Setting Participation Expectations

Originally posted on October 13, 2011 by Brian Beatty

Since the primary distinguishing factor among HyFlex participation options is the way students interact while learning, it makes sense to frequently clarify expectations as needed to ensure that all participants know what to expect and can make realistic choices about participation mode.

Certainly the participation and communication protocols and expectations should be explained before students enroll in a course or at least at the very beginning of the course. Many HyFlex courses are listed as traditional courses in the course catalog so students are likely to know what the in-class expectations are before signing up for a class. It is unlikely that they will understand the online flexibility options, however, unless they have taken a HyFlex course before (and un some cases it also depends on the instructor’s specific implementation of HyFlex).

Once a class begins, some students will need very specific guidance about how and when to interact online with content, the instructor, and with other students. Instructors should have a detailed explanation of protocols and expectations ready to distribute and available in multiple places as appropriate for their situation. For example, most formal classes will use a syllabus and participation expectations should be included in that document. Most (all, probably) HyFlex classes will use a course website, and the participation expectations might be highlighted on the main page of the website in some way. Weekly agendas and discussion forum prompts are also excellent places to include specific participation expectations for that week, topic, or activity.

I’ve also found it useful to periodically remind all students in a class of the overall participation protocols and expectations during a course. An instructor can observe participation patterns and may sense that participation is deficient in some important way. If this happens, it may be time for a targeted or general reminder about what is required. I’ve found many students are receptive to those reminders and change their participation practice accordingly.

Regrettably, some students will not change their practice (even if they “appreciate” the value they are missing). This is a problem common to every course I’ve experienced, unfortunately. In this way, the HyFlex experience is the same as any other course experience; dependent on the volition of students to participate actively.

Here’s the bottom line: Communicate participation expectations clearly, frequently, and in multiple ways that fit the specifics of your instructional situation.

…not exactly a big “Eureka” moment for seasoned instructors, but it is a very powerful principle to apply.

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