Recently in Inside Higher Ed, Doug Lederman reviewed a new model that many campuses are considering for the fall: the HyFlex Option. Excerpts of the piece appear below:
Brian Beatty and his colleagues at San Francisco State are widely credited with conceiving the Hybrid-Flexible format in the mid-2000s as they sought to make their existing residential instructional technologies master’s degree program more accessible to students in their region, many of whom were working adults. The program’s leaders did not have the expertise and internal support to build a fully online program, but they wanted to make it possible for students — at their convenience and choice — to participate either online or in person in ways that led to equivalent learning outcomes.
The model they developed, beginning in 2006 but adapted over time, aims to make sure that students aren’t penalized from a learning standpoint if they move back and forth between in-person and online participation in the class, from week to week or even class session to class session. Instructors essentially must build a fully online course and a face-to-face version, with the same learning outcomes in both.
Lots of professors have created “blended” or “hybrid” courses that either incorporate digital elements into face-to-face classes or allow a student to participate in an in-person class from a distance, says Beatty. Typically they decide which elements would be best delivered in person and which most effectively learned via technology, and break up the course that way.
With HyFlex, by contrast, professors “don’t have that luxury,” Beatty says. “You want to be able create a fully online version and a fully face-to-face version and find ways to bring them together into a single course experience that has multiple participation paths … And the student gets to control whether they’re doing it online or in the classroom.”
Betsy Barre, of Wake Forest, started a thought-provoking discussion on the POD Network Listserv about the pros and cons of the HyFlex approach. She said she saw professors and institutions embracing hybrid-flexible models as if they could just put a camera in the classroom and let far-flung students listen in — “kind of a 1990s distance learning,” she said.
“It may be a convenient fix to ensure social distancing, but I’m worried it’s popular because it allows schools to say they’re offering face-to-face courses without having to change much to stay safe,” she said on the Listserv discussion. She stressed the importance of differentiating between the sort of “blended synchronous” approach many professors used to conduct their classes via Zoom this spring, versus the fully developed online and face-to-face pathways that Beatty champions.