Hybrid Flexible Course and Program Design: Models for Student-Directed Hybrids

Concurrent Session 5
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Brief Abstract

In this panel presentation, representatives from five institutions of higher education present a summary of their approach for student-directed hybrid flexible design: courses and programs.


Dr. Brian Beatty is Associate Professor in the Instructional Technologies MA program at SF State. He received his Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University Bloomington. His areas of interest and academic research include social interaction in online learning, content analysis of CMC discussions, supporting self-regulating behavior in self-paced online education and training courses, and developing instructional design theory for web-based and hybrid learning environments. Since 2005, he has been working on the Hybrid-Flexible (aka HyFlex) course design process and evaluation.
David is the Director of Teaching Excellence and Digital Pedagogy at Vanguard University and Adjunct professor. He received his M.A. in Teaching and Learning with Technology from Ashford University and is a Doctoral Candidate in the Ed.D. program at Concordia University Irvine.
Dean Shaffer is an Instructional Designer at Penn State Lehigh Valley and at Penn State World Campus. Dean is actively involved with FlexLearning, LMS transition training and support, and online course development. He supports faculty with design and development of hybrid and online courses, as well as with the technical and pedagogical aspects of technology-mediated education. Prior to joining Penn State, Dean served as director of distance education and instructional technology at DeSales University and Delaware Valley College. In addition to academia, he has worked in a variety of fields including health care and imaging technology.

Extended Abstract

Since 2006, many institutions of higher education have been developing student-directed hybrid course design models, using a variety of "brand" names: HyFlex, Peirce Fit, hybrid flexible, flex, and more. These courses provide alternatives to one-size-fits-all design and empower students to decide how they will participate in class activities - online or face to face, helping them learn more effectively and efficiently. Hybrid flexible courses have become a cost-effective approach to build online teaching and learning capacity, facilitate graduation and improve student performance, allowing students to choose their own mix of in-class and online participation modes. Hybrid flexible designs incorporate four core values: learner control, equivalent learning, reusability, accessibility.  

In this panel presentation, six institutions present a summary of their hybrid flexible approach; course design principles, evolution of the delivery model at their institution, key research conducted, and rationale for students, faculty and administration choosing to implement. Challenges and current initiatives associated with implementation and adoption are discussed, concluding with an interactive discussion of ongoing research. 

Hybrid Flexible Cases  

San Francisco State University has more than 4,000 students attending HyFlex courses every semester. These courses fall into two primary variations: 1) highly interactive seminar-type courses (often at the graduate level), and 2) large lecture-based courses (undergraduate level). HyFlex enables student to make their own self-determined choices, based on their individual needs, learning styles, and schedules. The HyFlex approach helps with recruitment and retention since programs are attracting new student populations without giving up their core constituencies, and can retain students who move away from the region. Several graduate programs are using HyFlex courses to extend their student service areas to include the entire state of California and beyond.  

Peirce College initiated a flexible course delivery pilot in AY2014-15. During the pilot, 11 courses (equating to 165 students) were offered in the flexible format, now known as Peirce Fit.  Student satisfaction surveys were deployed following each piloted course, and the results provide highlights and student perceptions of the Peirce Fit flexible delivery: (n=88) 91% overall student satisfaction rate; 64% of the students preferred the Peirce Fit flexible delivery over online or on-campus delivery; and 93% of the students would recommend a Peirce Fit course to a friend.  Most notably, the absenteeism rate for undergraduate students enrolled in a Peirce Fit course was 4.9%, as compared to 13.1% of non-flexible course, and the absenteeism rate for graduate students was 4.0% in a Peirce Fit course, as compared to 7.0% in a non-flexible course.  In addition to the positive student perceptions, the institution found numerous advantages to offering instruction via flexible delivery; so much so that Peirce College has since adopted the flexible format across the institution as a strategic initiative as part of the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan.  

University of MichiganÕs Statistics 250 is an introductory statistics course with approximately 2000 students per semester in 6 lectures and over 60 lab sections. Currently one lecture section and one makeup lab section are offered in the HyFlex format. HyFlex at Michigan allows students to make the choice of how they attend lecture on a day-to-day basis. Students choose to attend remotely based on personal decisions and experiences for reasons similar to students at SFSU. Additionally, the remote option is good for students who want to attend lecture when too ill to attend in person or due to travel commitments for university activities, or to accommodate tight class schedules. Prior research by Miller, Risser, and Griffiths (2013) at Ohio State found the most important gains for students from choosing their attendance mode were affective in nature. Formal research at Michigan will begin during the Winter 2016 term and will investigate course performance and affective measures.  

San Diego Christian College is beginning institutional implementation of Hyflex courses.  Implementation has begun in the Adult and Professional Studies' undergraduate programs, specifically in the general education and institutionally required courses.  These courses were previously offered only in separate 5 week online and onsite participation modalities, and are now being brought together into the Hyflex approach.  Students are able to choose their participation mode according to their life circumstance and learning needs. Offering students shorter, one-at-a-time Hyflex courses, provides the flexibility necessary for student success and retention. The Hyflex approach, along with a shorter course length of 8 weeks (compared to the typical 16 week course), is also being tested in the traditional undergraduate program, with goals of increased overall cost efficiency, facility capacity, and student learning.          

Concordia University, Irvine (CUI) has been delivering online courses for over a decade in both its Adult Degree Programs and Graduate Programs, creating a virtual campus for learning without boundaries. The University has created the Office of Adult, Graduate, and Online Learning to revise and launch online and blended programs. A major focus has been to develop new ways for online students to interact with faculty in real time environments utilizing live-virtual classroom sessions in all online courses. CUI has begun to pilot HyFlex courses into its existing graduate program. In addition, two graduate programs will implement an exclusive HyFlex model starting Fall 2016. Future implementation with more graduate and adult degree programs will follow.

Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSLV), one of 23 satellite campuses of The Pennsylvania State University, is a growing commuter campus of about 1,000 students. The focus of PSLVÕs FlexLearning initiative is to meet the learning needs and preferences of traditional, working, and adult undergraduate students. As a result, FlexLearning has extended our courses to students outside of the normal PSLV coverage area. Since 2013, 18 PSLV faculty members have delivered 88 courses to approximately 2,000 students. The PSLV FlexLearning course design model is similar to HyFlex, however, there are no synchronous course requirements.  What makes PSLV FlexLearning unique is the faculty development and course consultation process for instructors. The FlexLearning initiative has expanded from individual course offerings, and we are now expanding to the program level.  Initial student and faculty assessment has been conducted at the course level, and future plans include assessment of FlexLearning at the program level.