Hybrid Classes in the New Normal

4/1 DukEngineer Magazine

How Duke Engineering instructors and students shifted to hybrid in-person and remote classes during the pandemic

A teacher and students standing in front of a projector screen featuring a student on zoom
Hybrid Classes in the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily routine of most people. This disruption has proven that it’s true that adapting to changes is not always easy, especially when it occurs suddenly or when things evolve rapidly.

Professors at universities had to find ways for their students to study online because most schools and universities were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They had no choice but to redefine their time-tested methodologies, which usually involved physical gatherings. Since the biology of the virus was so unique and unprecedented, there was great uncertainty looming over the return to normalcy.

Fast-forward to Fall 2021, when Duke University reopened its doors for students to take courses in person while continuing to offer classes for remote students. The Pratt School’s hybrid model of conducting both online and offline sessions for students around the world was lauded tremendously.

The hybrid model may seem to be an inefficient system to adopt. However, it has made life easier for students as well as professors. The simplicity of logging in to Zoom and attending lectures is a luxury. Although it does take away some of the live classroom experiences, it is the best that could have been done in these trying times.

A teacher with a mask on in front of a classroom full of students with masks onPratt’s response to the hybrid model of education and the new normal has been exemplary. The staff has carefully considered the students’ as well as professors’ requests to make the online and offline classes as close to normal as possible. By conducting screening tests for COVID-19 every week and mandating the use of masks in class, Pratt has ensured a safe and conducive environment for the students.

Pratt’s deep understanding of the needs of the student community has facilitated social and networking events where students meet online or offline with all the necessary COVID-19 protocols. This has created a sense of community and belonging beyond the classrooms. As comfortable as hybrid classes can be, the students of Pratt fervently wish to go back to normalcy as soon as the conditions may allow.

Here’s a look at how some students and professors reacted to this year’s “new normal.”

David Smoot, Master of Engineering Management Student at Pratt

“I prefer in-person classes, but considering these times, the hybrid model is the way to go about it. It is definitely more convenient, but I personally try to keep in-person meetings as far as possible. Overall, everyone has been doing a pretty good job. The professors know the latest trends and have been using all the new features. We are also able to get more guest speakers via Zoom.”

Luis Morales, Master of Engineering Management professor and executive director

“The hybrid model has allowed us to reach people from all corners of the world with a single click. It’s amazing how technology has helped us adapt to this new normal. It has opened up doors for us to get talented professors from all over to teach our students. The only downside to this model is that the interaction between students and professors has been largely reduced. But again, it’s just a matter of time before we are able to overcome these challenges.”

Richard Sheng, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering student

“I think Pratt has done its best to continue delivering the same quality of education, in terms of lectures and labs. Lectures were delivered almost the same way as before but on Zoom, and even more so for flipped classes. Courses offered many options for us to get the most learning out of labs, like being able to take labs in a later semester, ordering items for DIY at-home experiments, being delivered electronics kits, watching demo videos and more. Given that Pratt had limited experience with hybrid education, I think Pratt did well.”

Malav Shah is a student in the Master of Engineering Management program.