Building Hyflex Programs through Crossfunctional Collaboration
The advantages of a HyFlex modality became apparent through the COVID-19 pandemic, but continues to raise questions on training and implementing the modality properly. Our session outlines the aforementioned components of creating a HyFlex environment, as well as the experience specifically within our institution regarding its implementation, successes, and challenges.
Hyflex as a modality came into prominence as campuses tried to move beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Many students thrived on the flexibility that online learning granted and chafed at the “return to normal” that such a change required. Many students felt uncomfortable being back in person at all considering the emerging variants and difficulty enforcing vaccine mandates.
Hyflex as a modality allows students to choose how to engage with the course. Students may stick with one modality all semester, or oscillate back and forth depending on preference or life circumstance. Developing best practices for this modality is difficult as it is new and untested. Further, given the high degree of technical and pedagogical skills that teaching in multiple modalities requires, this requires deep consideration on effective instruction. Our pilot training didn’t utilize the potential for an asynchronous modality, however such an option can be included for future implementations.
All of these factors combined makes designing and implementing the HyFlex modality extremely difficult and complicated. Our institution accomplished it using multiple avenues of resources and integrated collaboration from multiple internal departments and stakeholders. For the purposes of this document, we are separating them into categories of “pedagogy workshops” and “technical training”, but all stakeholders were essential to each step of the process. This cross-functional team took different leadership roles based on the specific aspects of the training itself.
Our semester-long HyFlex pilot consisted of 8 courses with 4 HyFlex enabled rooms.
Each faculty met with the Instructional Technologist/Designer to discuss their course and the ultimate goal. Using a backwards-design approach, the faculty and designer designed the structure of the course around the ultimate pedagogy. First the learning outcomes were defined, and through that, course content, mechanisms of engagement and assessment.
As each course design was customized for the faculty and course, there was no standardized training. However, many of the courses utilized the below strategies. We find that these types of engagement mechanisms were effective at engaging students in both modalities in the HyFlex course.
The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) took the lead in designing the pedagogy of HyFlex on our campus, and the pedagogy of the training workshops for faculty. The pedagogy was based on use cases in other similar universities as well as understanding key aspects of quality pedagogy in both online and in-person courses. The pedagogy workshops consisted of planning out the pedagogical nature of the course, as well as how and when educational technology tools could be effectively implemented. Faculty were trained in engaging students through the multiple modalities, how to engage online and in-person students, and how to maintain engagement with co-located students.
To facilitate students in both modalities participating together, instructors were trained on effective use of aggregate engagement tools. Tools like Padlet, MentiMeter, or Polleverywhere. For example, a large lecture survey course used Mentimeter for “snap” type polls to gauge understanding and thoughts on the topic at hand.
Small group engagement:
If the course pedagogy is suited for small group engagement, students would be paired up in small groups to discuss the topic at hand in more detail. Groups would use collaborative tools such as Google Slides, Padlet, or Google Jamboard to create and brainstorm around a set of ideas. This can be done through an informal “think pair share” or more formal cohesive presentations. For technical reasons, collaboration happens most effectively in a within-groups model; in essence, online students collaborating with other online students and the same for in-person students. Contingency plans were discussed in the case of an imbalance of students present in each modality, but the numbers stayed fairly consistent throughout the semester.
CTL and the Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) built the technical training together, which was run by ITS. The technical training ensured faculty were comfortable implementing all of their chosen educational technology in the classroom. Faculty were trained on effectively managing multiple displays to see the virtual students as well as course content and resources. The ITS technical training customized the training to focus on resources applicable to the faculty’s pedagogy as well as the physical resources in the classroom itself.
The training was situated in the classroom the faculty would teach in. This allowed faculty to get comfortable with both the theoretical and practical aspects they would encounter during lectures. Additional support was virtually present during the onsite technical trainings to simulate the online students.
One aspect of the HyFlex modality that faculty reported they supported was knowledge they could “pivot” easily if the situation required it. There was great apprehension about the return to in-person courses as faculty were afraid of another “ping-pong” semester- where week-to-week one would need to replan everything based on new variants.
Assessment of HyFlex Pilot:
Assessment of the pilot was conducted through multiple avenues. First was direct feedback gathered anonymously through surveys after each stage of the initial training. Next was informal feedback gathered at checkpoints throughout the semester.The informal checkpoints were conducted through a faculty peer, thus allowing the faculty to communicate more openly then they might have felt comfortable with otherwise. Finally, an end of semester anonymous survey was distributed to faculty asking for feedback in the overall process.
Outcomes assessments will compare HyFlex course outcomes with similar courses of other modalities, as well as comparing course evaluations. However, at the time of this submission that information is not available.
Preliminary results from the pilot revealed multiple interesting points.
Certain technological resources are an absolute necessity for the smooth functioning of a HyFlex course (i.e. a second monitor set up). In cases where this technology was not available, the course suffered and teaching was impacted.
A rapid response unit was a necessity. If a faculty member was teaching and encountered an issue, a technician needed to be available to resolve the issue immediately. The standard 2-4 business days ticket filing system was insufficient for this pedagogical set-up. Our institution mobilized a combination of IT and CTL personnel to fulfill this role, depending on the nature of the issue at hand.
Continuous communication and collaboration was absolutely necessary for a successful implementation. The Provost’s office, CTL, and ITS were continuously in communication with each other and able to discuss and resolve higher level issues as they arose.
Certain faculty struggled at first with the concept of teaching HyFlex, especially when they had to deal with technical issues. As they became more familiar with the technology and modality in general, their comfort level rose and issues reported decreased.
Faculty reported they needed to use alternative engagement modalities then they traditionally used in face-to-face courses. They also noted that students who would otherwise have had to miss class– due to illness or other– had an easier time catching up then in more traditional face-to-face classes. Students reported that they enjoyed having the flexibility to take the class online if they wished, and even further- knowing that classmates would not feel pressured to come to class if they were feeling unwell.
As we understand more about the modality and its specific implementation on our campus, we plan to refine both the training and the equipment around what would best suit the pedagogy of the course. Further down the line, we might launch a HyFlex certification process akin to one that one would take to teach online.
Level of Participation:
This is a highly participatory session. Rather than lecture at the audience for 45 minutes, the presenters will frame the session around conversations of student success in Hyflex as well as the challenges one might have implementing such a process. The conversation will tackle both the pedagogical aspects of implementing a HyFlex training/pilot as well as the technical and administrative aspects of the process.
A large chunk of the session will also be spent in scaffolded engagement breakout rooms. Essentially, after presenting the problem to a large audience members will have the option of moving into a breakout room guided by a presenter focused on topics that the audience seemed most interested in earlier in the presentation.
To support and engage our audience at all levels, engagement during the session will be scaffolded. During the breakout rooms participants can also choose to engage:
- Discussing with the other members of the session via audio/video in Zoom, or in the chat
- By sharing resources and ideas in a shared collaborative resource page.
- Understanding the challenges and strategies to implement HyFlex on your campus.
- Formulating a collaborative team in making HyFlex (or other such projects) happen.
- Understanding the pedagogy of HyFlex and how to communicate its difference from other more established modalities.
- Outlining key stakeholders, and the types of communication necessary between those stakeholders to facilitate and support HyFlex courses