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Students Reflect on First Week of Online, Hybrid Classes

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Despite returning to campus for an in-person semester, some Harvard students attended classes over Zoom last week — a relic of last year’s remote instruction.

Earlier this month, Harvard allowed faculty members to move classes online for the first week of the semester due to the Omicron surge. More than 320 affiliates have tested positive for Covid-19 over the last seven days — a 0.85 percent positivity rate.

Though most students supported the guidance, many opted for the classroom over the Zoom room, citing Zoom fatigue and the advantages of in-person learning.

In addition to attending a General Education course offered solely online, Mina Barac ’25 chose to attend three of her classes in-person following a year of virtual learning.

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“My whole senior year I didn’t go to school once,” Barac said. “I’m going back to Zoom now, which is not ideal, but at least most [classes] are offered in-person. So that’s not too bad.”

Charlotte J.P. Hannan ’25 said she prefers attending classes in-person because it helps her stay focused.

“It’s much easier to get distracted if I’m on my computer, either by other tabs or just being in my room and not being in the classroom,” Hannan said. “I can see how it would help some people, but I’m not one of those people.”

Several students praised the physical experience of an in-person classroom as opposed to a virtual Zoom.

“I’m in a STEM concentration, so one thing I’m really happy about is being able to do labs in-person,” Jackson P. Kehoe ’22 said. “That was a big drawback of online classes for sure, just missing out on that lab component.”

Lynne L. Xie ’22, whose classes were entirely in-person, said she prefers the in-person format for her smaller seminar courses.

“I can see how for discussion, it’s much better to facilitate with a lot of words and meanings which come across in body language that you can’t really get from online,” Xie said. “It also just feels more personal.”

Michael D. Wu ’22-’23 said he felt “a little bit of disappointment” upon hearing that his class at the Harvard Business School would run entirely online for the duration of the semester. Still, Wu said he was excited to attend the rest of his in-person classes.

“I like seeing other friends, other people,” Wu added. “It’s just nice to feel like you’re physically in a space, and it feels more like college than just doing a Zoom classroom does.”

Still, some students who attended class virtually said they welcomed the benefits of Zoom school.

Joseph H. Meyer ’25, whose Expository Writing course was held exclusively online, said beginning the year on Zoom helped him “ease into” his second semester.

“It was kind of nice, because you could just get up whenever, go get breakfast, and then bring it back and eat it during the class, and not have to worry a ton,” Meyer said.

Many students said they agreed with Harvard’s decision to let professors decide whether or not to begin classes virtually.

Ethan Taotafa ’23, who attended classes online rather than in person because he was quarantining, said he was a “fan” of the hybrid option.

“Forcing people to go one way or the other — I don’t agree with that,” Taotafa said. “It’s good to have flexibility.”

—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at vivi.lu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.

—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at leah.teichholtz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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