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A New Way to Teach – A New Way to Learn: Reflections three weeks in..

~This weeks blog post was written by Lucas Vallely, current MPA student, and Graduate Assistant for PAIA Admissions

Rising to the Occasion … Being Safe at SU!

The Fall semester has begun! Students have arrived back on campus. Faculty are hard at work providing top-notch educational experiences for their classes. The Central New York air is alive with the warmth of summer. And the weather beckons students to get outside and enjoy the great weather.    

But with the beginning of the Fall semester, things are looking a bit different this year. Syracuse University prepared throughout the summer for a challenging academic year, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are being taught in a variety of formats, designed to facilitate safe, effective learning environments.

New Hybrid Models in use at Maxwell

These new formats include the “Hybrid” teaching model, where students learn through a mixture of online, Zoom facilitated lectures, and in-person, live instruction. The overall purpose of the Hybrid model is to ensure students can experience an in-person learning environment, but also account for social-distancing and safety given the size of classes.

Different iterations of the Hybrid model exist. One iteration is where half the class participates online through Zoom in real-time, and the other half participates in-person. These two groups then alternate days where they are in-person.

Another example is where students watch pre-recorded lectures by the professor, titled “Asynchronous” sessions and then attend in-person “Synchronous” classes.

So what do the Students and Faculty think? So far the Hybrid model has been a great success! Given the novelty of the Hybrid model, many students did not know what to expect, but many have grown to enjoy the flexibility of learning this way, and are appreciative of the tremendous amount of work the faculty of the Maxwell School have devoted to ensuring a successful experience.

Student Reflections..

Suraj Renganathan, new to the MPA program via the school’s outreach to evacuated US Fulbright Fellows is slowly becoming acclimated to these new ways of learning: “Since I’m a new MPA student who is only a year removed from my undergraduate education, engaging with my classes at Maxwell this semester has certainly been a new experience for me thus far. Personally, I appreciate in-person learning, given its many opportunities for easy collaboration and discussion. However, despite its novelty, I feel like I am gradually acclimating to the “hybrid” learning model in place in my classes. Despite some initial technical problems, all four of my professors have established a relatively conducive learning environment for both the students attending classes in-person and those online. They also appear to be patient with students who may have difficulties adjusting to the new set-up. Three weeks into the semester, though I am still not fully comfortable with hybrid learning, I definitely am growing more used to it. The only issue for me at this point is training myself to ignore certain distractions present at home when taking classes online.”

Tessa Sontheimer, a new MPA student and recently evacuated US Fulbright Scholar, had this to say: ” My courses have all been terrific! I am especially enjoying Economics for Public Decisions with Professor Wilcoxen and Collaborative and Participatory Governance with Professor Carboni. All of the faculty, administrators, and staff I have interacted with have just been tremendous. Everyone seems supportive, appropriately challenging, and self-aware of what it means to be in school in this current tumultuous moment. I feel really re-affirmed that coming to Maxwell was the perfect decision for me at this time and I’m just thrilled to be here. My peers are all so incredible too and I’ve been really bonding with RPCVs and other returned Fulbrighters”

As students continue to learn through the Hybrid model, the University collectively looks forward to a successful academic year. Challenges will surely arise, but the professionalism, passion, and flexibility of our Students and Faculty will help the university navigate any difficulties towards a positive, quality experience. 

See the SU Chancellor Syverud’s Reflections, 9/13/20 ..
Rising to the Occasion (for full post)

“This hybrid teaching was about the hardest I’ve ever done. Yet our faculty here are doing this every day all semester. I am thankful for their commitment to embracing new ways of teaching and doing it incredibly well. I also appreciate the dedication our students have shown as they learn in this mix of in-person and online classes.”

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