HyFlex Design Enables a Quick Flip

Originally posted on March 23, 2012 by Brian Beatty

The term “flipping the classroom” has been used more and more in discussions around using technology to change classroom practice.

A “flipped” classroom?

The term seems to have been coined as “Inverting the Classroom” in a 2000 Journal of Economic Education article by Lage, Platt & Treglia. (See http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/09/the-flipped-classroom-defined/ for more on flipping a classroom and http://interacc.typepad.com/synthesis/2009/09/inversions.html for more about “inversions” in classroom pedagogy.)

I’ve found that using a HyFlex course design enables the instructor to effectively “flip” his or her own classroom with less effort than it would be if starting from scratch with a fully online or classroom-only design. Here’s why.

In a well-designed HyFlex course, the basic informational materials needed by online students to learn course content are provided ahead of time, typically in assigned readings and other resources (files, links, media) posted to a course website. These same resources should be available to students who choose to attend class in person, of course, since the HyFlex course design allows all students to make their participation choice each session.

A boring lecture – typical?

In all too many higher education classrooms, this may be true…and hasn’t changed in several centuries of formalized higher education across the globe.





An interactive classroom

When learning complex content, however, most effective instruction also requires some type of interaction among learners and between learners and an instructor. This interaction cannot be facilitated with just informational resources. That is where the flipped classroom approach is powerful. If the information access function is complete before students arrive in class (or in the online classroom interaction space – forums, for example), then the time allotted for the “post information delivery” segment of instruction can be taken up by meaningful interaction.

Meaningful interaction will usually implement some form of generative learning activity to help students apply new information in meaningful ways, perhaps by discussing topics to develop and shape understanding or by applying new approaches to solving domain-specific problems with guidance from peers and an instructor. (For more on generative learning, see this Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology chapter – http://www.aect.org/edtech/ed1/31/index.html) When a classroom is flipped, the instructor’s talent, energy, and focus is on facilitating meaningful interaction that leads to deeper learning, rather than on simply delivering the right information.


In a HyFlex course, the instructor won’t have to take the time to develop all those informational resources that students need in a flipped classroom. That work should be largely completed already. Informational resources should be readily available and when “used as directed,” can prepare students for a more powerful interactive experience in the classroom session – whether live in-person, live online, or asynchronous online.

Of course, this means that the HyFlex instructor is newly challenged to make sure all of her students are engaged in interactive, generative learning activities no matter which participation mode they choose. That’s another significant challenge, and I’ll address that in my next post.


  • Brian Beatty

    Dr. Brian Beatty is Professor of Instructional Design and Technology 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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