The general assumption amongst many is that in-person instruction is superior to virtual instruction in terms of effective learning. Although this may be true in a non-pandemic year, it is a false assumption this school year, as teachers juggle their time between the students who learn in person while also paying attention to the group of students learning virtually. It would be most effective to transition to a virtual classroom model for every student if the goal is providing the best learning experience possible.
In a hybrid model, teachers are forced to divide their attention between the Google Meet on their laptops and the students seated in front of them, negatively impacting both groups of students. For example, teachers often explain major assignments or concepts and soon after realize their laptop’s microphone was muted or that the camera was not facing the whiteboard. As a result, students learning from home could not hear the teacher and/or were unable to see the whiteboard all along. This forces the teacher to re-explain the assignment, wasting the time of the students learning in person who have to listen to the same concept explained twice. In a fully virtual classroom, the teacher’s attention is solely focused on one mode of learning, therefore eliminating the constant juggling of virtual and in-person students.
Group collaboration is another aspect of the learning experience that functions fluidly in a virtual learning model. Students can collaborate effectively by simply joining the same Google Meet or breakout room. Tools like Google Docs and screen share allow all group members to edit the same document and/or view the same screen while also communicating via a Google Meet.
In a hybrid model, due to coronavirus safety protocols, group work consists of working solely with people sitting at desks nearby and sometimes also joining a Google Meet to collaborate with a peer learning from home. This creates a hectic scenario as students are often left alternating between taking headphones on and off to split collaboration time between a classmate six feet away and another peer learning virtually.
In some classes, students who are learning virtually collaborate for every project, homework, or activity. However, this solution is unfair for those students as there is no variety in the classmates they get to work with.
Not only is it effective to collaborate with other students in a virtual model, but it is also easier for students to meet with a teacher one on one. Many teachers make use of the app Calendly, which allows students to set up a time to meet with their teachers. One-on-one student and teacher meetings allow for students to ask personalized questions, go over a previous test or homework, or talk about a difficult assignment.
The one-hour breaks in the virtual learning schedule make for a great time to set up these meetings with teachers, as both the students and teachers do not have any other commitments. In the in-person learning model, there is no time built into the day for students to meet with teachers, as the schedule consists of longer classes and more responsibilities for both students and teachers, such as advisory, sports, and other factors like commute time. Additionally, the lack of commute time in a Virtual Haverford schedule allows students to wake up hours later than they normally would. This ensures that students are ready to engage in discussions, analytic essays, or complex math problems without lack of sleep affecting their performances.
The benefits of learning virtually outweigh the benefits of in-person learning as a result of the safety protocols and their interference with the quality of in-person learning.