After over a year and a half of online instruction, Cal Poly students and faculty have become familiar with asynchronous coursework, scheduled Zoom lectures and everything in between.
But with approximately 87% of all classes being held in-person for the fall quarter in at least four different modalities of instruction, the return to in-person classes has proven to be anything but a return to normalcy.
After the first week of in-person instruction, many students are finding their classes to be meeting face to face less than they expected.
English sophomore Olivia Andrade said that she was surprised to find that her poetry writing class would only be meeting once a week on campus – a change from what was originally scheduled.
“Originally it was written down as being a hybrid but…instead of it being virtual when we wanted and in person most of the time, it was scheduled as in-person Tuesdays and online Thursdays,” Andrade said. “It was a little bit of a disappointment because we were all looking forward to having in-person classes.”
Liberal studies senior Alexis Van Howe will be spending a portion of her final quarter at Cal Poly virtually, something she had not originally scheduled or expected.
“It’s a bit of a bummer because things were looking up for a while. All of my classes were scheduled to be in-person up until about two weeks before school started,” she said. “At this moment it feels like we’re so close yet so far from the college experience I had as a freshman.”
While students are anxious to move past the year and a half spent on Zoom, professors have been more reluctant in their return to the classroom.
English department co-chair Brenda Helmbrecht made the decision to move part of her class to be asynchronous only a few weeks before the start of the quarter.
“We were given a classroom that had no windows and only one door… I just felt that the lack of airflow with 60 students in a room wasn’t great,” Helmbrecht said. “I personally wouldn’t have felt safe in that environment and I felt uncomfortable compelling anyone else to be in that environment.”
The initial decision of which modality to teach in was made by faculty during spring quarter when COVID-19 infections in San Luis Obispo were on the decline.
“I had been promised by my chair and my college that if the situation changed and felt unsafe that I could pivot online,” Helmbrecht said. “I was then told in August that I no longer had that option.”
Despite widespread confusion in the first weeks of the transition due to schedule changes, students and faculty alike have kept their hopes high for the year ahead.
“Yes, it’s been confusing and even a little stressful at times to go back to in-person classes but pretty soon this will feel normal too,” Van Howe said. “I’m just grateful for the time I do get to spend on campus and being back in a better learning environment.
Helmbrecht said she is approaching the future of in-person teaching with a bit more hesitance.
“I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic but there’s just so many unknowns that it can be hard to sustain sometimes…” Helmbrecht said. “I hope that we all just approach each other with empathy.”