Hybrid Learning Poses Communication Challenges, Students Say

Download Audio
Ben Shapiro (left) and Josh Fried (Photo courtesy of guests)
Ben Shapiro (left) and Josh Fried (Photo courtesy of guests)

A month into an atypical school year, high school sophomore Ben Shapiro says hybrid learning is strange but going well.

He’s glad to see his friends and learn in-person once a week on Wednesday for three and a half hours at Friends Seminary in New York City. But attending school during a pandemic poses challenges, whether it’s online or in person.

“There are problems with communication and it's difficult, especially when you're trying to talk to a room of people and the mask stops sound from going out,” he says. “So it makes it harder and harder to hear.”

Aside from Wednesdays, all of his classes are on Zoom. As an active, visual learner, he says interaction helps him absorb information, which Zoom makes more difficult. But since he used Zoom last spring, he’s getting used to it.

Shapiro’s school isn’t requiring testing aside from specific scenarios such as a student coming back from out of state or being exposed to someone who tested positive, he says. If students pass a survey and a temperature check, they’re allowed into school.

To keep students separated, marks on the floor demonstrate how far apart to put the desks. Students use a path in the back of the classroom to access the garbage, tissues or hand sanitizer, he says.

Shapiro thinks the lasting effects of COVID-19 are here to stay. He says he hopes his school will “play it by ear” and stay updated on the latest information about the virus.

“Get professional opinions and keep updating those opinions,” he says. “And I think that they should prioritize safety, but also try to get us the interaction needed to be mentally healthy.”

College students are confronting similar issues with remote learning. Josh Fried, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has half of his classes on Zoom, half in person. Teachers and students are facing the problem of not being able to hear people speak with half the class online and half in person, he says.

“Things are going as well as they can be,” Fried says.

Everyone wears a mask and his professors are strict about making sure students don’t enter the classroom too quickly to maintain distance, he says. Like at Shapiro’s school, the desks sit on top of markers taped to the floor.

When students arrived on campus, they had to quarantine for two weeks and then got tested, Fried says. Now, the university is doing random asymptomatic testing and posting the results online. The data shows no new cases in the past two weeks.

While he hasn’t seen any parties happening on campus, Fried says throwing large gatherings is “very silly and very poor judgment.” He’s the only one of his five roommates attending classes in person, but he doesn’t think they’re too concerned.

“We're all very confident in the university's handling of this so far,” he says. “If anything, it makes my roommates feel more hopeful that things could continue to move closer to a more in-person centered format.”

Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku RayAllison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on October 6, 2020.


Headshot of Jeremy Hobson

Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.


Headshot of Allison Hagan

Allison Hagan Digital Producer, Here & Now
Allison Hagan is a digital producer for Here & Now.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live