Modalities of best fit

Spring semester is again in person sparking conversation around comfort and efficiency level for classrooms in a changing educational environment.

Anika Besst and Lydia Meier

The third week of Hamline’s spring semester has gotten underway with a university functioning mostly in-person.

Hamline’s fall semester saw an entirely in-person modality, with professors choosing their preferred modality as seen fit. 

“I’m fortunate that three/fourths of my professors are either online or are chill about accommodations but I have one professor that’s pretty much like you absolutely have to be in-person unless you have COVID. Which sucks,” senior Summer Carleton wrote in an email. “Especially with Omicron being more contagious than other variants you think professors would be more understanding of people not wanting to come to class physically but here we are.” 

Prior to the beginning of this semester, Hamline updated its mask mandate requiring KN-95s or double masking with cloth and surgical mask. This change influenced many Hamline community members’ comfort level coming back in-person. 

Hamline has also encouraged people to get the COVID-19 booster if they are able, and requiring them to be vaccinated if they have not yet or to show an approved exemption.

“Faculty Counsel talking with the interim provost, when we heard there was a mask mandate, we felt a lot stronger about, kind of, moving forward with allowing in person and if there hadn’t been that mask mandate I think we might have been a bit more hesitant with Omicron,” English Department Chair and professor Mike Reynolds said. “The mask mandate was a real strength.” 

HyFlex options, where students both in class and joining online attend class simultaneously, are met with less excitement than they used to be. After working through these modalities in past semesters, some faculty feel it does not capture the class in a way that is always successful due to a class’s specific topic, needs and it’s community. 

Professor Craig Dokken of the School of Business has kept most classes in-person when it is possible. 

“It doesn’t work for me, before this class, I should say. Because…my class is strictly lecture…My class is two and half hours long and I do not stand in one place for the entire class period.

I have a tendency to wander around the room,” Dokken said. “If I’m not in front of the camera, whoever is watching may very well have difficulty, well, won’t see me. But certainly may have difficulty hearing, so it makes it difficult, I think for my students to get, what they need.”

Surrounding institutions have made their own decisions. Macalester started spring online and St. Thomas, mostly in person. 

Reynolds remembers pandemic planning and discussion at the university level throughout the 2000s and as the world works to tackle COVID-19 for good, he hopes Hamline performs an audit. 

“I would like to see the university take stock of what we did well, what we didn’t do well and ask all stakeholders about this. Because you know there’ll be another one, so how will we be better prepared for it?” Reynolds said. 

Many are also considering the long-term impacts COVID-19 will have on mental health and the education system.

“What have we learned about what goes on and and how do we get people back in line with teaching learning in a way that makes sense to them,” Reynolds said. “For instance, I’m going to do more hybrid classes, and will create more clear flexibility around attendance forever. That’s just something I’ve learned along the way and I can design a class to do that well…How do we take what we’ve learned and keep it going forward?”