Build to Pivot

dart changing direction

The ongoing pandemic combined with global warming-related natural disasters has introduced a measure of uncertainty into how to best build courses to ensure instructional continuity. The HyFlex model of course delivery can reduce this uncertainty by structuring courses for in-person delivery when circumstances allow while also supporting fully online delivery- synchronously, asynchronously or both. The pandemic has also introduced more students to the flexibility offered by online learning and an expectation for this option. While HyFlex teaching is designed to offer students flexibility in how they attend classes on a class-by-class basis, it can also support teaching and learning when attending in person is not safe, either on an individual or community-wide basis.

While a valuable instructional continuity option, large-scale implementation of HyFlex delivery can require significant investment in technology and time. If faculty, programs, colleges, or institutions are not yet ready to commit to wide-scale adoption of the HyFlex model, courses can be structured so that a foundation is in place should HyFlex or online delivery be necessary or desired by students. The lessons learned through the pandemic and the scaffolding that has been put in place to support online learning can be transferred to supporting flexible attendance models moving forward and take some of the burden out of quick pivots to online learning if they are needed.

Kathryn Russell, my colleague and instructional designer at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN has the following recommendations to support a ‘quick pivot’.

  • Record lectures or topical lessons in short segments and create a digital library of content that you can use to replace/supplement online lectures. Use playlists to help keep your video chunks short yet organized.
  • If lessons are already recorded, you can quickly add interactive elements to support engagement.
  • Implement collaborative note taking in all classes, even if in-person.
  • Use collaboration and engagement tools such as Padlet, Mural, Mentimeter, or Nearpod for in-person courses so the structure is already in place. Many engagement tools can be used live both with students on their devices in the classroom and those participating remotely, or, can be used as an asynchronous online activity for all.

My strongest recommendation is to start by building a robust course site in the LMS with the scaffolding in place to add online elements. Kathryn’s biggest piece of advice would be to use and practice with technology in your classroom now, so it’s an easier option when you need to pivot.

Instructor teaching with tablet


  • Glori Hinck

    Dr. Glori Hinck is a senior instructional designer at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis/St. Paul supporting the development of HyFlex courses.

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  1. Brian Beatty

    Glori, thanks for your post. Several times over the past decade, working in the role of AVP Academic Affairs Operations (overseeing academic technology) I was asked by leadership on our campus if we could just have all classess move online when we had to close the campus for weather, smoke, transit strikes, other abnormal events. My answer was always, “the technology supoorts this (we have athe capacity and technical capability) but the faculty aren’t ready for this quick shift”. I didn’t usually mention the students’ readiness because the clear focus was on the instructional (faculty) side – not surprisingly. Prior to COVID we never did this pivot; we just closed campus and cancelled all classes for a few days or a week.

    Times have changed! Just today, my home institution has been closed for the day due to an undisclosed security threat. And the message from campus leadership?

    “…out of an abundance of caution we’re going to keep university buildings (including the library) closed for the day. Any in-person classes, meetings, and other activities should move remote…”

    Clearly, just pivoting to remote learning is not the same as preparing courses in advance for full particpation in mulitple modes like we do in HyFlex classes. But I think situations like this do show us that the ability to pivot when needed is becoming an expectation from adminstration of faculty and students. I expect we’ll see more of this on our campus and you may on yours as well.

    Those designing for HyFlex delivery will be well-prepared for pivots like this, should they last for a day or a year.

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