Hybrid-flexible courses (also known as Hyflex) are popular because they allow students to choose the learning style and environment that works for them on a day-to-day basis. These Hyflex classes are also increasingly a feature of education during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they allow increased social distancing for classroom-based activities, while also allowing students to navigate their personal risk tolerance. Hyflex classes also allow students to continue to participate in classes even if they are self-isolating due to shifting local regulations or personal exposure situations.
The idea of teaching a Hyflex class – which meets synchronously face-to-face, synchronously online, and asynchronously – can seem overwhelming, however. Teachers have to make sure students are engaged no matter which style of participation they choose, and they have to be ready for students who shift between the different options throughout the semester.
What is the Hyflex Teaching Model?
Hyflex teaching is conducted in person and online. When a teacher is presenting material in an in-person classroom some students will be in the room with them, while others will be joining remotely, either in real time, or through watching a recorded session later. Because of this, teachers offering Hyflex classes have to make sure materials and activities are available to students – and help them understand the materials – whether those students are attending in person or virtually. This requires careful lesson planning and an integration of both synchronous and asynchronous online activities into the course on an ongoing basis.
Here are five tips that can help you navigate Hyflex teaching in this challenging period.
1. Establish Community
With students cycling in and out of classroom and virtual course activities, making sure that all students in Hyflex classes are able to connect with each other is key. Ask all students to introduce themselves in a virtual environment prior to or within the first week of class. This will help reduce the risk of a divide between students who mostly choose to attend classes in person and those who mostly choose to attend classes remotely and/or asynchronously.
2. Group Projects Are Part of Class Cohesion
Group projects are a great tool for online classes in general, but they can be particularly crucial for Hyflex teaching. Make sure that groups contain a mix of students in terms of course attendance strategies. This will help prevent stratification between in-person and online learners and allow students to experiment with learning formats they may be less comfortable with.
In order for this to be successful in a Hyflex teaching environment, teaching students about group dynamics, problem solving, and project management – in addition to the actual subjects of your course – will make for smoother sailing. This won’t just make group activities more rewarding for your students; they’ll make them far less stressful for you as their teacher.
3. Make Sure In-Person Students Participate in Virtual Class Features
Make sure that students who attend in-person classes also regularly participate in virtual message boards and other asynchronous activities. Students should be clearly aware of participation requirements in advance. While Hyflex teaching is all about flexibility not privileging on type of learning or participation over another means making sure students who prefer face-to-face classes also engage with and explore online learning.
3. Give Students A Chance To Lead
One of the best ways to reinforce learning is through teaching. Consider providing students the opportunity to give presentations or lead classes segments on particular topics they have researched and created lesson plans for. Allow this student-lead teaching to take place both in the classroom and virtually. This includes students in the in-person classroom environment learning from students who may be presenting synchronously via technology from their own home or other remote location.
4. Focus on Access and Flexibility
One of the key advantages of Hyflex classes is the many types of access it can provide. Students who need flexible arrangements because of work or childcare needs are more able to participate in classes without being penalized for schedule changes. Students who are learning in a second language, have access to the support offered by shared note-taking tools in virtual classroom environments. Students who can only attend class remotely, who may have worried in the past about getting the same level of attention from an instructor, can now have their learning needs normalized and explored by their peers. These advantages of the Hyflex setting provide teachable moments well beyond course material and speak to how we can all be more open-minded and team-oriented in these challenging times.
Because of this, as an instructor you should be mindful of how you can be available to all your students. In addition to being available to chat in person after online classes, be sure to offer virtual office hours, engage with student discussion on class message boards, and let your students know what type of turnaround time they should expect on replies.
In many ways Hyflex classes are a crash course – for students and teachers – in everything virtual learning can bring to both fully-remote and more traditional classroom experiences. Students and instructors alike with have the opportunity to stretch and discover what class styles work for them while also gaining valuable skills that will help them navigate today’s distributed workplaces.