What is HyFlex?

The HyFlex teaching approach provides students with the flexibility to move from one course format to another on a class-by-class basis to fit their individual needs at that time. 

The core principle of HyFlex teaching is that learning is equal regardless of which course format is used. This principle means that the learning experience is student-directed and incredibly flexible. 

How do HyFlex classes work?

HyFlex classes use three different course formats which allow students to decide how they’ll participate and engage with the online course. 

HyFlex class formats include:

  1. In-person classes
  2. Synchronous classes online (live classes in real-time) 
  3. Asynchronous classes online (students complete at their own pace)

Students can attend an in-person class one day, join a live online class the next day, and then watch recorded lectures and complete assignments on their own time the following class. 

Keep in mind that a HyFlex class isn’t implementing learning technology; it refers to a teaching method that utilizes a variety of learning technologies to provide flexibility for students.

Are hybrid and HyFlex classes the same?

They’re similar but the main difference is that in a hybrid learning environment, instructors decide when the class will meet and which format will be used.

HyFlex classes give students autonomy in how they want to attend class on that particular day.

7 things you need to know about HyFlex teaching:

1. It’s easier to implement if you already have learning technologies in place

If your institution has online learning technologies such as an LMS, online proctoring software, and lecture capturing in place, it may be easier to transition to the HyFlex teaching model. This is because instructors are more comfortable with the ins and outs of online and hybrid learning and know what to expect.

2. HyFlex can help increase student retention rates

While it’s different for every institution and even department, HyFlex teaching provides students with more flexibility and the opportunity to choose which modality works best for them. 

Some students may prefer in-person classes because they enjoy direct interaction with their instructor and peers, while others may prefer to watch lecture recordings because they can pause and rewind as much as they need to understand the topic. 

3. Expect more planning and customization at the beginning

Three different course formats also means planning and customizing each to provide an equal learning experience for each student regardless of the modality. 

The good news is that once you get the hang of HyFlex teaching and its nuances, it’ll be easier to design and maintain in the future. 

4. Your In-person classes may have fewer students in attendance 

Why would HyFlex teaching cause this? Consider these two scenarios and choose the option you prefer:

Scenario 1:

A. Watching your favorite TV show specific days at set times and then waiting a week until the next episode 

B. Watching TV shows whenever you feel like (and maybe binge-watching). 

Most people today would choose option B and the same can be true for students who prefer asynchronous classes.

Scenario 2: 

A. Driving to campus, finding parking, and sitting at an uncomfortable desk for a few hours

B. Relaxing at home in your pajamas and attending class from your couch on a laptop

Option B is a safe bet – especially for students who live far from campus and working professionals

The scenarios above make it easy to see why in-person attendance is sometimes lower in HyFlex classes and hybrid learning environments.

However, keep in mind, there are many students who need and want the on-campus in class experience – especially after pandemic-induced isolation!

5. You should be comfortable and effective with asynchronous teaching

There are similarities between how in-person classes and synchronous online classes are facilitated because both are live and allow real-time activities and discussions, for example. 

How will the learning experience be for someone who can’t attend in-person or online in real-time? 

  • Will the student have support options if they encounter any technical issues during an exam? 
  • How can they engage in discussions? 
  • Will they fully understand complex topics if they can’t get answers until the instructor checks their email? 

6. Accessibility is mandatory for HyFlex teaching

Just as you expect to see handicap parking spots and wheelchair ramps, instructors need to create accessible online courses that are designed to meet accessibility standards and accommodate student needs.

Accessibility is complex and there’s a lot to consider as you design your HyFlex class or any hybrid learning environment.

 A few example questions: 

  • Does the color contrast ratio between course text and the background color meet WCAG standards?
  • Is the online course content legally compliant with other accessibility standards such as ADA and Section 508? 
  • Are hyperlinks in the correct format?
  • Do images have appropriate text descriptions in the right format? 
  • Do videos include captions and subtitles? 
  • How are accommodations provided?

The questions above hardly scratch the surface of creating a fully accessible online course, so it’s a good idea to have collaboration between instructors, instructional designers, and the institution’s accessibility-focused faculty.

7. Create an equitable course from a technology standpoint

This seems simple because most students have a computer or access to a computer, right? Most, but not all. 

And it’s that subset you need account for.

Now, let’s say a student owns a computer – but what if the microphone or keyboard doesn’t work?

Instructors are responsible for providing alternative options that allow students to learn and engage with course content regardless of the format. 

  • Broken microphone? Use text alternatives for all video and audio (subtitles, transcriptions, etc.) and allow chat discussions. 
  • Broken keyboard? Allow audio/video recordings, graphic organizers, speech-to-text, and adaptive mouses.

It’ll take time to problem-solve every technology issue but there are workarounds for nearly everything and accommodations that can be provided. Be creative and understanding.

HyFlex teaching is worth it for your students

While HyFlex teaching requires some extra planning, it’s worth the outcome of a flexible learning environment that engages your students in a better way. 


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