HyFlex By Any Other Name Is Just As Sweet

Last week I came across this article by Perry Samson in the Educause Review Students Often Prefer In-Person Classes . . . Until They Don’t and I was surprised to find out that the article was about a professor using the HyFlex approach (the three choice HyFlex approach of asynch, synch, and in person) without the name. Dr. Samson teaches in the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan. He, along with many professors in colleges and universities across the world, would say that he prefers to teach his courses in person. He, along with many students, pushed for more in person classes for the Fall 2021 semester. What became evident to him relatively quickly though, is that students did not appear to prefer attending in person. He and his students’ preferences didn’t seem to line up.

In his research study that examined the relationship between participation choice and exam grades, he defined ‘preference’ as how the student attended, and/or participated in the course. The term ‘preference, in many HyFlex studies, describes what a student would say their ‘first choice’ would be, in choosing how they will attend class. While students may name their preference as ‘in person,’ their attendance record may tell a different story.  This was certainly true for Dr. Samson’s course. He found relatively early in the term, that only 20% of his students chose to attend in person, 35% attended synchronously, 30% attended asynchronously, and 15% did not attend on any given day.  While his expectation going into the study was that students that attended in person would achieve higher exam grades, that did not end up being the case. Grades were relatively evenly distributed across the attendance choice options.    

After examining his findings, Dr. Samson concluded that students really want and need flexibility in how they attend class. He also points out that faculty would also benefit from the flexible options that HyFlex courses offer. Both faculty and students have personal responsibilities that can and do impact how they can teach or attend their classes. A well-designed HyFlex course, whether it is called HyFlex or not, can give both faculty and students this type of needed flexibility. Please check out the article for yourself (linked above) and the associated study (linked in the article) for more detailed findings and analysis.       

2 Comments

  1. Brian Beatty

    Thanks for posting this study finding and the online discussion linked in the EDUCAUSE REVIEW, David. These findings are very consistent with some of the earliest research reported in other HyFlex cases. Students have a variety of reasons for choosing their participation paths, and in many cases, these aren’t their “preferred” modes in an ideal world. But none of us lives in the ideal, do we? I would say that none of our planning ever works out exactly as we have planned it – for anything beyond the most simple situation. So we need to be able to adapt and reset our plans frequently.

    If this professor had designed rigid lessons for students in their preferred mode, I’m should it would have been a rude surprise when fewer students showed up in person and when 15% (a lot!) didn’t show up at all. If the professor cannot adapt to alternative activities, interventions, and other approaches, it would be pretty ineffective. One aspect of change I’ve noticed when HyFlex teaching is learning to be flexible with teaching plans because my careful plans NEVER work out exactly as I envision them. That’s life in education! … and especially in our lingering pandemic-influenced world of today.

  2. Meg Colasante

    The nomenclature of HyFlex is increasingly being adopted in Australia. Here’s an example from:

    Centre for Higher Education Studies (a relatively new centre which mainly facilitates high school students to begin some first year undergraduate studies) https://ches.vic.edu.au/our-programs/

    “At CHES, we’re introducing a ‘hy-flex’ approach to delivery so that all students, whether co-located on-site or engaging remotely, will actively participate in synchronous learning opportunities. We anticipate being able to offer students a degree of choice in the timing of some of their CHES studies for ‘best-fit’ with the rest of their VCE program [Victorian Certificate of Education, or final years of high school]. To foster flexibility, some lessons at CHES may be available outside the standard school hours.

    Our approach to hy-flex learning is mediated through technology, leveraging the contemporary high-tech facilities at CHES to create a unique learning environment, to expand and strengthen student participation.”

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