Four Fundamental Principles for HyFlex – The Pillars

Originally posted on March 18, 2010 by Brian Beatty

I’ve developed the HyFlex approach based upon four fundamental principles; Learner Choice, Equivalency, Reusability, and Accessibility. To me, these four represent key values that I want to make a reality in my teaching and for my students.  In this post, I’ll explain each principle briefly. Please leave comments and questions!

Principle 1 – Learner ChoiceProvide meaningful alternative participation modes and enable students to choose between participation modes weekly (or topically). 

The primary reason a HyFlex course design should be considered is to give students a choice in how they complete course activities in any given week (or in some cases, per topic). Without meaningful choice, there is no flexibility … no “Flex” … and therefore no HyFlex. Without flexibility all you have is a standard hybrid course. Not a bad thing, perhaps, but also not HyFlex.

Choosing to implement this value may requires that an instructor or designer value providing participation choice to students more than s/he values forcing everyone into a pre-set “best” way of learning a set of content.

Principle 2 – EquivalencyProvide equivalent learning activities in all participation modes. 

Well-designed alternative participation modes should lead to equivalent learning. Providing an alternative approach to students which leads to inferior learning “by design” is poor instructional practice and is probably unethical.

Equivalency does not imply equality, however. An online learning experience (i.e., asynchronous discussion) may turn out to be much less socially interactive than a classroom based discussion activity. In each case, however, students should be challenged to reflect upon learning content, contribute their developing ideas to the discussion, and interact with the ideas of their peers. Providing equivalent learning experiences in various modes may be one of the greatest challenges in the HyFlex approach.

Principle 3 – ReusabilityUtilize artifacts from learning activities in each participation mode as learning resources (“learning objects”) for all students.


Many class activities which take place in classrooms can be captured and represented in an online-delivered form for online students. Podcasts, video recordings, discussion transcripts or notes, presentation files and handouts, and other forms of representation of in-class activities can be very useful – both for online students and for classroom students wishing to review after the class session is finished.

In a similar way, the activities completed by online students, such as chats, asynchronous discussions, file posting and peer review, etc. can become meaningful learning resources for in-class students as well as provide useful review materials for online students. And indeed, artifacts from some learning activities, such as, glossary entries, bibliographic resource collections, and topical research papers, may become perpetual learning resources for all students in future courses as well.

Principle 4 – AccessibilityEquip students with technology skills and enable full access to instructional resources and activities in all participation modes.

Clearly, alternative participation modes are not valid alternatives if students cannot effectively participate in class activities in one or more modes. If a student is not physically capable of attending class, then in-class participation is not an option for that student. If a student does not have convenient and reliable Internet access, then online participation may not be a realistic option for that student. Students need the technologies (hardware, software, networks) and skills in using technology in order to make legitimate choices about participation modes. It may be incumbent upon an instructor or academic program to provide resources and extra training to students (and instructors) so that flexible participation is a real option.

Another key aspect of accessibility is the need to make all course materials and activities accessible to and usable for all students. For example, audio or video recordings should include text transcripts or be close-captioned, web pages and learning management systems must be “screen reader friendly”, and all forms of online discussion should meet universal design guidelines for accessibility. As more students with varied learning-mode abilities enter graduate programs and public, regulatory and legal pressures for universal design for accessibility increase, this aspect becomes increasingly important.

In my experience, this has also been challenging, and I don’t believe that I’ve been able to implement this principle fully. And it may be that there will always be some inequity in access to alternative participation modes, much like some students learn better verbally (listening to instructions and explanations) and some learn better visually (watching others do or view visual explanation), and some learn best by doing. Of course, other students never realistically be able to attend class in person if they are located in a distant place. So perhaps this principle is the least likely to be fully implemented; however, I believe that full and equitable access is still an important goal.

There may be more fundamental principles that should be included in this list, and I (of course) reserve the right to add to and revise these as the HyFlex approach evolves and matures.


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