The COVID-19 pandemic has altered approaches to teaching and learning and shifted many elements of learning online. This period highlighted the importance of catering to both in-person and remote students with the same experiences both synchronously and asynchronously. Here’s where Hybrid-Flexible, also known as HyFlex, learning comes in – a mode of teaching that simultaneously combines face-to-face learning, online asynchronous learning, and online synchronous learning.
The HyFlex teaching strategy can be challenging to implement, however. As teaching and learning evolves post-pandemic, the higher education community is investigating and implementing how to do HyFlex right.
The possibilities for improving the learning experience are already evident, with 95.7% of students reporting a positive impact on their learning after completing a HyFlex course. With an increase in educators turning to HyFlex learning, determining a sufficient strategy for designing a HyFlex classroom – one that is engaging, easy-to-use, and reliable, and can meet the needs of both faculty and students – is vital.
In this guide, you will learn
- What is HyFlex Teaching and Learning?
- Hybrid vs HyFlex learning
- What are the Benefits of HyFlex Teaching?
- What are the challenges of a HyFlex classroom?
- How to Design an Effective HyFlex Classroom
- Preparing as an educator
- Tips and best practices for effective HyFlex teaching
- Using Video in a HyFlex Classsroom
- Recommended tools and equipment
- The Future of HyFlex Teaching
What is HyFlex Teaching and Learning?
So, what actually is a HyFlex classroom? Introduced in 2006 by Dr. Brian Beatty, HyFlex teaching is an educational approach that focuses on providing students with a range of flexible learning options by combining in-person learning, online asynchronous learning, and online synchronous learning.
Hybrid vs HyFlex learning
Hybrid, HyFlex – what’s the difference? Although HyFlex learning does see some crossover with the hybrid learning approach, there are a number of important distinctions that separate the two.
When it comes to hybrid learning, students take part in a combination of face-to-face classes and online asynchronous/synchronous classes. For example, a student may have weekly in-person lectures and also be required to complete at-home classes and online discussions. On the other hand, HyFlex teaching focuses on providing students with the most flexibility by giving them the option to choose from learning in-person, online synchronously or asynchronously.
Other distinctions include the type of content that students engage with. In the hybrid approach, all students are absorbing the same material, whereas in HyFlex learning students take part in a number of different educational activities that focus on the same learning outcomes.
💡 68% of students are interested in taking courses that offer hybrid teaching methods.
What are the Benefits of HyFlex Teaching?
There are many benefits to HyFlex teaching for students, faculty, and higher education institutions as a whole. These benefits include:
- Increases autonomy
- Provides flexible learning and increases accessibility for students from a range of backgrounds
- Increases number of learning resources create a richer educational environment
- Offers lecturers the best of both worlds – they have the ability to increase their online teaching abilities while still maintaining in-class visibility
For higher education institutions
- Increases enrollment by appealing to a wider range of students that may be looking for flexible options
💡 95.7% of students enrolled in HyFlex courses in 2021 said that the HyFlex approach had a positive impact on their learning.
What are the challenges of a HyFlex classroom?
When implementing a HyFlex learning strategy there can often be challenges involved. These include:
- Instructors may require certain technology for a successful HyFlex classroom that their institution may not provide
- Instructors can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, they need to implement a separate strategy that caters to in-person, synchronous, and asynchronous students individually
- Tracking student progress and providing feedback may be difficult to coordinate
So, what can you do about these challenges? With the right preparation it is possible to design an effective HyFlex classroom that can overcome any potential limitations.
How to Design an Effective HyFlex Classroom
Since the tangible HyFlex classroom remains an uncharted territory for many – it may have been conceptualized but not yet implemented – many faculty and students often require proper coaching and guidance to understand how to maximize this new learning environment. To enhance the benefits and counteract any possible challenges that may be associated with the HyFlex mode of learning, carefully designing an effective HyFlex classroom is essential.
📣 “The way that our [HyFlex] classrooms are designed, we’re able to accomplish both the synchronous environment and the asynchronous environment, thanks to Panopto.”
Andy Borts, Senior Instructional Technology Support Specialist at University of Nevada Las Vegas
Preparing as an educator
When it comes to implementing a HyFlex classroom, preparation as an educator is key. Keep in mind that you are working towards creating an equitable learning environment for all students – whether in person, asynchronous online, or synchronous online – and this can require proper planning to execute successfully.
1. Familiarize yourself with your teaching environment.
This is your domain, and it’s important that you are comfortable in it. Develop an idea of how you will use the space best to cater to all students, including determining where you will stand so that you are facing the camera and students in the lecture hall simultaneously.
2. Test out technology.
There’s nothing worse than starting a live-streamed presentation to discover that no one can hear you. Avoid any potential issues by testing and setting up technology including microphones, audio, cameras, and video management system (VMS) to ensure smooth sailing for the actual class.
Providing clear communication with students prior to the class is essential to ensure they are aware of all expectations, requirements, and details required to access and engage with the class. This includes sending out the class schedule, agenda, and resources or video conferencing links for remote and in-person learners.
Tips and best practices for effective HyFlex teaching
Once you are prepared for a HyFlex classroom, how do you actually go about teaching? Here are some tips to create an effective HyFlex teaching experience.
1. Provide orientation and training for all faculty.
Create an orientation session and training workshops for faculty to make sure they have what they need and understand how to best teach in a HyFlex classroom so engagement is happening equitably.
2. Focus on providing an engaging and equitable experience for all learners.
It’s important to ensure that all students – regardless of location – receive the same learning experience. Confirm that everyone watching remotely can hear you and repeat the questions and comments made in-class to the camera. Allow additional time for remote viewers to ask questions to create an engaging, interactive experience for all.
Consider how you are going to provide engaging and equitable experiences: conduct mini lectures in person, live-streamed, and recorded; poll or quizzing students based on course content; create timed writing tasks that can be submitted online or in person; or pairing students in groups either in person, over video conferencing, or in discussion threads on videos that can be used by both remote and local students (if they have their laptops with them). In addition, ensure accessibility for all students by providing captions for recorded videos.
3. Set clear expectations around learning outcomes and student behaviors.
For many students, your course may be their first experience in a HyFlex classroom, so walking them through a roadmap of the structure, learning outcomes, and their expected behavior is vital. These expectations can be conveyed at the start of the program and if necessary, reinforced weekly through providing an update on class progress. For example, determine at the start of a course if students raise their hands in the WebEx meeting or type questions in the chat.
4. Make use of a student assistant or volunteer to monitor the online chat.
Managing various modes of communication simultaneously can be a challenge. Here’s where making use of a student assistant or a volunteer to monitor the online conversation can help the lecturer break back and forth between the two modes, take the pressure off, and ensure that all students are being heard.
5. Encourage feedback and open discussion.
Oftentimes students may be struggling with the way a lecturer is providing information, but may be too scared to speak up. Counteract this by creating an open-door policy that encourages feedback and open discussion so you can find out exactly what is working and what isn’t.
Standardize learning materials and teaching resources as much as possible. This can help in support, training, and the replacement of equipment if necessary.
💡By the end of 2025, U.S. public schools are expected to utilize a combination of in person and remote learning methods.
Utilizing Video in a HyFlex Classroom
Video is a core part of HyFlex classrooms – without it there would be no way for online asynchronous and synchronous students to interact with the class. Video technology should not be a hurdle when it comes to implementing a HyFlex classroom – did you know that 90% of universities already have the necessary technologies in place to support more blended models? With that in mind, it’s important to understand how to make the most of video in a HyFlex setting.
💡90% of universities already have the necessary technologies in place to support more blended models.
1. Use a VMS that offers video recording, editing, and live streaming all in one.
Avoid overwhelming students and staff with an excess of programs and tools by strategically selecting a VMS that integrates numerous functions into one.
Panopto’s video recording software offers the ability to securely manage, broadcast, edit, and search all of your videos in just one place. Show faculty the possibilities of interaction that are possible with a VMS, how it aligns with how they were teaching before, and how they can extend their previous teaching methods.
2. Incorporate interactive and personalized video elements to strengthen engagement for remote learners.
Incorporate interactive elements into your HyFlex program to increase engagement and boost learning outcomes. This could include group discussions that occur simultaneously in class and over video conferencing, and at a later time asynchronously via videos with a discussion thread.
In addition, video quizzes, and virtual polling can be used simultaneously to reflect quizzing that is occuring in-class. Utilizing a VMS and video learning library can assist with scalability of these features and enable users to personalize their viewing experience and increase interactivity.
Video also offers a greater level of accessibility to remote students who can utilize tools like captions or watching videos at a slower or faster speed.
3. Monitor student engagement and outcomes to continuously improve video lessons.
When students are present in person it is easy to monitor attendance, engagement, and how each individual is resonating with the content. But what about the students that aren’t physically there for lecturers to engage with?
Panopto’s video platform provides a world of data and analytics that can help faculty monitor student engagement and outcomes. From providing data on who has watched a certain video to the exact point in a video where people stop watching, keeping track of how students use the content, what areas they have mastered, and where they can continue to grow has never been easier.
Recommended tools and equipment
HyFlex learning requires a certain degree of hardware setup to be successful, but with so many different tools and technologies to choose from where do you start? There are a number of different components that a classroom will need to be set up for HyFlex learning including VMS, video conferencing, LMS, and video capture hardware.
Panopto integrates with an ever-growing number of systems, so you can connect your video platform to the tools your people already use. These include LMS integrations such as Blackboard and Canvas; video conferencing integrations such as Zoom and WebEx; and video capture hardware such as Extron and Cattura, for those who already have infrastructure and hardware for recording video installed in their classrooms. For institutions without any existing video capture hardware, Panopto Certified capture hardware devices are purpose-built to capture appliances that integrate seamlessly with the Panopto video platform and address a range of recording and live streaming scenarios
When it comes to video capture hardware, there are a number of tools that are essential for successfully capturing video, whether for personal use or in a classroom setting.
For personal video capture (useful for remote students):
- Microsoft LifeCam Studio. Offers 1080p video capture with autofocus and the ability to mount on a screen or tripod.
- Samson Meteor USB Mic. Provides CD-quality audio with portable folding legs, audio gain, and monitoring.
- JVC Studio Earbuds. Monitors mic volume to ensure quality and includes in-line volume control.
For classroom video capture:
- Logitech c930e webcam. Offers 1080p video capture with Zeiss optics and 90-degree field of view so you can capture more of what’s happening in the room.
- Blue Yeti USB mic. Provides studio-quality audio with multi-pattern audio and zero-latency monitoring.
- Sennheiser HD 202 II headphones. These headphones have a lightweight, comfortable design with good noise suppression.
The Future of HyFlex Teaching
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught the education world anything, it’s that flexibility and agility is crucial. The one-size-fits-all model no longer reflects the evolving needs of students with busy lives and priorities outside of the constraints of the physical lecture room. HyFlex is a mode of learning that offers a solution not only for these students, but also for those who wish to attend classes in person.
Looking to the future, the increased availability of technology-based educational solutions – such as video learning, mobile learning, and virtual learning – combined with a world expecting flexible learning opportunities will see HyFlex teaching integrated as the new standard of classroom.