Using Hybrid Learning

To the Editor:

Re “Rice University Turns to Online Classes as Virus Surges in Houston” (news article, Aug. 21):

Many universities have turned to online learning to manage pandemic safety. But there is an opportunity here also: to rethink higher education for the long term.

At Imperial College London our experience over the past 18 months suggests an alternative future for pedagogy — one where in-person teaching is focused on the highest value interactions between teachers and students. We already knew that didactic lectures can be more effective online, as students access them at their own pace.

The pandemic and lockdowns forced us to pivot fast. When students could not attend labs, we mailed hundreds of “lab in a box” kits to students worldwide. With travel restricted, our geoscience students took a virtual field trip to the Pyrenees. We conducted final medical exams online, allowing hundreds of new doctors to work on the frontline in public hospitals.

Hybrid learning works. It costs serious money, but the potential impact — and wider reach — is thrilling.

The pandemic has been devastating to the lives and livelihoods of millions. It has hit students hard. We owe it to them and to our communities not to waste this crisis. Universities must change to deliver an education fit for the future.

Ian Walmsley
The writer is provost at Imperial College London.

Ray Myers, Ed.D.