Dr. Wendy M. Tietz and Dr. Bethany Simunich
A HyFlex or Hybrid-Flexible course is a course with a flexible format. One that allows students to enroll in a single course but choose how they want to attend each class session — including face-to-face/on campus, synchronous online, and asynchronous online formats. This modality provides maximum flexibility for both students and circumstances, but requires a high-level of organization and expertise — including technological skill — on the part of the instructor.
As author Brian Beatty outlines in his book, “Hybrid-Flexible Course Design,” the initial impetus to design a HyFlex course is often the “very real need to serve both online and onground students with a limited set of resources (time, faculty, space) which leads to a multi-modal delivery solution.” This solution, as Beatty continues, can be very beneficial to students. “When students are given the freedom and ability to choose which mode to participate in from session to session, they are able to create their own unique hybrid experience. Locally, we have started acknowledging the student control aspect, sometimes referring to HyFlex as delivering a “student-directed hybrid” learning experience.”
Interested in developing a HyFlex course? Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Examine your learning goals — take a look at your goals for student learning or your learning objectives/outcomes, and consider whether they can be met effectively in different modalities. You’ll also want to evaluate course elements such as direct instruction, interaction, and evaluation to determine if students can participate in and accomplish learning activities and goals regardless of the course modality. Consider both what the student must know or engage with (content) as well as what they will need to do in terms of participation and performance (activities, tasks, skills, etc.). “In a HyFlex course, learning objectives should be the same for all students; specific instructional objectives may vary to fit participation mode,” notes Beatty.
- Design an asynchronous course first — both HyFlex instructors and Beatty recommended that faculty who are interested in teaching a HyFlex course first design the course as an asynchronous, 100% online course. That way you have:
- One modality completed
- A course that is the best-fit option for emergency circumstances that minimizes reliance on real-time interaction and consistent internet access
- A clear look at alignment
- A results-focused design where learning outcomes drive the content and activities
- A better idea of how instructional methods and learning activities will transfer across modalities
- Review instructional methods to identify any learning deficits — instructional methods are simply the answer to the question, "What does the educator 'do' to facilitate student learning?” For each major instructional objective, reflect on the instructional activities that you will use to help students learn and meet the instructional objective.
For example, you might be guiding group work or facilitating a discussion. Consider how your teaching methods would work in different modalities and if multiple strategies are needed to ensure effectiveness across all modalities.. You’ll also want to think about what activities students will participate in, and if you’ll need to adopt different strategies for those activities in multiple modalities and/or if additional resources will be needed.
“No learning deficit” means that students will not be disadvantaged for attending in one modality versus another. To achieve this goal, all activities and assessments must reflect learning equity across modes, even if different strategies are employed, such as facilitating an in-class versus an asynchronous quiz or discussion.
- Spend the first few weeks orienting students — send out a “Welcome Letter” in advance of the course start date to clearly explain to students that they have enrolled in a HyFlex course and what that means. Many students will be anxious about attending a course in a different format, so include time for explanation and Q&A in the first weeks so students know the options for attending and have time to become familiar with course technology. Explain the different options for attendance and participation and include clear definitions.
When the course begins, introduce technology gradually. Provide clear instructions for students who will attend synchronously, for example. Consider other technology — polling software, quiz and discussion tools, collaborative tools, to name a few —and roll each out slowly, providing demonstrations to students when first used. Also, be diligent in early weeks about using announcements, emails, and other reminder tools wisely to alert students to communal due dates and attendance options. These should be clearly laid out and described in the LMS course site as well.
- Consider your own workload — designing and teaching a HyFlex course not only takes more development time upfront, but also requires a skill set for using technology software and platforms. Knowledge of the institutional LMS, web conferencing software, polling software, and quiz and/or proctoring software are required.
Each course session, you’ll be actively teaching to both face-to-face/on-campus (if offered) and synchronous online learners, so you’ll need to plan how you will interact with both so that all students feel actively involved. You’ll also be recording that class session, then uploading it to the course site for asynchronous learners. Quizzes, exams, discussions, group work, etc., must all be managed in multiple modalities. And, remember, you will be spending more time orienting students to the technology and participation options than you would for a single-modality course, which impacts time that you and learners have for course content and activities.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when developing a HyFlex course. If you’re new to online teaching, you may want to ease your way into the HyFlex model. Start by creating an asynchronous online course (or a “traditional” hybrid course that mixes face-to-face/on campus and asynchronous modalities). Later, add an additional modality option for future use. If you’re an experienced online instructor with an existing online course, however, HyFlex might be a great next step for you!
Beatty, B. J. (2019). Designing a Hybrid-Flexible Course: Creating an Effective Learning Environment for All Students. In B. J. Beatty (Ed.), Hybrid-Flexible Course Design. EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex/hyflex_design
Wendy M. Tietz, Ph.D., CPA, CMA, CGMA, CSCA, is a professor in the Department of Accounting at Kent State University, where she has extensive experience teaching in face-to-face, online and HyFlex formats. She has won numerous teaching awards at the college, university and national levels, including the American Accounting Association/J. Michael and Mary Anne Cook Prize for recognition of superior teaching in the discipline of accounting.
Bethany Simunich, Ph.D., is QM’s Vice President of Innovation & Research. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years and has over 15 years of experience in eLearning research, instructional design and online pedagogy. In her current role, she helps provide research-based tools, ideas and solutions to enable individuals and institutions to assess and achieve their quality assurance goals.