Breaking Boundaries With HyFlex Course Design


Dr. Brian Beatty, Associate Professor of Instructional Technologies in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies and Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University

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The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is reaching out to our global community of thought leaders, faculty, innovators, and practitioners to bring you insights from the field of online, blended and digital learning. This week, Dr. Brian Beatty, OLC Institute faculty and subject matter expert for the new 7-day workshop Getting Started with Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) Course Design, joins us to discuss the importance of thinking beyond basic access and compliance related to equitable online environments.

OLC: There are multiple opportunities to teach online. Why did you choose OLC and which Institute course do you facilitate for OLC?

OLC is a clear leader in the field of online learning, and I’ve been associated with OLC, attending and presenting at conferences since 2008. I facilitate the Getting Started with Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) Course Design workshop.

OLC: What are the 3 most important things that prospective participants should know about the Getting Started with Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) Course Design workshop?

HyFlex is more than just adding an online option to an existing classroom-based course. Combining modes and allowing students to choose among available modes is a powerful change to the learning experience – both for students and for faculty. Most classes can be taught well either in the classroom or online, so HyFlex approaches in these situations are usually possible and when well-designed and taught, effective.

Teaching a HyFlex class is not twice or three times the work of teaching a single-mode class. If you build a comprehensive course (the asynchronous online version) you can use that to teach in all modes. Build once, teach with the same materials in all modes.

OLC: Where do you see the trend of HyFlex Course Design going in 5 years?

HyFlex learning opportunities are going to be growing and maturing in parts of the education system around the world that recognize the need for, and have the desire to, serve more than just the students who can join in traditional classrooms or fully online environments. Implementing courses and programs with flexible choice may become more and more the expectation of students looking for an education. To meet this need well, we need to create effective instructional approaches that we can afford to provide with available resources (people, skills, time).

OLC’s Institute offerings help professionals stay current in their prospective fields, and often times assist in the advancement of their profession. What do you believe are the top 3 ways in which professionals in our field can stay current and move ahead?

  1. Attend and present at conferences, small and large.
  2. Schedule regular time for reading and/or writing for professional publications – journals, blogs, webinars, etc.
  3. Take advantage of opportunities for networking and mentoring, learning from leaders and bringing the next generation of leaders along with you.
  4. Say yes to many opportunities, but know when to say no, too.

OLC: What is a project/paper/research that you are currently working on related to your area of expertise or the workshop topic?

Launching an online community support website for those interested in and teaching in HyFlex courses and programs. The HyFlex Learning Community will support teachers and designers with information and opportunities to engage in discussions about strategy, design, implementation, evaluation and more. Also working with colleagues to launch several multi-year research efforts assessing the quality and equity of student experience in HyFlex environments.

OLC: What was the last book, journal, or article you read that relates to the field?

The Field Guide to Human Centered Design, from

OLC: How can people connect with you? Please provide your Twitter handle, your webpage, your blog, etc. (website and blog launching mid-May)

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My HyFlex journey has been an adventure with an impact no one would have predicted at the start. Launching your own HyFlex teaching or design may lead you in directions you can’t predict; so be ready to enjoy your own version of the journey!

About Dr. Brian Beatty

Dr. Brian Beatty is Associate Professor of Instructional Technologies in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies and Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University. Brian’s primary areas of interest and research include social interaction in online learning, flipped classroom implementation, and developing instructional design theory for Hybrid-Flexible learning environments. At SFSU, Dr. Beatty pioneered the development and evaluation of the HyFlex course design model for blended learning environments, implementing a “student-directed-hybrid” approach to better support student learning.

Previously (2012 – 2020), Brian was Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Operations at San Francisco State University (SFSU), overseeing the Academic Technology unit and coordinating the use of technology in the academic programs across the university. He worked closely with IT professionals and leaders in other units to coordinate overall information technology strategic management at SFSU. Prior to 2012, Brian was Associate Professor and Chair of the Instructional Technologies department in the Graduate College of Education at SFSU. He received his Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University Bloomington in 2002. Dr. Beatty also holds several CA single-subject teaching credentials, an M.A. in Instructional Technologies from SF State and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University. Dr. Beatty has more than 30 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, trainer, and instructional designer at schools, businesses, and the US Navy.

Since March 2020 Brian has been sharing his home workspace and network bandwidth with his wife and three youngest children – all college students living at home – and can’t wait for a reopening of classrooms so he can teach in true HyFlex mode again.

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