Hybrid classroom concept sparks reopening debate

Lecture capture classrooms are an innovative update to educational technology, but leave much to be desired.

By Isaac Dektor, Staff Writer

The plan suggested by LACCD would alter 10 classes in each of its campuses to be a hybrid of in-person and remote learning. (Graphic Illustration by Gene Wickham/The Valley Star)

LACCD’s plan to implement hybrid classrooms in order to expedite the continuance of in-person class raises questions and eyebrows alike.

In their latest meeting, Valley College’s Academic Senate discussed an initiative proposed by the district to alter 10 classrooms on each of the nine colleges’ campuses into hybrid classrooms. The concept, which dovetails traditional in-person education with online instruction capabilities, has already been utilized by Trade Tech College even before the pandemic and is being considered in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a way of combating the spread of COVID-19. The projected cost of up to $20,000 for each classroom has led some faculty to question whether it is the most effective investment of resources.

The hybrid classrooms could support 50 percent capacity in person, with the other half of students participating remotely. The remote students would be displayed on a “confidence” monitor in the back of the classroom via webcam while viewing the class through a tracking camera built-in to the classroom. The instruction would be projected onto a screen in the front of the room.

“I think the idea would be, you know, with some students there you could generate some conversation and some question-asking ... but still invite some students in who maybe couldn't make it to the live session but would want to attend the class remotely,” Academic Senate President Chauncey Maddren said.

Sen. Tyler Prante believes that the concept has an appeal through its dual function of both virtual and in-person learning.

“This could be an attractive option for a lot of students to be able to get face-to-face sometimes, but also experience some of the benefits, the charms, of class through zoom,” Prante said.

Senate Treasurer Wesley Oliphant expressed an interest in the concept as he wonders whether the future is changing the nature of community colleges.

“We’re moving away from being a community college,” said Oliphant. “This kind of globalization is reaching even into the community college section, at least in terms of people taking classes from all over the place within the state ... rather than just the immediate area. So this might be a way of also accommodating that future trend.”

While the concept is an attractive and innovative update to educational technology, it leaves much to be desired. Faculty and students would still have close contact with one another during passing periods and while using the restroom.

Sen. Darby Southgate reminded her colleagues of the subpar sanitary infrastructure at Valley.

“We have never really upped the janitorial services, even just to make a normal classroom and workspace where I feel safe and healthy,” Southgate said. “We have so many needs on campus. I think that's the kind of discussion I’d like to have.”

Senators were also left to wonder whether virtual and in-person students would have the opportunity to switch places. Many expressed concerns that Valley’s bandwidth may be insufficient to support the hybrid classrooms’ live streaming technology.

Sen. Ron Mossler stated that the college’s online classes that exist separately from in-person classes already diversify the educational landscape, suggesting the money could be spent in more effective ways.

“I’d much rather spend that $20,000 on operable windows and ceiling fans, portable fans, whatever to make my classroom safe,” Mossler said.

The meeting concluded with many senators calling for a town hall in which concerns could be voiced and questions answered.