How hybrid is your hybrid learning?

With the new academic year beginning, many students waited to hear about how hybrid the hybrid learning at Edinburgh would be. Following an email at the end of last semester, the Vice Principle assured students they would have more in-person teaching next semester compared to the previous year, which for many of us was nothing. 

I recently began my third year at Edinburgh, I was hopeful that due to smaller class sizes and sharing classes with fourth years, we would be at the forefront for learning in person. The semester began positively; all my tutorials were in person, and I had some live lectures and some pre-recorded. It seemed like the ideal hybrid learning situation, and after last year I was grateful for anything. Then one of my classes stated it would not have tutorials every week. It would only happen a handful of times during the semester. Suddenly I had lost a third of my weekly in-person hours, and I was not happy.

On an average week, I have two hours in-person, roughly two to three hours of live segments, such as a practical or Q&A session, and the rest pre-recorded. The consensus amongst myself and my friends is that pre-recorded lectures are ideal. The ability to go back and rewatch or pause it to catch up on notes is helpful. Having the subtitles on and the speed increased seems to be quite popular too. 

Furthermore, I assumed that in-person lectures would be the last thing to return. At the time it made sense as some classes can easily be attended by a few hundred people. On the other hand, the fact that I can go out clubbing, with no social distancing or masks, yet not be able to attend a lecture, does not seem right. 

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Government guidance has relaxed to a level that allows for a return to a somewhat normal pre-pandemic life. A part of me seeks to know why the university remains quite strict on what events are allowed in person. I assume that in-person teaching for our degrees like in the previous years before the pandemic, would be the ultimate goal. Yet it raises questions as to whether we will ever return to normal learning. 

I didn’t write this piece merely to criticise Edinburgh University over its hybrid learning approach; there are some positives to this reformed way of educating. The most significant being that course administrators and lecturers are listening to students a lot more. Whilst it is still early in the semester, there is a difference in attitude from my professors. There seems to be a sense of understanding as well as a realisation of the difficulty in delivering an education digitally. A discussion is taking place about what students find valuable and what proves to be challenging. For example, more professors are uploading “mini-lectures,” shorter videos that make it easier to download, most likely because of feedback from students struggling to stream fifty-minute lectures. 

Edinburgh University has been delivering a hybrid education; pre-recorded lectures remain but tutorials, which in my opinion are the most crucial aspect of a course to be in person, can go ahead and for that, I am thankful. My experience of hybrid learning is that of a third-year joint-honours student, which leaves the question of whether students in other faculties or different years are experiencing the same mixture of online and in-person teaching. 

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