As Spring falls on Ann Arbor, Greenhills has begun a rather groundbreaking shift to a hybrid model of classes. Each student now has the opportunity to come to school in-person every other week, and this is no doubt helpful for many (especially when it comes to “Zoom fatigue” mental health). Additionally, it is reassuring to see the school keeping a commitment to robust testing and safety procedures.
Despite all of the efforts to keep the campus COVID-free, however, some people are still staying home. One of those people is me; due to circumstances outside of my control, I must attend all of my classes remotely. As such, I’ve had many conversations with friends in similar situations and a lot of experience myself. So, how does it feel to be one of the only people sitting on Zoom?
Honestly, there is no one answer; it depends quite a bit on the day’s plan for class. If a teacher chooses to do a more immersive activity, it can leave remote students feeling alienated. This is, of course, a double-edged sword. Ways of learning that include everyone have a tendency to skew towards worksheets and lectures. I know I wouldn’t want to go into school only to be met with a virtual class where the only difference is that I can also see my classmates in real life. Even simple classroom staples can become tedious, too. Discussions, for example, often require the teacher to repeat what is being said by one group of students for the benefit of the other. Though we are all doing our best, hybrid classes don’t always run as smoothly. What could be done to make the experience more pleasant for everyone?
I would be remiss not to emphasize that all Greenhills faculty members are doing excellently. Teaching is already a difficult job, and doing so with all of these extra obstacles is even more daunting a task. That being said, I’d like to share some examples of effective strategies that have personally helped me learn:
-Having in-person and remote students listen to the same lecture at different times, allowing each group to receive the same information in a way that is most clear for them.
-Facilitating discussions while looking to both sets of students for answers equally, and generally keeping an eye out for remote students’ raised hands.
-Allowing people being displayed on screens in the front of the room to turn off their video feeds.
-Asking in-person classmates to join the Zoom meeting.
-Not keeping remote students on for the entire duration of the period.
-Checking in with remote students, taking their feedback, and ensuring that their learning experience is not being impeded by their remote attendance.
These are just a few of the ways in which I have been made to feel involved as a perpetually-remote student. Some of them are simpler than others, but each one is a step towards an ideal COVID-19 classroom ecosystem. The emergence of the hybrid model has, I think, shown that no class is impossible to have. If done correctly, any lesson can be taught in a way that is safe, interesting, and enjoyable for everyone.