Dual-Modality Learning: A Lose-Lose Solution

Higher education is expensive. Really expensive. In fact, with Booth’s institution of the new 9-Week Quarter versus 10, each class that I sit in costs anywhere from $666 – $888 per class! Needless to say, students want to get the most out of their class experience, and having the opportunity to sit in a classroom was incredibly important to a lot of my peers including myself. In response, instead of making courses completely virtual like the Spring quarter, Booth offered as many classes as possible in dual-modality format.

Dual-modality simply means that you have the choice to physically go to class or to join virtually. My first day of 2Y classes I got to Harper Center at 8:05 in the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, exuding excitement just to be in the building that has become my home after being banned from it for the past 6 months. But, that excitement was quickly exhausted as I watched my professor struggle to deal with the impossible task that he was asked to execute. I could get over wearing my mask for three hours and not being able to eat or drink, however watching my professor try his best when the odds were stacked against him made it unbearable. I never returned to the Harper center even though I had the opportunity to go weekly.

1st day of Dual-Modality Learning

Many business schools have used stats around how many classes would be offered in person and how many students would have the opportunity to physically go to class as a marker for their success in handling learning in the COVID environment. Also, because of the horrendous state of our current government, international students would not have been granted visas if schools did not offer in-person classes (which is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s another conversation for another day). However, I believe that offering this form of learning is a lose-lose situation for all parties involved.

Here are my conclusions after one month of dual-modality learning.

why professors Lose:

  • Teachers are trying their best to accommodate all of their students while getting their curriculum’s content across at a high level. They will never be able to please every student.
  • Lecturing behind a mask for three hours is tiring and inefficient.
  • Professors have to beg students to turn their cameras on so that everyone “feels like they are in class together” .
  • Professors cannot manage online raised hands versus in-person raised hands. They can only see so many screens at one time while lecturing.
  • Teachers cannot be be expressive because their faces are covered. Reducing their ability to perform and making their classes difficult to follow.
  • Professors overall performance is worse, reducing their ability to perform. Their ratings matter to future students and to themselves.

Why Students Lose:

  • Professors are lecturing far away from the video instead of up close with the camera, with a mask. Making class even less personal.
  • We cannot follow what the professor is saying because we cannot see their mouths.
  • Technical problems happen almost every class.
  • We lose class time while professors try to explain the in-person versus virtual set up to try to make everyone feel welcome.
  • When there are class discussions, students that are virtual cannot hear what students in the class are saying.
  • There is painstaking audio feedback if a student in the classroom turns their mic on and forgets that they shouldn’t.

The most important Pro of dual-modality is the opportunity for our international classmates to be able to come to school here in the states. However, their ability to acquire a visa for school should not have been dependent on the availability of in-person classes …

This isn’t ideal for anyone, as it was not in the spring. Nothing is better than being in the classroom. But, dual-modality learning has made concentrating in class and learning that much harder. Which quite frankly, is a disappointing sad truth, even though it seemed like an equitable solution that would better serve all students. Nobody wins.

If we can’t all be in class, then we should all be virtual in order to optimize the learning experience for students and professors. Students should be on the same playing field with the same experience. Professors should be able to teach to the best of their ability, not behind face masks while on camera.

Go all the way virtual or go home.

Kidding – we’re already here.