Carnegie Mellon University

Why do we?

February 17, 2023

Why Do We.....Not Hold Hybrid Courses?

By Lyn Decker / Registrar and the Osher Staff

Every now and then one of our members will contact the office asking why we do things in a certain way.  An example of this is: “Why do we have surprise registrations rather than holding them on a specific date at a specific time?”

To provide members with a better understanding of why things are done as they are, the staff and I will share the explanation for why things are done as they are. If you have a question, please use the suggestion box on the Osher website and we will answer in order of submissions.

Sincerely, Lyn Decker / Registrar and the Osher Staff

Why do we...

Our second “Why do we….?” comes from a member who would like to know why we don’t hold hybrid courses - courses that are simultaneously held on Zoom and in person.   She indicated that a lot of our members would like it if we did.


Holding hybrid classes sounds like a good option, in theory, and was one that has been considered.  After the year of isolation due to the pandemic, the board started to grapple with how to bring members back to campus to attend classes in person.  With the realization that even up to now not all our members are willing to return to classes on campus, the discussion turned to the possibility of offering hybrid courses.  To explore this option, the board polled high school teachers and university professors for their input regarding hybrid delivery. They uniformly advised against the option.

Why? Because teaching students in-person while also addressing those online requires study leaders to manage both environments at the same time, a task that many professional educators struggle with.  It is very difficult to simultaneously speak to students in physical classrooms and direct attention to the camera to speak to students in Zoom rooms. Inevitably, students in one setting or the other feel neglected. Additionally Zoom students often cannot see and hear all that is going on in the in-person classroom while the in-person students can’t easily hear and see those on Zoom, leading to a disconnect on both sides.

While many enjoy going to their classes on Zoom, most of us know it isn’t ideal.  We are now going into our third year of using Zoom and we still have members who forget to mute themselves when they are in class.  When someone is unmuted, everyone often hears the background noise – dogs barking, phones ringing, family members talking, doorbells ringing – to name just a few.  Zoom participants frequently forget they are on camera.  For some reason, many Zoomers find it difficult to sit still and are frequently multi-tasking.  Classmates have witnessed people in the bathroom, visiting their refrigerators, laying on their bed or couch with the camera looking up their nose, etc.  I won’t go on!  In summary, it can be very distracting if even a few don’t observe good Zoom etiquette.  To have these potential disturbances in a hybrid course would be especially disappointing.

The final fear is that if a course is held both on Zoom and in-person, the study leader could potentially come to campus to only be addressing one or two in-person students.  There would be no way to ensure an in-person audience on any given day.

Hopefully, this explanation helps to understand why we offer our courses in-person or on zoom, but not hybrid.


If you’d like a question answered, please submit it in our suggestion box on our home page of our website.