HyFlex Pedagogy

The HyFlex (hybrid flexible) learning model is both a teaching format that bridges and blends the physical and digital classrooms and the pedagogy that informs the design of HyFlex learning. Originally conceived by Brian Beatty and his colleagues at San Francisco State University, the HyFlex model provide students more flexibility while maintaining high quality instruction for all students, whether they are joining the course face-to-face, online synchronous (Zoom), or asynchronously online.

In HyFlex format, students choose among three modes to engage with their instructor, peers, and the content:

  • Students may join professors in the face-to-face physical classroom
  • Synchronous online students join the class through Zoom. Their video is displayed on large monitors, and they interact with the instructor and students in the classroom
  • Asynchronous online students view recordings of the class on their own schedule and engage with classmates and the instructor through Canvas.

Bottom line: In ALL modes, students engage in thoughtful discussion with their classmates and interact with their instructor. Instructors engage and interact with face-to-face and remote online synchronous students at the same time, while also planning for students who view the recordings and complete their work asynchronously online. HyFlex requires intentional planning to create a successful learning environment that engages all your students, no matter the mode they choose.

Pedagogy Overview of HyFlex

from Harvard Extension

The approach adheres to four core values or principles, listed here as stated in Brian Beatty’s book, Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing student-directed hybrid classes (2019):

  1. Learner Choice: Provide meaningful alternative participation modes and enable students to choose between participation modes daily, weekly, or topically.
  2. Equivalency: Provide learning activities in all participation modes which lead to equivalent learning outcomes.
  3. Reusability: Utilize artifacts from learning activities in each participation mode as “learning objects” for all students.
  4. Accessibility: Equip students with technology skills and equitable access to all participation modes.

Considerations for Successful HyFlex Instruction

Class Setup

  • Fully developed Canvas site with complete instructions for all modalities
  • Physical classroom with microphones and video cameras designed to pick up audio and video throughout the space
  • Screens placed strategically so that the instructor sees and engages the synchronous online (Zoom) students in the same manner as the face-to-face students. It is also important for the face-to-face students to see and engage with their synchronous online peers. This means that screens streaming student video should be placed at the front and back of the classroom or in the front corner of the classroom at an angle that enables easy view for the instructor and peers.

Teaching and engaging students across these modalities can be challenging, but achievable and rewarding. It allows you to bring students into your classroom who might not otherwise have that opportunity.

Instructional Strategies

Always remember that in HyFlex, the student is in control. The student chooses when and how to engage with the class and there are no penalties based on their choice of on-campus, synchronous broadcast, or the asynchronous classroom. Keep that at the center of your focus as you develop your course. Ask yourself: is there parity between the experiences of students in the three modes of delivery?

The is the default for faculty to “forget” the students who are not right in front of them.  Faculty must be adept at encouraging students in each modality, but especially the synchronous broadcast to engage with the students in the classroom. These instructional strategies will help you be successful in your HyFlex course.

  • Plan early and focus on structure.  HyFlex courses have a lot of moving parts. By planning early and creating a consistent structure for lessons, you will be able to better manage your in-person and remote synchronous (Zoom) students. It is also important to plan ahead for how the online asynchronous students will engage with the class.
  • Inform your students how and where they should communicate. Identify the preferred communication channel when you are in a blended synchronous environment. Should students use their microphones and speak? Should they use text chat? When students must split their attention between audio and text chat, conversations can be hard to follow. Help your students focus so that they do not miss important information. Instructors also need to make a plan for how they will monitor the text chat and the in-person and video interactions.
  • Distribute your attention. One of the most frequent problems with HyFlex courses is that the remote synchronous students are forgotten. A good lesson plan and communication strategy can help you with this issue. Proper classroom setup — with large monitors to display remote student web cams — can also help.
  • Ask for and incorporate student feedback. Ask your students for feedback about the HyFlex course and its structure. A quick informal poll, a survey, or a discussion asking for feedback about the class structure can give you valuable insight about what is working — and not working — in your course. Take the feedback and adjust moving forward. Your students will appreciate it.

 

  • Asynchronous communication. Provide asynchronous communication options for all the students to use. It will help build community among the modes.
  • Use polling. Polls are another strategy to easily cross among the three modes of your students. PollEverywhere (up to 40 response when you sign for the HigherEd account) can be used live during synchronous class time and left open for your asynchronous students to participate. A great option for polling that is built into Canvas is Harmonize polls. They can be attached to a Harmonize discussion or created as a stand-alone poll. Whichever tool you select, be sure to create a wrap-up about the poll after students in all modes have participated. What have you learned? What does it mean? Students can also be assigned this sort of wrap-up summary.
  • Use groups. Setup groups of 3 or 4 that incorporate students among all three modes. These are called learning pods in which students support one another and share their experiences during the class. You could also use these groups to complete more traditional structured group projects.
  • Peer learning across synchronous modes. Pair students up (one online synchronous and one in-person student) to work in pairs in Zoom breakout room. Be sure that in-person students have earbuds or headphones so that work can be completed during class meetings with fewer distractions and foster community among the students.
  • Group note taking. Ask students to collaborate on note taking during class. Create a Google Doc in your Canvas Collaborations and have them work on the notes during class. Students in the Asynchronous mode can contribute to the notes outside the class meeting time, as well.
  • Delegate tasks. Involve your students in classroom tasks. Have them alert you to new text chats or flag discussions posts for teacher attention in Harmonize discussions. Students can also assist one another with tech issues.
  • Back channel text chat. Use Zoom chat or Canvas chat for a back channel during class. This allows students to participate without speaking and can assist students with hearing difficulties. Zoom’s chat log can be problematic. Students may not see messages if they join late or are dropped from the session. Breakout Rooms can also interrupt chat. Remember to delegate managing the back channel to student. Have them speak up with interesting observations and questions throughout the lesson. Consider building time into your lesson plan to check on this communication channel.

Technologies

  • Keep the technology simple and flexible
  • Web Conferencing to bring optional synchronous element and RECORD
  • Heavy use of discussion board effectively
  • Use Groups tools in Canvas for collaborative research and case studies
  • Use Quizzing tool for objective self-assessment (assessment for learning)
  • Ensure Digital Equality and Access

Sample HyFlex Lesson Plan

Activity Time estimate Face-to-Face Synchronous online (Zoom) Asynchronous online
Activity 0 varies All students complete an activity (e.g., background knowledge probe, self-assessment survey, low-stakes quiz to demonstrate understanding of reading material, muddiest point forum) before the class session meeting time Same Same
Instructor opening 3 min Instructor greets everyone and summarizes results of Activity 0

Instructor shares a Google doc link for collaborative note-taking

Optional: Instructor could ask for a volunteer “chat jockey” — an in-person student who watches the chat for questions and lets the instructor know.

Same Same
Mini- lecture 1 12 min Students watch mini-lecture in classroom Students watch mini-lecture via videoconf Students watch recorded mini-lecture
Activity 1 – Instructor prompt 1 min No matter where you are in time and space, I want you to think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.

  • If you’re in the room, turn to a (distant) neighbor and share what you wrote.
No matter where you are in time and space, I want you to think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.

  • If you’re on the videoconference, I’ll put you in breakout groups of 2 or 3.
No matter where you are in time and space, I want you to think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.

  • If you’re watching the recording, press pause and participate in the Think-Pair-Share discussion forum. Then come back and press play. I’ll summarize the ideas of the people who are live.
Activity 1 – Think 4 min Instructor moves students to breakouts while students “Think”

Instructor tells students to take a screenshot of the prompt slide or shares a link to a Google slide with the prompt.

Same Same
Activity 1 – Pair 5 min Students work in small groups (may require tech to keep distance) Students work in breakout groups via videoconference Asynchronous students work in discussion forum – submit their own idea and reply to another student’s post
Activity 1 – Instructor prompt 2 min Instructor brings students back from breakouts and prompts them to “Share Same Same
Activity 1 – Share 3 min Small groups share ideas Breakout groups share ideas Asynchronous students review the recording and other posts in the forum

 

Other sample lessons are available through Creative Commons at this link.

3 HyFlex Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

3 HyFlex Lessons Learned from the Pandemic (Busta, 2021).

  • Pure HyFlex isn’t easy
  • Asynchronous online options are essential
  • Faculty need support

Dr. Vickie Cook, Executive Director of UIS Online, Professional, and Continuing Education says that she would add:

  • Students need support

HyFlex Resources