Shifting Expectations

Originally posted on October 6, 2011 by Brian Beatty

Akin to the changing messages to various adoption groups (see previous posts in the HyFlex World), the expected returns (expectations) may change over time as faculty, students and administers develop some experience using HyFlex courses. This is a natural process, and shouldn’t be resisted… but it does inject more change which reveal new areas of [potential] conflict, and requires more effort during implementation and the evaluation of impact.

One area of expectation change is focused on technology support for various delivery modes. As newer (and better?) technologies become available or existing technologies evolve over time, old functions may be enhanced and new functions may be available. For example, let’s say your Learning Management System (LMS) adds a survey function. As faculty and students begin using the survey function and find value in completing surveys, the training for newer faculty will likely change to include the use of LMS surveys. Faculty who have been using the LMS to support instruction delivery without the survey may feel pressure (coming from within themselves or their programs or from the outside) to begin using surveys also. After all, shouldn’t we all be using “best practices” as early as possible? (This is an interesting question, but not the main topic of this post.) Redesigning class activities to include surveys, whether delivered in-class or online, and that means change, and change requires additional effort. Effort uses resources, and therefore encumbers cost. Is the returned value with the additional cost? That’s the key question a designer should answer.

Another area of expectation change is focused on the student digital experience. Even over the past five years that we’ve been using HyFlex, we’ve seen remarkable shifts in the “learning techscape.” Pervasive mobile communications technologies, ubiquitous use of video and multimedia, and the prosumer (producer-consumer) aspects of social media being used in instruction more and more are examples of technology developments that lead to changing expectations. Whether initiated by student requests (“Hey, how come we aren’t using FB or Twitter for this course?”) or faculty interest (“I just discovered Glogster and we’re going to start using it the rest of the semester!”), adding new technologies makes everyone involved change their practice, and change requires additional effort. Effort uses resources, and therefore encumbers cost. Is the returned value with the additional cost? That’s the key question a designer should answer.

Even administrators inject change through shifting expectations. Let’s consider the situation of “scale creep.” For example, a traditional classroom-based course that is limited to 35 students because only 35 students can fit in the classroom could be expanded to accommodate a larger number of students, if the pedagogy (instructional approach) allows, if a HyFlex delivery approach was used. (Note: If the course is designed such that one faculty could not manage the increased workload of reading papers or grading exams, etc., then expanding the number of students would NOT be a good idea, even with HyFlex.) If the course is successful with the additional number of students (let’s say 50, for example), an administration under extreme budgetary duress might decide to “bump up” the course enrollment by 10 percent, to 55 students. Doesn’t that sound reasonable? It may be reasonable, or it may not… that’s not really the point I’m trying to make. What I’m trying to say now is that a change in scale, even a relatively small change of five students, injects change – to both the faculty and student experience. As I said earlier, change requires additional effort. Effort uses resources, and therefore encumbers cost. Is the returned value with the additional cost? That’s the key question a designer should answer.

I think it is safe to say that in every healthy organization, change happens over time. HyFlex designers should be prepared to adapt their approach to accommodate, or even leverage, the changes happening around them. After all, if you are a HyFlex designer, you are a change agent yourself – so since you are “doing change” to others, you should be willing to “accept change” in return. Improving our practice demands it, in fact.

Author

  • Brian Beatty

    Dr. Brian Beatty is Associate Professor of Instructional Technologies in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies and Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University. At SFSU, Dr. Beatty pioneered the development and evaluation of the HyFlex course design model for blended learning environments, implementing a “student-directed-hybrid” approach to better support student learning.

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