Universiteit Leiden

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Hybrid education: future or compromise?

Since September, a large part of education is 'hybrid': students can attend courses both at home (online) and in person in lecture halls. How do students themselves feel about this? We asked Emma and Cornelia of the Research Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

‘It is easier for me to concentrate in the lecture hall’

‘To me, the computer is an object that evokes passivity.’ Emma Mendez Correa is a second-year research master student in Classics and Ancient Civilizations. Fully online education was hard for her, so she's happy to be able to attend classes on campus again. ‘For the course Herodotus and Ancient Civilizations I come to Leiden every week. It is much easier for me to concentrate in the lecture hall.'

She explains how hybrid education works: 'You can attend a lecture both virtually and in the lecture hall at the university. At the beginning of the lecture, a student or lecturer picks up a camera and tripod from the ICT department. This camera is then connected to a computer. The people at home can then see and hear the lecturer, live, via a programme. They can ask questions via the chat and can also see the lecturer’s PowerPoint presentation on their screens.’

Delays

The transition to hybrid education did not go without a hitch, according to Emma. ‘In the beginning you could notice that students who attended the lecture at home felt burdened to ask questions. Sometimes there are delays, for example, and students don’t know how loud the volume of the speaker in the classroom is.'

‘Fully online education was not a success’

‘To work around this inconvenience, our lecturer, Casper de Jonge, asked me to be a technical assistant (TA). As a TA, I sit behind the computer in the lecture hall and keep in touch with the people at home. In practice, this means that I keep an eye on the chat and indicate when one of the students at home wants to say something. The students at home can also tell me, in the chat, that they cannot properly hear the lecturer or a question from a student in the lecture hall, which I then transcribe for them.'

Assisting the lecturer as well as trying to keep up with the lecture can be quite difficult, Emma thinks. ‘Now that we are in the second half of the semester, I notice that multitasking takes a lot of effort. Perhaps it would be better if the TA itself doesn't also have to attend the course as a student. But by now I'm used to it and I also enjoy doing it.'

‘Hybrid forms of teaching can make education more inclusive’

Cornelia Hefting is also a TA, but for the course Greek Responses to Rome. She is relieved about the arrival of hybrid education: 'In this extreme situation I do consider hybrid education to be an enrichment. The alternative is to provide fully online education - that was the case last semester - but I didn't think that was a success. I myself find it very difficult to stay focused during online lectures. It was also lonely and demotivating to sit in your own room for months on end and to see hardly anybody from your study programme.'

Is there a future for hybrid education after covid? Emma prefers lectures to take place fully in person again. ‘Personally, I don't think hybrid education can replace face-to-face education,' she emphasises. ‘It might be a good back-up, but I think that as a student you learn less when your education is online. If most lectures would be fully or largely online, I think studying would be very different: less fun, less dynamic. The social aspect would be missing.'

Cornelia is a little more positive than her fellow student: 'I don't know if I would like to give hybrid lectures a permanent place in education – after all, there are many drawbacks to it. But hybrid education allows students to attend classes in person, without students who are ill or unable to come to the Netherlands suffering as a result. Even after covid, hybrid forms of teaching can make education more inclusive.'

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