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Introduction to HyFlex

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The HyFlex course concept is essentially the creation of a hybrid course with flexible participation options for students. A hybrid course combines face-to-face and online participation opportunities for students all in a single course or a single learning experience. Sometimes the online experiences for students are synchronous. Sometimes they’re asynchronous, and in some situations they may actually be both options available for students.

HyFlex courses are especially fitting for students when there’s a need to serve online students and face-to-face students in the same class sections, especially when there are limited resources. Perhaps there’s no funding for teaching two separate sections. Perhaps we need to collapse space. There are many reasons why it might be valuable for students and for faculty and institutions alike. HyFlex courses allow an institution provide greater access to high quality and equitable learning opportunities for students, no matter their situation, as far as their ability to attend traditional single-mode courses.

HyFlex courses are built on four fundamental principles or pillars. The first of these is learner choice. There has to be learner choice among the various options for there to really be flexibility and therefore HyFlex.

The second one of these is equivalence. When we design HyFlex courses, we’re really striving to create equivalent learning outcomes, no matter which path the student chooses to participate within. Each path should lead to equivalent learning.

A third principle is re-use. When we design and teach HyFlex courses, what we do in the classroom, we try to leverage and use in the online course as well, or the online section or the online participation modes for students. As well, when we have students participating online, the activities and the interactions that the students online have, we also try to use with our face-to-face students. So, we’re building once in many cases and reusing in every mode that we’re allowing students to participate within.

And last, but certainly not least, we have the principle of accessibility. And that accessibility applies not only to the legal requirements we have for creating accessible content, but also to create accessible environments for students associated with their environments and especially their technology needs. Because if we provide an online option for students that requires technology, that students do not have access to, well then clearly that’s not really accessible to those students.

So, if we implement these four principles, we find that we don’t often get a hundred percent fulfillment of meeting these principles in every HyFlex course. But when we follow these principles, as much as we can, we do end up creating more accessible, high quality, and equitable learning environments for students.

Designing and teaching an effective HyFlex course offers more opportunities for students to access learning opportunities in a mode that is a ‘best fit’ for them for that particular class session. Only the student knows which mode of participation may be best for them for any class, since many of their challenges affecting participation are unknown to the faculty and out of the direct control of the faculty. When the HyFlex course offers full opportunity in the classroom as well as the online mode and provides a rich set of resources that can be used across both modes, students typically experience a richer learning environment with more opportunity to learn. If your goal is to better serve more students, then the HyFlex approach maybe a good solution for you to consider.

In a HyFlex course there really is no path for an excused absence. If a student is not able to participate in the classroom as they might desire, there is always an online option available to them. If a student is prevented from participating in a class for a particular short period of time, the online version of the course may be flexible enough to allow them to continue participating when they are again able to engage. When students are learning online and finding difficulty in doing so, there is the ‘safe place’ of the classroom to return to that they have access to, so they can get the help they need in a more engaging environment.

As long as each of the course participation options is effective in supporting the achievement of student learning outcomes, students should have many more opportunities to find a path through the course that best fits their specific (and in many ways unpredictable) needs for participation mode.

Discussions

Are there students at your institution who are currently shut out from certain types of courses, programs, or experiences because of the course modality? Who are those students and what barriers do they face? Would HyFlex help those students get past those barriers?

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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