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Black Boxes: An English Professor Reflects on Juniata’s First Hy-Flex Semester

Dr. Laura Feibush, Dept. of English

Here at the close of 2020, it’s fitting to reflect on Juniata’s first semester of hybrid-flexible learning. I’m sure I’m not alone in my feeling that hoo boy. It has been a ride.

In general, I’ve been inspired by the innovation that our COVID-induced, hy-flex fall semester has occasioned. Faculty, leadership, and administration alike have asked themselves: “What really is the essence of education?” They’ve acted on the answers with revamped and revised digital pedagogies, mental health Mountain Days, and the planning of a virtual Bailey Oratorical in the spring.

In addition to many positive developments, naturally I’ve also heard the frustrations of my colleagues. Chief among them is the problem of the black boxes: when, during Zoom classes, students opt to turn off their cameras, leaving the instructor confronted by a grid of named rectangles.