introductory videos or reflections. These assignments may fit into a trend that Sharpe has noticed in many of her academic consultations.
“What I’m hearing from students is that the perception is that there is more work this semester, that there is more independent work outside of class than there has ever been before,” Sharpe said.
This perception is confirmed by junior Kathryn Weaver, who works as a peer tutor at the Academic Success Center.
“I personally haven’t had to much of a change, but I have heard of people coming in for foundations classes complaining that there is too much outside work,” Weaver said.
Though the perception that this semester is more difficult seems to be rather common, Sharpe found that dialog between faculty and students is growing stronger.
“Those lines of communication that students struggled with in the spring, those seem really clear to students now,” Sharpe said.
This may be a result of some of Dexter’s work with faculty.
“One thing that we’ve really realized is that how up front we are about communicating with students is having to change dramatically,” Dexter said.
While the workload has been thought of as growing, the connectivity between students and their professors is encouraging. This open communication is crucial for the success of the hybrid model, and it seems that a strong foundation has been laid for such growth to continue.