Overwhelmed by three modalities at once?

Are you considering adding HyFlex to your course delivery offerings? But find yourself a bit overwhelmed?

  • Is the availability of classroom technology holding you back?
  • Budgets are tight?
  • Technology is expensive?

While some HyFlex courses “offer three paths for learning: 1) in the classroom, 2) learning synchronously online with a web conferencing tool like zoom, and 3) asynchronously online using a course management system like Canvas”, other HyFlex courses “offer only two paths, one in the classroom and one online” (What is a HyFlex Course? Infographic https://www.hyflexlearning.org/)

If you are starting your journey to HyFlex with minimal, dated, or no classroom technology already in place, consider designing your HyFlex course using just the two modalities; face-to-face and online asynchronous. Since its implementation in 2014 when Peirce College introduced Peirce Fit (our version of HyFlex), we decided to offer students two opportunities to engage. They have the flexibility to decide (and change) on a week-to-week basis whether to attend face-to-face or fully online.

Allow me to share…

In all honesty, offering two modalities was always our original plan. As a member of the implementation team and participant in the pilot study, did I try to add a synchronous opportunity? Certainly! However, when I teach, I do not stand behind a podium and lecture; I walk around the room – a lot (apparently more than I thought!). When I first tried to add a video element to the classroom, I began by simply recording the class. Unfortunately, as a result of having access to just the podium computer and monitor, the camera was facing the blank wall behind where I would stand at the podium – but because I was not standing there, the recording of class was painfully boring! The following week, I added a webcam and laptop to the back of the classroom and logged on from a secondary zoom account. This worked to some extent so I invited students who were not able to make it to campus to log in for a synchronous trial. Guess what, it worked! The zooming students appeared on the white board while the class appeared alongside of them as a result of the camera in the back of the room. Because I could see the students’ images on the white board, engaging them along with the students in the room was not difficult. However, it was not perfect. I encountered issues with synchronous students not being able to see what I wrote on the board, losing track of conversations when multiple people spoke or laughed, and an unexpected trend of students opting to attend synchronously rather in the classroom. Soon, I had fewer students physically in front of me, but learning continued which is the real beauty of HyFlex. Furthermore, the real challenge with adding synchronous opportunities on a wide scale was a lack of technology in the classrooms. Outfitting all classrooms would have required a substantial financial commitment, so consequently, we remained committed to just two modalities. It worked for us, and it can work for you and your institution.

Considerations of offering just two modalities and not three:

  • HyFlex course design is the same whether designing for two or three modalities. If you see a need to add synchronous opportunities to your HyFlex, the course design will remain effective.
  • Recording attendance is simple; we added a new option to our attendance portal (present online, present in-person, absent) and selected accordingly for each student on a weekly basis.
  • Faculty can focus on teaching in the classroom and not video production.
  • Because courses are designed to support students in both modes, there is no gap in content delivery.

My recommendation, from the perspective of an early adopting HyFlex institution, is to consider conducting a pilot study. Design a plan and try it with a few faculty; consider instructional technology currently in place; consider budget opportunities and challenges; develop goals and metrics for assessment. Ask yourself, how will we know our pilot study was successful? What does HyFlex that look like for our institution? Run the pilot for a year with several courses and several instructors. Revamp and revise as needed then ask yourself; do we need the third synchronous modality or are we better suited using two modalities? If the pilot is designed well, you’ll have the data to support your plan going forward.

The moral of this story:

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is better to design a plan that offers flexibility to students (because that is the backbone of HyFlex, right?) and allows your institution to provide instruction in a way that promotes learning in the best mode possible. Achieve success and grow from there…….your students will thank you for it.

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