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.
1: Core educational values to shape whole learner experience
Beatty says that:
“Values about learning and instruction help instructors and instructional designers build from a solid and consistent foundation”
This is a holistic and ‘joined-up’ approach to the learning experience. The values of Hyflex form a stable root system, and the learning experience grows from it. While that experience will vary, it will always carry the genetic blueprint of those values.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Hyflex though, is the extent to which this root system can shape the whole institution. Beatty tells us that Hyflex has the potential to connect the student (learning control), the teacher (instructional control), and the programme (curriculum control) – but we could argue it can also connect the institution (administration control).
This process starts from those clearly defined values, that progress to shape teaching and learning design, that then goes on to determine institutional and administrative management.
For example, the value of “learner choice” leads to goals such as, “Students will choose to participate in XYZ learning activity in a classroom setting or in the online [virtual classroom] environment.” That learning goal might lead to an instructional strategy such as “Students are provided a full set of in-class activities and a full set of online activities to choose between for every class session.” Finally, this strategy determines the architecture of administration and support systems.
For the learner, it means that the values of the course are mirrored in the values of the institution – something that can increase a students sense of belonging.
2: Designing objective orientated mixed-mode activities
Hyflex focuses on the creation of specific instructional activities that will help students meet instructional objectives and learning goals. This is not – or at least, it shouldn’t be – unusual. What is interesting is the challenge of developing a course that is a genuine ‘blend’ of face-to-face, online synchronous and asynchronous.
Any institution that promotes ‘blended learning’ will hope that this is happening on their courses. For Hyflex, however, it is a fundamental necessity – so good practice in blended learning is likely to emanate from it.
Instructors have to plan to share all their resources with both in class and online students. Because of this, they need to determine if any of their existing materials need to be converted for online use. They may well find that they can improve their materials through changes in instructional media – for example, changing a rather dry Word document into a recorded presentation in PowerPoint.
As Beatty rather beautifully puts it:
“Content resources don’t generally drive interaction. Well-designed interaction works with content to generate knowledge in the minds of learners and within the learning community itself.”
“When working with online students,” says Beatty, “the challenge to instructors is translating the techniques of formative evaluation effective in the classroom into the online instructional environment”.
Teachers often instinctively employ small formative techniques in a face-to-face classroom: Scanning the room for puzzled expressions; throwing out spontaneous questions; responding to student questions by reflecting them back to others to generate discussion. All these small methods can be used to help determine whether students are on track – or whether they need more support.
The problem is that many of these techniques are difficult to replicate in an online environment. It is not easy to think of the asynchronous online equivalent of a confused-looking face.
Hyflex approaches force teachers to actively pursue alternatives though – and to evaluate their effectiveness. Beatty highlights “practices such as the use of discussion forums, frequent quizzes, and requiring multiple performances of understanding represented in an e-portfolio system” as particularly useful.
As Beatty says:
“How will assessment of the same learning outcome be carried out with online students? Will slight revisions (timing, format, etc.) be sufficient? Will new approaches be needed?”
We are sadly quite familiar with these questions of course. Covid resulted in a rapid and large-scale need to re-align face-to-face assessments to be more quarantine-friendly. However, Hyflex is not simply about shifting the mode of assessment from one to another. It is about finding modes of assessment that can function in both.
Beatty advises that:
“Assessing learning through project reports, individual or group presentations (delivered live or recorded and shared online), and other forms of authentic assessment are often appropriate in all modes of instruction with very little variance needed”.
This article has been based on Brian Beatty’s book:
- Beatty, B. J. (2019) Hybrid-Flexible Course Design, EdTechbooks.org [online]. Available at: https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex