Andover Begins Holding Hybrid Classes

According to Meyer, classrooms have two cameras for Zoom; one is to be focused on the front of the room for instruction, and the second is voice-activated and swivels from person to person.

With plexiglass dividers, face masks, social distancing, and new cameras, Andover began hosting hybrid classes on Wednesday, October 21. If instructors elected to hold hybrid classes, boarding and day students could decide if they wanted to attend in person or connect virtually. According to an email from Raj Mundra, Dean of Studies, the majority of instructors chose to continue teaching remotely for the rest of Fall term. 

If you are a remote learner this term, please know that teachers will design their lesson plans to include you (and they will be able to see you without a mask!). Attending class in person or learning remotely will not impact a student’s grade in the class,” wrote Mundra in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Stephanie Curci, Instructor and Chair in English, the decision for most English classes to remain remote was influenced by room assignments and class dynamic. Due to audio and technology logistics, as well as social distancing mandates, the only classroom in Bulfinch Hall that is equipped to handle in-person instruction is the Tirana Room. With the new restrictions, the majority of other classrooms can hold only around four people. 

“I would say that for most people, a big part of [staying remote] is pedagogical. We want to be able to connect and be able to look each other in the eye… and feel like we can be open and vulnerable with each other when we’re talking about race, class, gender, love, family, all of these things, and to not be able to see each other’s faces is really challenging,” said Curci.

Regarding whether to hold hybrid classes or stay remote, instructors were asked to make the best decision for themselves and for their teaching. According to Curci, had all of her students been on campus, she likely would have decided to hold in-person classes. 

“I was talking with some parents the other day and I was like, ‘It is my choice, but if I had all my students here, I’d be thrilled to sit in a tent and have a class.’ With half of my students not here, that’s a very different thing. I think if we organized it differently where we have classes for kids who are here and remote classes for kids off-campus, that would be a different decision. I understand why we made that decision. We have a much more diverse student body in our classes with that decision,” said Curci.

According to Linh Dang ’23, a remote student, the shift to hybrid classes has not impacted her school life in a significant way. Dang finds that being on campus when most classes are still remote is less about the academic experience and more about the other aspects of life at Andover. 

“I do think that being on-campus isn’t really super beneficial right now. I say that because I’m not on campus, and I’m doing just fine, but I do think that from what I’ve seen, being on campus serves more as a social thing, as opposed to really learning. We saw from the first few weeks people were still doing remote classes and even now a lot of teachers still aren’t going in-person,” said Dang

According to Brian Faulk, Instructor and Chair in Chemistry, instructors in his department who have decided to hold hybrid classes are implementing measures to help maintain an equitable, engaging learning experience. In the science departments, one of the greatest challenges with regards to equity is labs, according to Faulk.

“I think we have a robust video system that suits hopefully [most students], but actually we talked about how it’s important how the students on campus in the classroom and the students who live beyond campus in their dorms or their home had a very similar experience where you could see one another,” said Faulk.

He continued, “We did a demonstration for the division where we highlighted ways that you could do that. So that would be having the class on Zoom on the projector so the people in class could see the people at home, and the people on Zoom could see with the camera. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a really good solution.”

Becca Carballal ’24 expressed concern for remote students and how hybrid classes affect their learning experience. In her hybrid math class, two remote students participate in class using the whiteboard feature on Zoom. 

“I could imagine the remote students are having a pretty hard time with it because of everybody else being in the same room, and you just can sort of see from the camera in the corner of the classroom. That just doesn’t really seem like the optimal situation,” said Carballal.

According to Elizabeth Meyer, Instructor in Classics and Chair in World Languages, her department is holding weekly division meetings. During last week’s meeting, the instructors holding hybrid classes shared their experiences. A challenge in the department is the need to wear masks, especially for entry-level courses, according to Meyer.

“I think everyone’s pretty much on the same page about trying to keep the essential element of a language classroom alive even during these times, but it’s difficult because of the masks, obviously, so for language teaching it’s very problematic to have a mask on especially for beginning levels,” said Meyer. 

“We have a very diverse group of teachers with different styles and different teaching pedagogies. They all have the best interests of their students and their learning experience at heart, and I don’t think that’s really changed during the remote term,” continued Meyer.

Chelsea Cho ’21 appreciated the difference in being able to meet and talk with her peers and instructors in person. She also praised Andover’s efforts to implement hybrid classes in a gradual manner.

Cho said, “Hopefully we can have more in-person classes in the future as we carry this out safely, but for now, I think we’re doing it in the best way possible because personally, in my classroom, we’re all six feet apart, masked, and I’ve heard some other classrooms have plexiglass over each desk, so I think we’re doing really well for now, and hopefully we can have more in-person classes in the future.”