What is the HyFlex Teaching Model?

Everyone is talking about the HyFlex Teaching Model lately. No doubt, you have attended a few sessions related to HyFlex teaching and/or read a few articles on the topic. In case you are still a little unsure of what HyFlex is, continue reading. I plan to explain the model from the viewpoint of someone who is completely new to the concept – sort of a “Cliff’s Notes” version.

In this What is? series post, we will define the HyFlex model and offer some resources to learn more.

In a Nutshell:
This description will be a bit more than a nutshell description simply because the HyFlex Model is so important to a successful fall semester this year this year.

NDSU’s Learning and Applied Innovation Center­­ defines the model like this:

HyFlex is short for hybrid-flexible. At NDSU, this means each course is built to give students and instructors a choice to attend either in person or remotely. The course still has a physical classroom and synchronous instruction, and the learning outcomes are the same regardless of mode of attendance. It uses existing technologies as well as new ones planned from CARES funding to achieve this. HyFlex is not a software package, a learning management system, or a specific pedagogical approach. 1

Woah, that is a lot to take in for someone who is new to this model. Maybe, like me, you are new to teaching, or maybe you are a veteran teacher but have been totally thrown off by these abrupt changes in teaching modes. Let’s break this concept down a bit and discuss each point in more depth.

The two terms that make up the model are:

Hybrid
Hybrid essentially means there is both a face-to-face and online component.2,3 That term, in itself, has been in use in higher education for quite some time now. To be more specific, Dr. Brian J. Beatty, developer of the HyFlex model, indicates the term has been in use for more than a decade in higher education.4 Many online degrees have used this term in recent years to describe their classes and even some full programs. Typically, a hybrid program has its face-to-face and remote learning opportunities scheduled for the entire class.

Flexible
The flexible component takes the hybrid concept one step further. The “flexible” part of the HyFlex Model gives each student control of their own learning experience. The student gets to decide for each class meeting if they will participate face-to-face or remotely. They also have the option to participate synchronously, meaning they are remote but participating in the class at its regularly scheduled meeting time. Or, a student may choose to participate asynchronously, meaning they review lectures and class material at a time that works best for them.

This type of synchronous learning is most often facilitated by some form of technology, though the specific type of technology or software is not specified. The technology and software are specific to each individual class and what works best for that subject. Some general examples include: Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Pexip, Skype, and the North Dakota Interactive Video Network.

Why Bother?
COVID-19 has made the HyFlex model essential for allowing higher education to continue offering classes that are safe for all students. This model has the ability to break down barriers that students often encounter in higher education. However, it can also potentially increase anxiety for some students.

Overcoming Barriers
There are many potential barriers students encounter, including:

  • financial constraints or the need to continue working (pay check, health insurance, etc.),
  • distance to a campus,
  • lack of transportation,
  • child or dependent care issues,
  • mental and physical health concerns, and
  • personal learning styles.

In the HyFlex Model, every student gets the opportunity to ask themselves questions like…

  • How do I learn this topic best: online or in class?
  • Do I feel healthy enough to sit in a class today?
  • Are my dependents healthy enough to allow me to make it to class today?
  • Am I able to make it to campus today?

The answer to those questions determines which class mode a student will opt for. These kinds of decisions tend to be last minute and are often stressful for a student. This model can reassure students that they will learn the same thing regardless of the mode they choose.  Knowing in advance, they have another option for their class can ease some of the anxiety that comes with these barriers.

The Downsides
I should also note that there can be some downsides to this model. One of the most obvious downsides is that if students either don’t have the technology needed or are unable to get the technology to work properly, they are limited in their choice for attending class.5

The use of technology for any class assumes that each student has adequate equipment, internet access, and appropriate technology skills. For some students, the additional technology may be anxiety producing until they have a good grasp on how to connect to the class. Imagine trying to connect to a class for the first time while sick or under any stressful situation that may require a student to participate remotely.

One good practice is to have every student connect remotely using the specific technology you choose. Do this early in the semester. That way, if a student does experience a situation that requires them to attend class remotely, they will already know how to connect. If they do end up with connection issues, they can troubleshoot ahead of time.

The How to Guide:
I am not going to pretend to be an expert in using this teaching model in a classroom; however, there are many resources NDSU has made available to assist in setting up your class. The NDSU Learning and Applied Innovation Center staff have recorded numerous training videos for you to refer to. You can access those training videos here.

Otherwise, there are some resources listed at the end of this post from other reputable sources.

The Bottom Line:
The flexible component combined with the hybrid approach is what makes this model unique and appropriate for students from a variety of backgrounds. While it can be time consuming to convert your class to this model, NDSU received a CARES Act grant to provide faculty with a stipend for extra time you may put into designing your classes for fall. If you would like to apply for that funding, please submit your application by December 15, 2020.

Resources:

  1. NDSU Learning and Applied Innovation Center website.
  2. Penn State website 
  3. Cornell Center for Teaching Innovation website 
  4. Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing Student-Directed Hybrid Classes by Brian J. Beatty.
  5. 7 Things You Should Know About the HyFlex Model, Educause.

 


About the Author:

Connie JadrnyConnie Jadrny, is the marketing and public relations coordinator for the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Office of Teaching and Learning.

In her nearly 15 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about higher education.  She curates this blog to allow all individuals to continue learning about higher education and best practices in teaching.

Let’s learn together!

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