How Do They Do It? A Look Back at Hybrid Learning in 2021

Last year the university safely reopened our campuses and transitioned the Mason community to a new hybrid environment – and what a rollercoaster it has been! Now, classes are offered in-person and online, faculty and staff can work on campus and at home, and many events have started offering online attendance.

While exciting, this change was complex and required Information Technology Services (ITS) to be flexible and at the ready. Tackling a hybrid approach was truly uncharted territory for the university, and many of our tools, such as Zoom, Blackboard, MS Teams, and Office 365, were vital to Mason’s success in 2021.

Reflecting on our accomplishments as a department, we asked some key players in ITS to share their experiences on what the move looked like for them and their team.

John Prette, Acting Director, Portfolio and Project Management Office:

“The PPMO went from full remote to hybrid where members are on campus 2-3 days each week. While we settled into remote work in the PPMO, the move back to the office brought back the informal 'hallway' conversations that both develop the relationships that we rely on and provide opportunities to quickly pick a co-worker's brain on a hot topic or project. Hybrid for meetings still tends to mean remote, as we often find it more beneficial to be able to call in from our own spaces, turn our cameras on, leave our masks off, and limit the cross-conversations that often occur in traditional meeting rooms.”

Joe Balducci, Assistant Director, Instructional Technology/Media Services:

“We found that the use of Blackboard and instructional technologies has remained high - higher than pre-pandemic levels. For example, the number of graded assessment attempts in Blackboard is nearly 40% higher in fall 2021 vs. fall 2019. Now that more faculty are comfortable with these tools, they continue to use them at increased levels. Early in the pandemic, we started hosting virtual “Blackboard Office Hours” to allow instructors to drop in and ask questions. This initiative’s success is now a permanent support offering and is consistently praised by faculty.”

Cherie Galantis, Manager, Enterprise Collaboration:

“We found that our area of technology became more widely used in the Mason Community. Web conferencing and the use of MS Teams calling established the perfect link for faculty and staff to maintain classes and the continuity of day-to-day business. ITS provided departments with cell phones and programmed Mason lines to forward to cell/home numbers to receive calls. Teams also provides the ability to make/receive calls from campus users. Being able to offer these fields of technology has provided an easy transition for students as well as Mason employees to maintain the quality of a learning experience that our students deserve, be it fully remote or hybrid.”

These first-hand experiences helped our department adapt by gaining knowledge, developing fresh skillsets, and discovering the best practices to drive ITS forward. In the coming months, ITS will be working on several critical projects and deliverables that align with the department’s FY22 Goals, which are actively underway and will enable the Mason community to continue to thrive.

ITS FY22 Strategic Goals

2022, we’re happy to see you! Cheers to a new year and all that it has in store.