What is hyflex course design?

As part of The University of East London’s development week, we were asked to provide some training on Hyflex course design. This text and video formed part of that training.

HyFlex courses allow students to choose whether to attend face-to-face or online, synchronously or asynchronously. They do this in a dynamic form – meaning that students can change their preferences at any time, allowing them maximum flexibility.

Here is the definition from San Francisco State University:

“In a Hybrid Flexible (HyFlex) Class, students can choose to attend class either in an assigned face-to-face environment or in an online environment, synchronously or asynchronously. Online technology is primarily used to provide students with flexibility in their choice of educational experience, and to communicate with the faculty member inside and outside of office hours.”

It’s an educational model for the pick’n’mix generation.

Depending on what suits your circumstances, you can attend a traditional classroom or lecture hall, or go online to join in with people live (synchronously), or go online later to review content (asynchronously). HyFlex therefore “obliterates common student excuses for non-participation associated with schedule conflicts, travel difficulties, and such”.

At the heart of the Hyflex model is the conviction that student choice is a central concern in not just teaching practice, but curriculum design and institutional organisation. And this is one of the more exciting things about what has been achieved at San Francisco: The extent to which essentially teaching-and-learning values have been a central driver that has re-organised the way in which courses are both taught and managed.

The HyFlex course design is built upon four fundamental values:

  • Learner Choice,
  • Equivalency,
  • Reusability, and
  • Accessibility

Learner Choice:

This value suggests that we as educators are obliged to provide meaningful alternative participation modes for students, letting them choose between participation modes daily, weekly, or topically: i.e. I can’t make it in this week so will study online – but next week I really want to come in because I think I will need more direct support with that subject.


This is a cunningly complicated one. It suggests that we should provide learning activities in all participation modes which lead to equivalent learning outcomes.

Now of course, equivalency does not imply equality – but the reference to learning outcomes here is key. It means that we are not talking about finding an equivalent online activity for what would normally be done in the classroom. Instead, the focus is on what the intended outcomes of any activity might be – and finding the most appropriate way to achieve those outcomes in each of the different delivery modes.

“Learning outcomes not only determine the selection of content, but also guide the selection of specific instructional methods and appropriate measures of instructional outcomes”

(Beatty, 2019)

Such an approach is considerably more involving that, say, mirroring an in-class discussion with an online forum. It implies effectively designing a fully-realised alternative set of activities for each mode of delivery: In this case, for face to face, for online synchronous, and for online asynchronous.

For each activity you need to ask:

  • What are your goals for student learning?
  • What are the specific details about what the student must know? (content)
  • What (specifically) should the student be able to do? (tasks and skills)

The results of these questions need to fit learning outcomes that are specifically designed to accommodate the different patterns of delivery. For example, a learning outcome that states ‘ ’ would be considered overly prescriptive for a Hyflex course – because it limits the extent to which it can be met by asynchronous online students.

But if this sounds intimidating, at least there is the next value to cheer us up a little:


Re-utilizing artifacts from learning activities in each participation mode as “learning objects’ for all students.

In the same way, for example, this online course is something that we can use and re-use with minimal effort. If we delivered this course purely in a face-to-face classroom – then nobody else could do the course unless we scheduled it to run again, which is (of course) more time and more work.


This value underpins the hyflex methodology because the flexibility of different modes of delivery enables students to choose a pattern of study that best fits their personal needs.

Of course as we know that the issue of accessibility extends well beyond this issue of study patterns – and includes ensuring that all course materials are accessible and useable for all students.

So that’s Hyflex. It’s all about flexibility for the student – but hopefully as you can see this goes further than simply recording your in-class lectures and making them available online. It involves a significant re-design and expansion of teaching methods and resources.


This article has been based on Brian Beatty’s book:

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