Is Hybrid Learning Worth It?

When Hybrid Learning 2.0 started in mid-January, Olivia Marsden, ‘21, was one of the roughly 50% of BHS students who opted to stick with remote learning. Marsden had decided to do hybrid learning when it was offered first semester, hoping in-person learning would help her focus more on academics after struggling during distance learning. However, the limited experience she had with returning to the classroom in a post-lockdown world was not enough to encourage her to go back for Hybrid 2.0.

In October, Barrington 220 went into hybrid learning for the first time and I was not surprised when they were shut it down on only the second day. When the district announced they were going to try Hybrid 2.0 during second semester, I didn’t even take it seriously – cases had been skyrocketing during the winter season and at that point, in-person learning seemed like a thing of the past. Imagine my shock when I never received an email informing parents and students that Hybrid 2.0 would be postponed and on January 19, students began to return to the classroom. I think I laughed out loud when the school invited seniors (and now juniors) to come to school everyday for the full day.

To be clear, I don’t oppose in-person learning: certain groups of students, such as at-risk students or special needs students, benefit greatly from the structure that only a physical school can offer. And I don’t think in-person learning is a super-spreader event, but any sort of indoor gathering is a risk – especially one that involves teenagers, who are biologically coded to resist all rules, such as wearing masks or social distancing. Even in the midst of this deadly pandemic, I’ve seen way too many parties on Snapchat and Instagram, large friend groups constantly hanging out with each other, people meeting up with their entire extended family, etc. (all maskless, of course).  The knowledge that these students and faculty are also probably the same people going into hybrid learning everyday is not reassuring. For those of us who can do distance learning from home but choose not to, whether it be to see friends again or to not go insane, we need to ask ourselves: Is hybrid learning really worth it?

For Marsden, the answer was “no.” 

“I didn’t do hybrid second semester because it wasn’t enjoyable to be in school when there were only two other people in the class and the teacher still had to teach on Zoom,” Marsden said. “I would say that I learned better online, only because the teachers were preoccupied with the Zoom portion of the class and you couldn’t do much while in class. I would say learning online is definitely worse than a normal year though.” 

Despite returning to school for academic support, Marsden found that hybrid learning did not help her out. Class sizes were smaller and teachers were preoccupied with Zoom. As a distance learner, I always found it strange when in-person students would be asked to join a Zoom call right after class started. It seemed to contradict the purpose of hybrid if everyone just ended communicating through their iPads in the end. 

And if you returned to in-person learning for socializing and normalcy, students were out of luck. Marsden quickly discovered that school was a shell of what she had experienced in her previous years.

“It was so different,” Marsden said.“The biggest difference was that there were so few students, I only had 5 at the most in my classes. Most of the hallways were empty most of the time and you could only go one way, and you couldn’t sit with people at lunch… The only thing that was the same is the traffic when school lets out.”

To me, it seems as if in-person learning is just like distance learning – lack of academic support, loneliness, etc. – but just with the added risk of spreading a deadly virus. If you chose to go back to hybrid learning and stayed, I don’t blame you. These past eleven months have been rough for everyone, and I think we all deserve some semblance of normalcy in our lives. As someone who has opted to do distance learning, I’ve learned to accept that I’m not going to get the usual senior year experience. I’m in no way shaming you if you decided to do hybrid anyway, but keep in mind that your actions impact not only yourself but those around you as well.