Desks in a classroom in the Huey P. Long Field House on February 5, 2020.

Returning to campus amid a pandemic changes almost everything about the typical college experience, including the way classes are conducted. 

According to the University’s Roadmap to Fall, classes are held either online, in-person or in a hybrid format. Hybrid classes allow students the option to take the class in person during certain days while others take the class online. Classrooms on campus can be occupied at 50% capacity, according to the Roadmap to Fall.

Though all hybrid classes follow the same guidelines, classes still vary depending on the professor. Some professors split students by last name and have one half of the class attend in person on a certain day while the other half of the class is on Zoom, and then switch. Other professors have enough students choosing to take class on Zoom and allow the rest of the class to come in person every day.

Computer science junior Justin Nichols said his professor uses class time as an opportunity to answer student questions.

“He actually posts both lectures online, then during our class time it’s like a Q and A, so we go there and we can ask him questions about the lecture or get help with homework problems or stuff like that,” Nichols said. 

While it may seem easier to hold classes completely online, professors such as mass communication professor Doug Draper have heard from a majority of their students that they would like to be on campus--even with this adapted form of learning.

“I think that many students have told me that they want to be in the classroom, and so I felt like my goal is to always give them the best classroom experience possible and the best learning process possible and so that was their preference so I wanted to accommodate them,” Draper said.

Hybrid classes are dependent on a professor accommodating students not only in the classroom, but also on Zoom. Mass communication professor Will Mari teaches hybrid classes that have become fully online for some of his students.

“I have probably 15 that can be in the room at one time, and so far only about seven or eight have been able to be there because the rest have either been compromised or have issues with their heath they’re worried about or they’ve tested positive or they’ve been exposed to someone who has,” Mari said. “So I’ve told the students, if you want to take the class online from the beginning, you can do that as long as they talk to me ahead of time.”

For some students, the hybrid format feels like an online class. With hybrid formats, all tests, quizzes and assignments are completed online for those who are unable to attend the class in person.

“In my opinion it’s not even a hybrid, it honestly seems like it’s already 100% online, but they give you the option to go on campus if you wanted,” Nichols said. “For both classes, the lectures are online anyway, either on Zoom or it's live and it's prerecorded and stuff.”

Having students on Zoom and in-person means professors have two audiences to consider. Some professors find it difficult to adjust to a non-interactive learning experience. 

“I found it kind of difficult the first couple days, but now I’m kind of getting into the swing of it and figuring out how to do it most effectively,” Draper said. “You kind of have to get rid of the mindset of, 'this has always worked for me in the past.' I’ve got to do something completely different now to make it work.”

Draper said he feels more prepared during this semester to teach online than he did in March, when classes were suddenly switched to an online format due to COVID-19.

“The experience I had this summer teaching online from the first day to the end of the semester was great because it really gave me the confidence that I know how to do online teaching and it gave me experience teaching some different approaches,” Draper said.

Some students would rather be fully online, but others feel that technical difficulties take time from class, including chemical engineering junior Brennan Hagan. 

“I like the idea of being in person, but from my experience with the classes the quality of the video and of the class overall is bad,” Hagan said. “The quality on Zoom is worse than it was before. He [Hagan's professor] writes everything down in class and on the Zoom, you couldn’t see anything on the Zoom.”

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