Hybrid learning model offers benefits, challenges


October 9, 2020

Hybrid learning presents advantages and disadvantages. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Cathedral Prep has implemented a new mixture of in-person and online learning.

Using large screen TVs, microphones, cameras, and the app Microsoft Teams, this mixture of technology allows students to attend classes from the comfort of their homes. While there can be a number of students at home, students can also attend school in person simultaneously.

As many know, Prep has been like a second home to students that attend the school. For students like freshman Dominick Scarpino, who is adjusting to a new system of learning in his first year of high school, Prep has been very welcoming.

“It’s been good,” Dominick said. “There haven’t been that many issues so far.”

The new system has been difficult on all the students, including seniors, who haven’t seen anything like this since their first day at Prep.

“Prep has been great so far,” senior Nolan Lynch said, “but I can’t wait to graduate and go to college.”

Cathedral Prep has also been welcoming to new and old faces alike.

“I have really enjoyed my experience at Prep so far,” new English teacher Ms. Mackensen said. “My colleagues are kind and helpful, and I’ve really enjoyed all my classes so far. It’s a great place to teach.”

For theology teacher Mrs. Slaby, this will be her 19th year at Prep.

“I love being here,” Mrs. Slaby said. “This is a very high energy and exciting school, and I have great confidence and pride in the things our students are able to accomplish.”

These past few months, Cathedral Prep has implemented a new remote learning system to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some students have had troubles adjusting to this new system.

“It was hard the first day to adjust to the technology,” said Dominick, “but after that it was pretty simple.”

Teachers also have experienced setbacks adjusting to a new system of learning.

“There is definitely a learning curve with the technology,” Ms. Mackensen said. “Understanding how everything works together was a lot to take in the first couple weeks of school in addition to teaching, but now that we’ve been doing it, I find it is pretty easy to navigate.”

Mrs. Slaby, a veteran teacher, has also felt challenged at times with the new technology.

“Many people have remarked that in some ways it is a little like being a first-year teacher when everything is new,” Mrs. Slaby said. “It does have some of that quality because there is so much new technology to learn. Also, there are many opportunities to learn new programs to use so that remote students and face-to-face students are all engaged. It is important to try to recognize the differences in the experience and plan for them. There are some really creative new programs to use. However, the most important things about teaching do not change: creating relationships, preparing students for college and life after college, and sharing our faith in Christ.”

Many students attending Prep have also debated whether in-school learning or remote learning is better. Some students, such as Nolan Lynch, feel like in-school learning gives them a better opportunity to learn.

“In-person [is better] for sure,” Nolan said. “You get a better learning experience, but for right now, this [remote learning system] is all we can really do.”

Other students, like Dominick Scarpino, are unaffected by the changes.

“I feel like I’m getting the same experience from home that I would get in school,” Dominick said.

Teachers at Prep have differing opinions on the new system as well. Ms. Mackensen is one who prefers in-school learning.

“[In-person] classes can be more dynamic, and there are greater options when it comes to projects and engagement,” she said. “That is my preferred teaching style. At the same time, I am grateful that we have the technology to keep having school during this challenging time. If the pandemic happened even just 20 years ago, schools may have just shut down with no virtual option.”

Mrs. Slaby is open to the future of how this remote learning system will pan out.

“I think it is too early to tell which one is more beneficial,” she said. “We are really just beginning to explore and understand the possibilities available in remote learning. It’s a whole new frontier. I think the best thing is that there are choices to fit people’s different situations and needs. Options allow more people to participate.”

As the calendar speeds toward November, the COVID-19 pandemic is still present throughout America today. It remains unclear exactly when a vaccine will be ready so that the spread of the virus will start to slow down. For the foreseeable future, Dominick Scarpino feels safer with the learning system right now.

“I prefer remote learning because I don’t want to risk getting the virus at school when I can just learn from home,” he said.

Senior Nolan Lynch feels the opposite way.

“In the foreseeable future, I’d rather see in-person learning just because it’s a lot easier to learn, and it’s more beneficial for everyone than remote learning,” Nolan said. “But again, due to this pandemic, this is all we can really do.”

Teachers generally prefer teaching face-to-face, but due to the current situation, there isn’t much they can do.

“I prefer in-school learning,” Ms. Mackensen said. “However, I don’t see remote learning going away. I just want to keep growing as an educator to learn how to better help my students through this time and how to better teach in this very new virtual classroom world.”

Mrs. Slaby also wants things to return to normal at Prep.

“I certainly look forward to the end of the pandemic,” Mrs. Slaby said. “Not seeing everyone in person all the time and having to change some of our big celebrations and events are what I miss the most, but I think for now, being able to offer the choice, a hybrid school, is the best idea.”

While many still prefer in-school learning more than remote learning, this pandemic has shown no signs of slowing down for the time being, so remote learning remains a necessary reality. On top of that, new cases of COVID-19 have emerged in Erie County in the past couple of weeks, so schools will likely continue to roll with their remote learning processes. Whatever happens next, many hope that, soon enough, students can all return to Cathedral Prep as one student body.

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