This semester, Palomar College is trying something new with Hyflex classes to mix results that may leave students feeling lost or confused with their weekly classes.
Hybrid flexible, or Hyflex, is a mix of in-person as well as online participation from students. The professor is in class while students have the option to be there in person or participate through Zoom.
There is a camera in class the professor can move to show what is on the board, focus on themselves while lecturing, or zoom out wide to show the whole class and those in person.
While Hyflex gives students the option to return to in-person learning, it has created challenges for both those in the classroom and those on Zoom. From the camera in class not working, to people accidentally talking over each other, and the class microphone cutting in and out, these issues have caused a lack of cohesiveness among the class.
There is an understanding that students want to be back on campus and learning in person. Some learn better from sitting in a classroom among their peers and having their professor there to directly ask them questions, some may be distracted by things at home and need a separate learning environment.
When students were forced to switch to being fully online during the pandemic, it was something not everyone was used to. CNBC reported that among K-12 students, more than 97% of educators reported seeing learning loss among their students over the last year, and 57% estimate that their students are more than three months behind on their social-emotional progress because of virtual learning. While this is for grade school students, it is not hard to imagine how this also impacts students in community college as well.
However, we are unfortunately still in the middle of a pandemic that, while slowly improving, is still an issue for much of the country. This limits how many classes can be in-person, which is where Hyflex becomes an option.
Currently at Palomar there are four Hyflex classes that are being held during the fall semester and Palomar is looking to add more in the spring. The trouble is that many of the classes were not fully equipped for this format. It is unsure if there are broadband and Wi-Fi issues or equipment issues, but during class often the microphone in the class becomes fuzzy and makes it very hard to hear what anyone in the room is saying. Not to those in the classroom, they will not notice.
Those on Zoom may use the “raise hand” function that signifies a student has something to say, but it may go unnoticed if the Zoom screen is not being looked at by anyone in the class. This leads to those on Zoom trying to find the right time to interrupt whoever may be talking in class only to have to restart the Zoom link to fix the issue.
There is also the issue of Palomar College losing money due to the pandemic. Many colleges across the country lost money during the pandemic due to classes being canceled and students having to be refunded money from the schools. Some schools were forced to make budget cuts and plan for future financial loss, and if they couldn’t get students back in school in the fall and spring, there would be even more financial issues.
Getting students back in school and back in the classroom is good for the college to get money flowing again. While attending a Hyflex class in-person, it brings back a sense of normalcy in being able to see and talk to others in the classroom with you and see and hear your professor right in front of you. Before the pandemic, the newsroom at The Telescope allowed editors and writers to bounce ideas around, be more hands-on with articles, and feel more like a team than a class. However, there is the issue of what if a COVID outbreak happens on campus, or what if students don’t feel comfortable being back on campus.
Fully online classes are important, especially for those who do not have an open or flexible schedule to attend weekly set class times. It can be a class that meets through Zoom or an asynchronous class where the student is reliant on getting their work done independently.
With last semester being fully online, there was still a sense of comradery when we all met twice a week on Zoom for the class and still worked on things as a team. With the class being Hyflex as well as asynchronous, there is less certainty on who will be in class and if they will be in class in the same format as everyone else whether it is in-person or online.
While mandatory vaccinations and safe classroom policies are still being developed and fine-tuned for the schools, being fully online or fully in class provides a better learning experience for students.