September 7, 2020 marked the official start of the MLB Class of 2020/21. However, over the past two weeks, the students have been participating in a hybrid learning orientation program. Although not obligatory, the orientation program is a recommended part of the MLB degree as it allows for a smooth transition back to university learning for the young professionals enrolled in the program. The orientation combined preparatory law and business courses and offered guidance on immigration matters, career service and offered the class ample opportunities in person and through zoom to get to know their new classmates and the city of Hamburg.
Online classes in the summer term
In order to adjust to the challenging situation imposed upon higher education by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bucerius Law School has been putting in place hybrid teaching strategies whereby some students sit socially distanced in class and others participate in the same class remotely through zoom. When the students of the Class of 2019/20 returned from their internships at the beginning of May, the restrictions in place meant that they had to take the remainder of their courses online through zoom lectures and interactive group work and exercises. They also had to conduct most of the research for the master’s thesis remotely as acess to the campus and the in person library services were very restricted.
Hybrid learning in the fall
However, in the past several months, the restrictions have eased enough to allow for regular classes, under strict hygiene and social distancing rules to take place on campus for the master students and the new bachelor class. After gaining experience with online teaching in the summer term, the law school wanted to offer the orientation program and now the fall term classes by means of hybrid learning. Dean Katharina Boele-Woelki explains: “Our experience with online lectures has shown how much academic success as well as psychological and emotional well-being depend on interactions with lecturers, (non-verbal) communication and sharing a common space.”
New lecture hall technology
To facilitate hybrid learning, one of the largest lecture halls on campus has been equipped with a combination of media technology, cameras with deep-learning tracking capabilities and the newest array microphones. The cameras track the lecturers automatically and the microphones pick up sound without the lecturers having to wear microphones. This allows for a more natural teaching style which can be streamed in high quality to students all over the globe.
Professor Clifford Larsen, Dean of the MLB Program: “In these difficult times, our program conveys a sense of security. Regardless of whether students were able to come to Germany or not, our hybrid approach offers class participants in Hamburg as well as those who remain in their home countries a way to connect and learn together despite the distance between them.”