Common Anxieties in Beginning HyFlex: Managing Workload

When asked, faculty and instructional designers often list the same concerns (anxieties, fears) about starting to teach or support HyFlex courses: Managing Workload, Learning to Teach Differently, Preventing Student Confusion and Chaos, Ensuring Student Success in All Modes, and Deficient Technology Resources.

Do you (or did you) share any of these at the beginning of your journey? (Add your comments below.)

In this post, I’ll briefly discuss the most common anxiety related to the faculty experience: Managing Workload. The others will be discussed in later blog posts. (Some of these are already being discussed in the HyFlex Learning Community forum: https://www.hyflexlearning.org/forum/ Login and join the conversation!)

How will I manage the workload? Is this twice as much work?

This is often one of the first questions asked once the basic characteristics of a HyFlex course are understood. Even when faculty have a good reason to consider HyFlex teaching, especially when improving student access is involved, many are still unsure of the workload involved in building and facilitating a HyFlex course. And rightly so! This is a different way of teaching and until you’ve done this yourself, you cannot have a full understanding of what it takes, and how much of what you already do will help you in this new approach.

Working into the night at computer
Working late again! Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

The work involved in building the online path of a HyFlex course is almost identical to that required to build an effective online asynchronous single-mode course. I won’t say anything more about that here, since most schools have people (even teams) to help faculty build fully online courses. Take advantage of those resources!

The HyFlex principle of Reuse helps us manage the workload. We try to build once and reuse in all modes. So building a fully asynchronous course in your LMS allows you to  use that resource to teach in all modes. You do not have to build two or three versions of a class, nor should you! Build an effective online course and you’ll have all the content resources, assessment plans and tools and some effective engagement strategies ready to serve the learning needs of all your students.

Reusable water bottle on rocks by the oceean
Reusable Water Bottle: Photo by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash

Yes, there is additional work involved in building the online path for the HyFlex course unless you already have that prepared. If you use a lot of digital teaching and learning resources now, building the online path may not be as difficult as if you were starting with nothing. For me, converting a course from classroom-only mode is like the work building any course the first time. Thankfully, I only have to do that once for any course. I typically reuse 80-90% of the content and activities from term to term. And that helps me manage that workload.

I have to say that if this were twice (or three times) as much work as teaching any effective single-mode course, I would never do this. Nor would I encourage others to consider teaching this way. And of the hundreds of HyFlex faculty I’ve met over the years, I don’t think any of them would, either.

You will have additional work in engaging those students choosing the synchronous option(s), and that can’t be replaced with an effective online asynchronous course in the LMS. If learning in the classroom (or Zoom room) is valuable to students, your work facilitating that learning doesn’t change. I try to find online activities that all students can complete asynchronously so that my facilitation of those activities serves all students, not just those in a single mode. And yes, this does require some out-of-the-classroom interaction with students choosing a classroom experience, but this is just like traditional homework but with the additional value of interaction with the faculty and other students. It can count as “contact time” when considering student workload and seat time calculations for evaluation.

Students in a group discussion.
Students engaged in group conversation: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

My personal approach for this is to assign an application-oriented asynchronous discussion for all students, and facilitate that throughout a given week. I schedule 30-45 minutes of time three times a week per class to facilitate those online discussions, so I limit my facilitation time to a personally manageable amount. You may schedule more or less time, but you should plan the amount of time you have available and then respect your own limitations. This helps you manage the workload.

Guard rails on mountain road
Guard rails to help you stay on the road: Photo by Luís Cardoso on Unsplash

None of us has unlimited time available for teaching, even when we care deeply about supporting as many students as possible. None of us offers a perfect learning experience to all students, either. We do aim for effective learning for all, but we also have to work within our limitations. You’ll find over time: 1) that you find ways to spend your teaching time more efficiently, 2) you’ll reuse more activities and resources from week to week, term to term, and class to class, and 3) you’ll enjoy the engagement with students throughout the week so that your interactions with all your students outside of schedule class time are not as difficult to manage, time-wise.

For more on Workload, see Chapter 2.1 of the Hybrid-Flexible Course Design book: https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex/teaching_hyflex

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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