Online studies prepared universities for a ‘hybrid’ year
During the most challenging times of the pandemic, universities readapted course curricula and went fully online, a forced change that has taught a valuable lesson to both students and educators.
With the fall semester starting this week at most colleges and universities in Miami-Dade County, educators are going into the term better equipped to provide a hybrid of virtual and traditional in-person education experiences.
“I think what we learned, myself and our faculty, is that we’re more able than what we think we are,” said Dr. John Murray, Barry University’s provost. “It’s really interesting that it takes a pretty strong environmental impact to take you to places where you didn’t think you would ever need to go or do what is needed, with a common goal of serving our students and keeping our programs thriving.”
The silver lining was how Barry University pulled together as a community during covid, he said. “We really used our resources, our office of distance learning, and our supportive nature with each other.”
Now with the start of the new and its first in-person term, Barry educators are still not finished learning lessons, Dr. Murray said. “We really have much to discover about what students want, coupled with what our capabilities are in terms of hardware, software, internet connections, and our own skill level,” he added.
Being a complex institution, Barry has in-person programs along with hybrid and purely online programs.
“Keeping in mind that we are an in-person university, and we value highly those experiences, but we have to think a little bit more in the virtual space,” Dr. Murray said. “It will never take the place of in-person learning, but it will certainly supplement and complement those programs.”
In general, the pandemic has created the opportunity for people to explore a little deeper into virtual education and “pushed us to the next level,” said Dr. Yhovana Gordon, associate dean of academic affairs for Florida International University’s Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
“Now it’s a matter of incorporating those new techniques and new tools to best support student learning,” she said.
For example, the pandemic provided that final push for FIU Online LIVE, which is an advanced online student experience model where the pedagogical delivery of instruction is enhanced by state-of-the-art technology and world-class instructors, Dr. Gordon said. “You’re seeing your faculty members lecturing, and you’re seeing your classmates having a live discussion, but now on a virtual platform.”
“Needless to say not everything could go virtual,” she said. “There are experiences that cannot be transformed, and the value of hands-on, particularly in healthcare. That’s one key aspect that the pandemic has shown: we can have the best of both worlds.”