The failure of hybrid learning

Eric Sugarman, Staff Writer

On April 6th, Dulaney High School, as a part of their return to normalcy, began hybrid learning. The ability to opt-out of in-person learning has definitely been felt to those who chose to attend classes in-person when they were given the opportunity to. The efforts to encourage kids to return to school have been extremely lack-luster given the shortage of students willing to participate in hybrid classes.

The first class I ever attended in-person was during the second class of the day, and after 3 seconds on the Google Meet I was promptly kicked out due to a connection error. “No problem,” I thought, until BCPS wifi had decided I was done with online school that day. This left me and the one other student in-person that day with a problem, how are we to attend our lecture? The short answer to that conundrum? We didn’t. The rest of the day was spent sitting in partially air conditioned rooms or sitting outside pondering if this would be the last day of hybrid classes for the foreseeable future. A possible day of solid work was down the gutter.

The following day the internet was back up, but performing as if it were on life support. My teachers were barely able to relay their class plans through Google Meet and students in person were unable to access the class and could barely navigate Schoology without the risk of the browser crashing. When I asked some of the teachers the reason for the high latency and the internet problems of the previous day, I received mixed responses ranging from bandwidth issues or the counties inability to handle the “high load” of connections on the system.
I was confused with some of these responses and wondered why the school internet was incapable of handling the load of 100 or so students logging on to Google Meet when last year it was more than capable of running a steady connection with all 4 grades logged onto Schoology.

I consulted Chinese teacher and Tech Liaison Matthew Lovett with questions about the school’s internet.

“There were issues with BCPS Guests and BCPS Secure,” said Lovett regarding issues beyond those reported on April 9.

I considered the fact that Google Meets takes up more bandwidth than browsing the internet and downloading documents, however the usual load the internet would be bearing is still higher than the load of 100 students attending Google Meet. With the changes made after the first week of school teachers and students still experienced intermittent outages during classes , and poor internet while in school. The lackluster internet was supposedly the result of Google Meet taking up large amounts of bandwidth, yet a group Google Meet only requires 3.2 Mbps (uploading). One could argue that all the students in person cause the network to experience bandwidth issues, however only the teachers are given access to Google Meet and there are still issues. It makes me wonder what they changed to the internet before hybrid learning started.

The dodgy messages we had received from the county regarding the outages on April 9 were also concerning. During the day we were told via the announcements that the school was “experiencing internet issues” yet we were never given a reason.

Any questions I asked higher staff or teachers seemed to be guesses or excuses most likely given to them by the county.

“I can only speculate, they [BCPS] never really tell you the truth,” Lovett said about the reasons for the internet issues. “I think that there were bandwidth issues since too many students were streaming the Google Meet, and the internet had never been tested that way.”

Many questions arise from this: why aren’t BCPS being communicative with their IT staff? Why wasn’t the internet adequately tested for students coming back to school? If they are unwilling to stress test the internet before allowing students back in a hybrid environment how much do they care about returning to normalcy?

I wish these were the only issues I and other students have encountered during the adventures of hybrid learning, but they are not. On multiple occasions I was interrupted in the writing of the article at school due to intermittent internet outages, and my computer (a school distributed one) having its battery just fall off due to it inflating. I, along with many others share the sentiment that the return to hybrid learning has been a failure, due to issues ranging from internet outages to poor management of classes due to the split nature of the students.