Civil War Back to School: Hilary Green

(Part four in a series)

Hilary Green is a member of Emerging Civil War’s “Engaging the Civil War Series” editorial board. Currently on-sabbatical from the University of Alabama, Hilary is the 2020-2021 Vann Professor of Ethics in Society at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, where she’s teaching a hybrid course this semester.

Hybrid courses allow an instructor to combine elements of in-person and online teaching as well as synchronous and asynchronous approaches—that is, having everyone online at the same time or as their individual schedules allow.

“I chose hybrid because I was concern about students, their engagement, and ability to succeed whether they were remote or on campus,” she said. “I also chose this format just in case we had to move completely online at any point.”

She said Davidson, unlike Alabama, provided a digital learning institute to make sure all faculty could successfully teach online and ensure academic success for students, including visiting scholars. “It took time away from my summer, but it was one of the many precautions taken by Davidson,” she said.

What does her hybrid class look like? The first day of her Monday/Wednesday course is done synchronously, while the second day is “completely asynchronous group work and assignments.” Those assignments, she says, maximize the use of online databases and DH projects so students can complete primary-source research without in-person access to the library and local archives. She’s also made an effort to develop assignments that “intentionally build skills and community in and outside of the synchronous class session,” she says.

“But, if the course goes completely online, I’ll be prepared and not forced to quickly revamp the course as was done in the spring,” she says. “It has taken a lot of time to design this course. I had to adapt previous in-class assignments for a hybrid model.” It has also meant “a lot more time” in actually teaching the course. “I am more tired now after a Monday Zoom class and week than a normal face-to-face seminar,” she admits.

For people on campus, Davidson has made personal protective equipment (PPE) available to everyone. The university also has symptom tracker and testing for students, which is optional for faculty and staff. The university also made quarantine housing available—“and some are in use,” she says. “There has been open transparency about our numbers, which are low, and precautions.”

Her own precautions include sanitizer and handwashing, and she has limited her time spent indoors on campus and in the community. “I am grateful where I can safely enjoy outdoor socially distanced places for long periods of time due to the weather,” she says. “I have plenty of masks that can be used outside on the…hot, hazy, and humid days.” The university provides masks for indoor use.

“I would feel comfortable teaching but my students sadly are not,” Green says. “Many are choosing remote, and I believe that I will continue with Zoom off campus.”

Overall, though, her campus community seems to be adhering to protocols. “Folks are nervous about out-of-classroom activities and spread,” she adds. “Parties and social events have been minimized and hyper-policed by the campus and community. There is no evidence of COVID parties here. It is more fear/nervousness of the unknown.”

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