I thought I knew everything there was to know about education technology until I entered the world of HyFlex. As someone who gets excited and eager to use the latest and greatest in ed tech, I found new and surprising things about HyFlex that truly provided some major “aha” moments. One personal problem that I have with ed tech is how to organize all the different learning goals, resources, classroom activities, assignments, that I have at my disposal. Another issue for me is being inefficient in preparing for my classes where I’m duplicating some of the same tasks – working harder, not smarter. HyFlex isn’t so much some new curriculum, software, or resource to learn but more like adopting a fresh new philosophical approach to teaching. For the record, I participated in DT 201 and 301, and in the most recent Faculty Gathering I provided a workshop session. I also recorded a video session that covers my experience with HyFlex and details some of the area discussed here in more depth.
At first I was extremely intimidated by the whole process of learning HyFlex. My first issue was to unlearn and basically flip all my misconceptions about what is HyFlex. I mistakenly assumed that HyFlex was the same thing as hybrid learning, which ties into the idea of using “online components for teaching and learning that replaces face-to-face classroom time.” There are certain overlaps, don’t get me wrong, but HyFlex touches on a broader and more powerful perspective of hybrid online/in-person learning.
If I saw someone on the street and wanted to explain what is HyFlex, the first thing that I would say is to think an accordion.
The accordion can be compressed or stretched to produce a wide range of sounds, just like how HyFlex has the range to first and foremost accommodate to the different course time frames (4, 8,16-weeks), but also can be adjusted to different modalities (in-person; hybrid; asynchronous) and semester schedules (fall/summer/spring). Flexibility serves as the core of HyFlex as the name suggests; however, this flexibility goes beyond just the ability to serve in-person and remote learners, but seamlessly blends the in-person and remote learning experience into a cohesive whole so that students, no matter what background or expertise, can fully participate in a somewhat more equitable manner.
DT COURSE EXPERIENCE
Thanks to IFD, the DT program was well-structured and the course building experience was highly engaging due to its strong integration of mini-assignments, projects and ample opportunities to gain feedback. Though the course was mainly delivered during a pandemic year, I appreciate the genius of IFD being able to actually create a mostly online course that’s built around teaching the user how to facilitate learning through an online environment. It’s meta- and meta-level stuff here.
Mad props to my consultant/mentors- David Rhoads and Naomi Kasa who gave me 1-1 feedback throughout my training. Comments “like looks like there may be 60hrs instead of 120hrs for a 3 credit course” and “if only students that did not attend the live sessions complete the discussion posts, then how does that affect the requirement to respond to two other students? What if only one or two students opt for the online option that week?” demonstrates the acute attention to details to make my Canvas course shell better aligned with the learning goals and be more responsive to my students’ diverse learning styles.
As faculty we do so much serving and providing instructions, that we rarely have time and energy to devote to actually receiving and learning. In my advising sessions with my mentor, I started to realize all my cognitive and instructional blindspots causing inefficiencies and errors in my courses.
QUICK INFO ABOUT THE “HOW-TOS” OF BUILDING HYFLEX
The first place to start is understanding the Carnegie Unit that specifies ”120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year” and represents the most standardized time-measure reference used to gauge educational attainment across all American universities used historically since the 19th century. The goal is distributing those 120 credit hours in a meaningful way based on classroom activities including instructional time, homework, assignments, projects, exams and so forth. More specifically, this mindset pushed me to realize how to create a better balance of formative and summative assessment so that I wasn’t just assigning high stakes assessment just “willy nilly” and to lazily add points/percentages just to reach the 120 credit hour mark, but to think about how I could redistribute points towards more formative and developmental opportunities for my students to thrive in my class. The stats nerd side of me led to putting together this spreadsheet to quantify this breakdown of credit hours across the various classroom activities.
Another important idea that I learned was understanding modules, which can be basically defined as “organizing content to help control the flow of the course. Modules are used to organize course content by weeks, units, or a different organizational structure.” Initially I equated Modules with weeks, but now I view Modules as something much broader that can be conceptualized as units encapsulating single to multiple weeks and class sessions. Back to my analogy of the “accordion,” I learned that these modules can be setup to accommodate different course structures like the 4, 8, 16 Module systems that can be layered with a 1,2 or more Live session(s) per modules. Thankfully, templates for these different Module systems can easily be accessed through the Commons resource page under Canvas.
I mapped out how my Modules breakdown since initially I had a hard time wrapping my mind on how to meaningfully distribute these credit hours across a 16 week semester. After meeting with David R., I realized that each week/module does not have to contain the same credit hours- which makes sense since naturally a typical course tends to have more instructional, formative assessments in the beginning and mid stages, while more formative, high-stakes assignments are allocated at the tail end of the course.
Because I went through this experience of building this 8 Module / 2 Live Session model, I can easily adjust this to fit into different course structures, especially a 16 Module / 1 and 2 Live Session models, since this reflects the more traditional undergraduate course experience of 16-week timeframes.
As the Department Chair of Liberal Studies, I realize that HyFlex provides course development and “quality control” benefits that helps to stabilize and ensure consistent growth of the program. What I mean by this, is that I saw HyFlex as a way to create templates or replicable course content and structure that will help current and future faculty within a department. Inevitably, departments will always have new faculty that join the team on a semester by semester basis. However, what’s the training support for those faculty who’ve never had experience teaching undergrad/graduate courses, let alone those who’ve never stepped foot in a classroom ever?
It was helpful to create a course template for our EDUC 100: Intro to Education course, the “starters” course that I usually assign a new faculty to teach, so that they had a fully fleshed out course built for them to teach so they didn’t exactly have to worry about starting from scratch. And I emphasize “template” because of the barebones structure of having course content embedded but flexible to accommodate all the different modalities (in-person; hybrid; asynchronous), fall/summer/spring semester, and time frames (8, 16-weeks). Current faculty in my program also have access to the course template and various resources since they can build their courses with a stronger alignment with the department goals and values.
I value coordinating various workshops and classes focused on HyFlex so that we can serve as the extensions of IFD to train other faculty. It was encouraging to see that the IFD Team strategically reached out to each Department and there’s at least one faculty from each program trained to use HyFlex so that the seeds are planted all throughout the University.
In sum, I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity to learn about HyFlex. Whenever faculty hear about some new educational technology, the natural inclination is to resist in fear that more is being added to our plate; when in this case I feel this is the opposite where it’s more of “addition by subtraction.” In other words, “subtraction” in the sense of reducing unnecessary and duplication of work while gaining additional resources to help us reorganize our priorities and minimize clutter so that we can have more peace in our lives.