Monday, April 20, 2020

A Berkeley Hybrid?

As we noted in a post on Saturday, there is some ambiguity as to who will make final decisions on whether online instruction will continue in the fall.* It appears that campus discussions at Berkeley are leaning toward a "hybrid" system of some online and some in-person courses. Note that because Berkeley is on a semester system and its fall semester starts earlier than campuses using quarters, the decision has to come sooner.

From the San Francisco Chronicle: [excerpt]

As UC Berkeley lurches into the final four weeks of a spring semester upended by the coronavirus pandemic, another quandary looms on the not-so-distant horizon: fall semester. School officials have not yet made a decision about the fall, but students and faculty are bracing for online instruction extending into the new academic year. That would allow for social distancing but raise a variety of other issues. The financial stakes are high. Chancellor Carol Christ, in an email Friday to faculty and staff, estimated the budget impact of COVID-19 on the school “in the range of $200 million,” thanks to a combination of lost revenue and increased expenses.
...Fall plans are spinning in doubt, as [UC-Berkeley] campus leaders try to balance public health concerns and a profound economic crunch. That’s one reason Panos Papadopoulos, a longtime mechanical engineering professor at Cal and former chair of the Academic Senate, expects school officials to try to implement a “hybrid system” for the fall semester. In this scenario, large-enrollment lecture courses would be taught online and smaller courses, lab sessions and discussion sections would take place in person, while following social-distancing guidelines.
“The logistics of such a hybrid approach are very complex,” Papadopoulos said in an interview with The Chronicle. “However, the alternative of a fully online fall semester would substantially diminish the instructional experience and would also be financially catastrophic for the campus.”
Much could change before fall classes begin in four-plus months — on Aug. 26 — as Papadopoulos acknowledged, including potential intervention from Gov. Gavin Newsom. And a hybrid system brings abundant challenges: It may not work well for some courses, may be a disadvantage to some students and ultimately may not be as effective as traditional, in-person instruction. Plus a mix of online and in-person classes probably would force UC Berkeley to reduce tuition to some extent...

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