Is Every Student Equally Served by HyFlex?

Originally posted on March 22, 2011 by Brian Beatty

This question has been an important one I’ve been thinking about since beginning this journey five years ago. And the answer to the question may not be an easy one or one I want to look long and hard at … what if HyFlex disadvantages certain students, or groups of students, for reasons they cannot control? [That would be bad.]

Since an important unique factor of HyFlex delivery is the flexibility that students are given in deciding how they will complete weekly course activities, participation patterns coupled with student performance data should provide information about possible disadvantages of HyFlex delivery for some students or groups of students. In the formal analysis I have completed to date, I have only looked at overall participation and course performance data.

I’ve compared the amount of HyFlex “use” with the overall class grade and found that there is no significant correlation between participation mode and class grade, unless the student is “Absent.” I have found that increased absences (participation is neither in-class or online, though students may be working completely independently by choice, I suppose) correlates to lower class grade. I’m satisfied with this result, since it seems to show some value in participating in class activities in either mode. I have noticed a data conflict, though, because part of the class grade is earned by completing weekly class activities, either online or in-person.

This semester I am re-analyzing the data to look at potential correlations between participation mode and project grade, since the project report is a more authentic measure of student learning. I may find a difference in correlation between participation mode and various components of student performance, process aspects (participation-related grades) and product aspects (project report grades). I’ll report those findings here when I have them, at least in preliminary form.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that students who are less well-connected to the graduate program are falling behind in their participation (process aspect of grade) and paper submissions (product aspect of grade). I’ve invited these students into our class discussions several times, and that sometimes generates a little more participation (typically online), but I’ll not be surprised if they continue to lag in participation and grade. These students are sometimes other majors who received special permission to complete a class that didn’t fit their own program very well. (Sometimes the online listing of a HyFlex class attracts these students, unintentionally.) Students who have attempted the course once previously and failed in some way (receiving a low grade or an incomplete grade) are also often ones who lag in participation and courses papers.

I’m going to look at this closely throughout the semester, and use what I learn to better advise students as they consider HyFlex courses. It could be that students who have lower levels of interest and motivation toward a course (and degree program) are less likely to succeed in a HyFlex class (much like they might not succeed well in a fully online class), and should be advised away from the class, or required to attend class in person. This would effectively restrict the course experience to “in-class” participation only for them.

One of the blessings of action research is the opportunity to makes changes to the course design as the designer learns more about its effectiveness. I hope to benefit my students by making necessary changes along the way. It may be that, sometimes, maximum flexibility and learner control is not effective.

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