3 HyFlex lessons from the pandemic and what’s next

by Jeremy

As the coronavirus pandemic forced college classes online, the higher ed community was buzzing about an instructional model called HyFlex. The concept wasn’t new. In its most basic form, HyFlex, sometimes called hybrid-flexible, calls for courses to be created in a way that gives students complete control over how and when to participate, either in-person or online. A small subset of schools was using this format before the pandemic.

3 HyFlex lessons from the pandemic and what's next

But the effect of the health crisis on instruction brought new attention to it, as more schools saw its potential to address the uncertainties affecting course delivery. Many colleges that pursued the approach during the pandemic have come short of full-on HyFlex. However, online learning experts say. That’s partly because the crisis limits how many choices students have in participating in a HyFlex class. Still, they say, institutions can learn from how HyFlex was used during this period, should they want to make it a more significant part of their offerings going forward.

Pure HyFlex isn’t an easy win.

Colleges can deliver HyFlex courses in at least two modes: in-person and online. The online piece can be synchronous or on-demand; some schools provide it both ways.

Hyflex experts encourage colleges to keep a few principles in mind as they develop the courses: students should choose how they participate and have the tools and ability to access all course modes. It’s also crucial that each way offers an equivalent learning experience and includes many course elements.

“If you consider (the principles) to be slider bars, none of them can be at zero” to call a course HyFlex, said Kevin Kelly, a higher education consultant and instructor at San Francisco State University. Still, Kelly added, “different flavors” of HyFlex emerge as campuses address their limitations and considerations around offering the course model.  During the pandemic, for instance, restrictions on in-person gatherings — or students’ and faculty members’ varied willingness to engage face-to-face — could hamper a school’s ability to offer the in-person component of a HyFlex course.

Others include whether faculty members have enough pedagogical knowledge or instructional design support to produce a HyFlex class that fulfills the required learning outcomes and offers the same level of learning across modes. Whether schools have the technology to provide students with a real-time online experience and whether learners have the internet bandwidth to access classes off-campus are concerns. However, experts say they generally can be designed around while sticking to HyFlex principles.

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