Class Organization and Workload

(Small) Tips for Class Organization and Student Workload

The following short series of articles is meant to provide a few low-effort high-impact changes faculty can make to their upcoming courses to increase student success. They are largely organizational in nature, ways to make sure students spend more time learning material, and less time learning how to navigate a specific course. We also include a section on determining weekly student workload, which links to a tool faculty can use to calculate the total student workload for their class assignments.

Each suggestion below is linked to a more in-depth article. Most are simple tweaks, but if you need technical assistance with implementing them in either Canvas or Blackboard, and you work at Washington State University Vancouver, contact WSU Vancouver’s Academic Services.

  • Publish your course while you tweak it by adding a “start here” module or folder. Instead of waiting until the class is done to publish it, publish it with at least a minimal module outlining the basics of the course (weekly meeting times, textbooks, Zoom link, etc) while you work on the rest of the course (keep the materials you are still working on hidden). This allows students to log in and prepare for the course while you tweak, and can ease the anxiety of some students. 
  • Organize the course for week-by-week clarity. Use a folder (Blackboard) or module (Canvas) structure for the course that organizes all materials by course week rather than material type. Make sure students have all the links to the materials and pages they need to complete that week’s work in one place. Try to have a set sequence of activities each week, and send a short (3 or 4 sentence) outline of the week’s work to students each week. 
  • Double-check student workload. Use a student workload calculator to double-check your estimates of how much time per week the course will require of students. If the amount is more than the credits require, consider reducing the size or scope of some assignments or assessments. If the pandemic makes some tasks more difficult for students, you may choose to account for that as well.
Class Organization and Workload

Publish your course while you tweak it using a “Start Here!” module

We all know the feeling: we want to publish the class so that students can look at it before the start of the semester. But we want to make one last change before that. Or maybe swap week seven for week five, and reallocate the points from… 

And then we end up publishing the course right before the first class. 

You might think we’re about to tell you that you need to have everything locked in earlier, make earlier decisions. Not at all. The fretting over the best way to deliver the course, the concern with keeping it up to date? These are good things. Some of the best course decisions are made a week before class. 

But students right now are also worried about their courses, concerned they won’t know how to access the Zoom link on the first day, worried they won’t get the textbook on time, or get the right textbook. That age-old contract — show up in the right physical classroom on day one, and take notes on what to do next — it’s fallen apart a bit. 

Experts in online learning environments suggest adding a “Start Here!” module or document to your online class. You can add the things you are already sure of to this section: 

  • Class time, and expected meeting days
  • Link to the appropriate LMS (Blackboard:, or Canvas: for those receiving this information by email.
  • Zoom link (if applicable) for class
  • Required texts and textbooks for class
  • Office hours
  • Email for students to reach Crimson Service Desk, for any technical issues they may want to work through before class (or during the semester)
  • Either:
    • Add an introduction video talking about why you are excited about the course, what the course will be like in general, and your commitment to working through this semester with their success in mind, or
    • Add a short document explaining this things in prose

Then publish the class (make it available to students) while keeping the pieces you are still working on unpublished. Send out an email to students telling them you are still working on the class but wanted them to have access to the basics as soon as possible. 

This will allow you to tweak your class design while giving students the opportunity over the break to make sure that they are set up for success.

Class Organization and Workload

Organize your course for week-by-week clarity

Students — even students who may miss a class session or two — still need to understand what they need to do each week, budget appropriate time for it, and spend the majority of their time learning and not figuring out how to navigate each individual class. 

The suggestions below may seem like overkill to some — do we really have to tell our students what to do in all these different ways? But teaching in this way does not take any more time than teaching another, and will pay dividends almost immediately in reducing the amount of late work and requests for exceptions, at least by a bit. And the things below? They address the complaints that we hear most from students: that they spend far too much time each week trying to figure out what is due, what order to do assignments in, how much time they should budget.

Organize your course in a week to week module/folder structure. Students can spend significant time in online courses just trying to figure out what is due when. While your syllabus is still the ultimate guide, setting each week of the course up in your LMS as a separate folder (Blackboard) or module (Canvas) that contains links to all the documents, assignments, and assessments the student needs to complete that week can significantly increase the time the student spends learning rather than navigating your class and decrease student stress.

Give a weekly summary via announcement or small document. In the physical classroom, you likely often begin the class week with a concise summary of what the work for the week will be, and what ongoing efforts students should be engaged in. It might sound like “As of last week, you should have started your group projects, make sure your groups have met. This week you’re going to continue work on that project. We’re also going to read chapters nine and ten, and on Friday there will be a short quiz.” Often you’ll have it on an initial slide. That is, even though the week’s schedule can be found in the syllabus, you break it down for the students, and it helps students stay on track, and encourages them to plan their week accordingly.

You may be doing this in synchronous Zoom sessions as well. All the same, it doesn’t hurt to take that text of the slide, or copy that week’s portion of the syllabus into a course announcement you send out to all students, or, alternatively, put it as a small document at the top of your weekly module/folder.

Establish a “rhythm of the class” Experts sometimes talk about establishing the “rhythm” of an online class, by which they mean trying to make the sequence of activities in the class each week as similar as possible. As an example, each week the students may need to read a chapter or two of the textbook, answer a short quiz, read or view a relevant news story, and apply the concepts in the textbook to the news story before coming to class. A math class might have students read a chapter, watch an explanatory video, try some practice problems, come to class with questions, then take a short test. 

Not every week can be exactly the same. Midterm and finals weeks will be different, and many classes shift into project based work later in the semester. But by following a common pattern when possible, students will be better able to judge workload and build a weekly schedule that can rely on repetition and habit.

Class Organization and Workload

Double-check student workload with the Workload Estimator

Faculty sometimes underestimate the time it takes novices to get through reading containing unfamiliar terms. Similarly, writing workloads vary by the type of the writing and the outcomes: personal reflections in a discussion board, for instance, are far less time-consuming to write than academic essays. Even there, however, lots of smaller writing assignments can add up to substantial student workload.

Once you have your class set up, we encourage you to check the time required with the student workload calculator. A three credit hour class typically has six hours of work outside three hours of synchronous meetings (9 hours total). A student taking five courses at these rates already has significantly more than forty hours of work assigned a week. 

The link to the estimator is below. The research behind the tool is linked from there as well.

You might want to note the following definitions to use it effectively:

Page Density

  • 450 words: Typical of paperback pages, as well as the 6″ x 9″ pages of academic journal articles
  • 600 words: Typical of academic monograph pages
  • 750 words: Typical of textbook pages that are 25% images, as well as the full-size pages of two-column academic journal articles 

Text Difficulty

  • No New Concepts: The reader knows the meaning of each word and has enough background knowledge to immediately understand the ideas expressed
  • Some New Concepts: The reader is unfamiliar with the meaning of some words and doesn’t have enough background knowledge to immediately understand some of the ideas expressed.
  • Many New Concepts: The reader is unfamiliar with the meaning of many words and doesn’t have enough background knowledge to immediately understand most of the ideas expressed

Reading Purpose

  • Survey: Reading to survey main ideas; OK to skip entire portions of text
  • Understand:  Reading to understand the meaning of each sentence
  • Engage:  Reading while also working problems, drawing inferences, questioning, and evaluating

The workload calculator was not designed with the pandemic in mind. It is worth considering that we are all less productive during this pandemic, for a variety of reasons, and you may want to account for that by multiplying the result of the calculator by a chosen percentage. E.g. if the calculator gives you an outcome of 4 hours a week and you believe that most things are taking students 25% longer because of pandemic issues, it is reasonable to add this in (e.g. 4 * 1.25 = 5). This is obviously at your discretion, but as the credit hour definition is rooted in time expected to complete tasks, and such calculations should be rooted in real-world conditions, not idealized circumstances.

Blended Content Studio

Blended Content Studio

All materials are released CC BY.


A week or so ago, a video I made for an internal course here went viral, and many people (a hundred or so?) tracked down my email and asked to be a part of it.

It occurred to me that both those emailing and many at WSU would benefit from having access to all the materials outside of the Canvas course shell. Not the quizzes and not the recorded sessions, but the videos and text in a meaningful sequence.

I am publishing this today with a couple hours that miraculously was not scheduled and there seems to be no current emergency. All the same, I do apologize that this will be put up in a basic form that wouldn’t meet course standards if I was teaching a public course. But I hope it’s useful.

The course consists of three core modules, structured around the Connect, Explain, Engage concept:

  • Lesson One: Course/module introductions, video prompts
  • Lesson Two: Explanatory videos and screencasts
  • Lesson Three: Teaching with HyFlex/Zoomflex

Connect, Explain, Engage

Our tagline for this course is “Connect, Explain, Engage.” It serves as a reminder of what we do both in the classroom and with our educational materials.

In this video I talk a bit about what we aim to do in the course, and how we will show you how to use media and digital pedagogy to connect with students, explain difficult concepts, and engage them in activities that help promote learning.

One note on the above video: I recorded it before we really emphasized the HyFlex elements of this course as engagement strategies. So if that’s what you’re here for, don’t worry, we have a whole module on HyFlex/Zoomflex strategies.

Behind the scenes: uploading an unlisted YouTube video

I use unlisted YouTube videos for a lot of my materials. It’s not secure — anyone with the link can watch it. But for things where I don’t care who sees it, it’s a good technique for sharing course video. It makes a decent pass at closed captioning (still needs some cleanup), embeds easily in course materials, and downgrades to SD video for people with low bandwidth connections.

Our Anticipated Models: Zoomflex/Modified HyFlex

We’re going to show you how to create both asynchronous video and weave them into an online format. The following video sets up how I see the upcoming semester.

I put together that presentation a bit ago, but as things progress this summer, it becomes even more clear: we can’t put the face-to-face experience at the core of our planning. We need to develop a course that can function online, and then bring face-to-face into that if possible to do safely.

Incidentally, all the videos in this course are worthwhile, and I’ve slaved to get them as concise as possible. Watch them all! But if you only watch one, make it the above one. It’s the most important video in the course.

Blended Content Studio

Lesson One: Course/module introductions; video prompts

Module Intro: Course and Module Introductions

It’s a bit meta I know!

  • Welcome to the module on creating course module introductions/video prompts
  • Course/Module introductions communicates to students:
    • What is covered
    • Why is it important
    • How you will support them

The above intro is meant both to introduce this course and show you what a course introduction might look like for your own course. Think about what you would want to say, and how you’d try to communicate it through your words, manner, and setting.

A standard setup

My video setup is composed of things I bought myself, because they were cheap enough (for me at least) that  they weren’t worth the paperwork and the hassle of siloing off work use. After playing around with this and thinking through a range of faculty needs we’ve settled on this as a base recommended setup:

The major components are 

 Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need any of this. If you have a  touch screen laptop or tablet, you can draw right on it and don’t need the Wacom. If you have a webcam in your laptop you may not need an external one. The swivel stand adds flexibility for certain uses of the web cam (like whiteboarding and teleprompting) but if that’s not your style, just skip it. What I wanted to spec out was something cheap that would give broad capability to people starting from scratch.

Being a bit more you for the camera

This will sound weird, but whatever volume you normally do “you” — you need to nudge it up just a bit if you are recording a video of any length. There’s something that asynchronous video does where it shaves of a bit of enthusiasm, a bit of emotion. Something about it being recorded.

Or maybe it’s when we don’t have an energy on the other end of the conversation, when we don’t have that audience energy, we just don’t give it our all? In any case this video talks thinking through your style.

One additional note: Some people have more life obligations than others. Smaller houses than others. Noisier kids than others. 

When I say be a bit more you, I do not mean you are required to erase your life. I recorded this whole video and posted it, and then realized the shirt I changed out of after fixing a clogged sink at lunch is right behind me in the video. That’s OK. I recently recorded instructional videos (Links to an external site.) for a hundred thousand dollar educational grant where I was the primary expert, and I did it looking the sort of haggard a person looks when they made the decision to let their college age daughter and her boyfriend quarantine in what used to be one’s master bed and bath suite for three months.  That’s OK. 

And let’s add that many of the expectations of professionalism are felt differently by marginalized populations (and that’s not OK). My lack of a haircut and a shave in those videos videos is unkempt, but women are more likely to be seen as unprofessional.

So if a kid wanders into your video, embrace it. If the exercise bike is behind you with the laundry on it, embrace it. Use it to connect, and let students know you too struggle with the same things they do. (And stop policing the selves that others bring, especially if you haven’t done the reading (Links to an external site.)).

Recording yourself

Use what you have!

There’s many ways to record yourself, and what you use will depend on what’s available to you. At WSU we have Panopto and Zoom, both of which can record webcams and streams. Most people will use one of those. You can do a lot of stuff on your phone as well.

However, I’ve found that many people want to know how to go a bit beyond these options, so I’ve also provided a mid-range solution and high-end solution below.


If you want a free/cheap tool for yourself that allows some basic editing, Screencast-o-matic might make sense.

First download Screencast-o-matic by going to the link and following the actions below in the animated GIF:

You can choose to record your webcam, your screen, or a combination of the two.  To launch it later simply return to that web page and click launch free recorder again. If you want to upgrade to get basic editing capability it’s just $20 a year and less for teams.

High-end: Camtasia

My favorite product, hands down, is Camtasia. It’s pricey. The main strengths are that it is optimized for screencasts, where zooming into various sections of the screen is important. An educational license can go on two machines and is $169.

Make a video discussion prompt with your phone

Video prompts are simple, and can be pretty informal. It’s often a good idea to to them on your phone, to enhance the conversational style.  Here’s a quick example for a course on misinformation and disinformation. Nothing about this is perfect. 

The fact that it’s quick and informal gives you some flexibility. But the idea here in your media is some of these more informal pieces try to connect with the students. In this case, they are still going to play this and then type in a discussion forum, but it feels a little less cold of an exercise to some of them.

As always, if you have an accommodation, check the auto-generated captions to make sure they are good, and contact Academic Services to help if they are not.  Some background noise is fine, though be aware if the background noise is too high it might be distracting for some viewers.

You can also go outside, or use my favorite lightbox — the parked automobile.

In this one we describe a slightly different assignment with some some complexity. You duplicate the instructions in brief in the actual discussion forum.

Asynchronous Participation: Voicethread & Google Doc

NOTE: This part of the course is not available to those reading the released course materials. But I include the instructions here so that if others want to set up a workshop they can borrow this method.

Asynchronous students! In this section each week you’ll find instructions on how to participate in the asynchronous version of the  class. If this was a normal class (like you are running in the fall, assuming normal means anything anymore) the instructions would be more or less the same each week, since it is crucial you preserve the rhythm of the class

Because part of the point of this class is to model, though, in this class we’ll show you a different asynch technique each time. This week we show you the simplest option: the humble “Zoom link in a discussion forum” activity.

This week

Class Voicethread

Watch and comment on Voicethread.

First, login into voicethread here [Not available]

Second, if you haven’t subscribed to the class voicethread, go here:

[Not available]

After that, navigate to the first class and play. If it does not autoplay, click the movie icon on the left. (Links to an external site.)


When you get to the breakout tasks, go to this document:

[Not available]

  1. Scroll down to the bottom of the document and pick one of the three asynchronous groups (it’s fine if someone has already started).
  2. Fill out your answers, then scan the document and look at what others have written.
  3. Find one idea or comment you found interesting and use Google Docs to leave a comment explaining what you found interesting about it. Is it an idea you want to try? Something you have tried before? A concern that you share? Since your name will not be logged by Google here, sign it at the end like so: — Mike C.

Continue Video

Restart the video and forward if desired to when the class returns. Listen to the responses of the other students (both those in the Zoom session and on Voicethread) and respond either to the prompts on the slides (labelled “Asynch flex” or respond to other students.)

Submit Link

Get one of your comments weblink and paste it below. I’ll reply in Voicethread, but this will serve as your verification you did participate. [Not available]

Blended Content Studio

Lesson Two: Creating Explanatory Video

A note about “class equivalent time” and recorded videos

One common confusion faculty have when they want to replace a two hours and forty minutes of class a week  with video is that they have to produce two hours and forty minutes of video. This is isn’t true. Videos are partially like a class presentation, but partially like a reading. They are more concise, more compact, designed to be watched multiple times if necessary. And students will actually watch them multiple times — at least some of them. 

So if you are thinking of producing a bunch of short videos as a class replacement, take the class time you aim to replace and divide it by something.  What that something is will vary. Short course introduction videos take pretty close to run-time to watch (divide by 1!). But concise explanatory video is denser than class presentation. It’s stopped, and reviewed, cross referenced with assignments and text. So maybe divide it by 1.6, or 1.5. Two hours and 40 minutes of class might be replaced by 1 hr and 36 minutes of explanatory video. If you add in questions or activities in between the videos — short quizzes, reflection, discussion prompts, it’s even less. You might end up with 50 minutes of video and 50 minutes of reflection/quizzing. And as long as the videos are introducing new material and concepts in a concise way, this holds whether the videos you’re asking students to watch were made by you or someone else. 

This is particularly important because the biggest mistake professors make going online is they assign more work than they did in the face-to-face version of their class. Assuming your videos are scripted, concise, and introducing new concepts or skills, replacing a week of semester class meeting could look like:

  • Three 10 minute videos on crucial concepts (30 mins)
  • Two inter-video quizzes (10 mins)
  • One or two reflection prompts on a video to replace classroom discussion (30 mins)
  • Two fifteen-minute videos made by someone else or a synchronous study session (30 mins)

And that plus whatever outside activities they were doing before is equivalent work. If anything, the students will work harder at that than most did attending class, and if you make your videos concise enough may consume more material overall.

More on total work hours and how to think about them.

Three Techniques

If we’re going to talk about multimedia effectively we need to understand the major functions of it. Here we cover three techniques that make educational multimedia effective:

  • Signaling
  • Segmenting
  • Weeding

You probably have done all these things before without knowing it! But by knowing the names of these techniques and better understanding how they work to minimize cognitive load and help students integrate new knowledge we can move towards making more effective videos.

Production Note

One note on the production of these videos: for this module I simply used Zoom to record, i.e. I started up a Zoom session with just myself in it, turned off my camera, and hit “record locally to my computer”. I used the $79 Wacom board for drawing. I then uploaded it as an unlisted video on YouTube, though you could of course do the same and then upload to Panopto or even drop it in the LMS.


We talk about signaling, an important function of multimedia presentations.


We discuss segmenting, an important principle in the design of instructional videos that allows students time and space to integrate incoming information. By understanding what segmenting is meant to accomplish, you can implement it even in environments like HyFlex which initially seem inhospitable to the practice.

Why is it important to understand this principle? Because while it’s not important that you choose a specific method of segmenting, it’s important you choose a method of segmenting.

Some ways of segmenting include:

  • Recording short videos, with activities or questions for reflection in between them
  • Putting questions and opportunities for response in the middle of videos, using Panopto, VoiceThread, or Canvas Studio
  • In synchronous sessions, using breakouts or discussion periodically to help students pause and process

And there are other ways as well! The important thing is you find some way to encourage students to stop, process, and organize what they’ve just learned so they don’t lose it by the end of the lecture. 


Removing extraneous information is something you may already do in your lectures. Yet often the prepared nature of recorded video or audio can allow us to prune and focus our presentations even further.

Wrap up on Techniques

A couple last points on style and speed, as well as a review.

We talked about signalling, where we use one channel of audiovisual communication to help students organize another. Segmenting, where we give students a chance to process information periodically. And weeding, where we remove extraneous material that might be confusing to students.

A couple additional things: speak quickly (speech on video seems slower than in person). Give a sense of immediacy, the sense you’re talking to the specific person listening at a time approaching now. And we talked about this a bit in terms of segmenting, but give the students opportunities for active learning. You don’t learn what you don’t integrate, and integration is linked to doing, not listening.

How I made the whiteboard videos

I’ve tried to minimize the tech and software I’ve used to make the instructional videos you just watched so that you can duplicate the process. For this set of videos, I used Zoom to record (even though it compresses the video and sound quite a bit) and OneNote (free to you) as the whiteboard.  If you have a laptop or tablet with a touchscreen you can use that to draw. If not, we plan to have some Wacom tablets you can check out.

One thing I’ll note — before this I’d never used a Wacom tablet before — I’ve generally done my doodling on real paper under a document cam. It takes a bit to get used to, but by the end it started to feel natural. 


We’ll talk a bit about screencasts in the weekly Zoom meeting, so I thought in preparation for that I’d show you what they look like and how they are made. Below is a screencast where we show students how to verify an image is real before sharing:

And here is how we made that screencast. Note that taking a screencast of making a screencast is actually a bit of a hard problem, as we explain. So hopefully the way I’ve come up to show you this is not too confusing. We made this with Screencast-o-matic, the installation instructions for which are in module one. You can just as easily do this with Zoom or Panopto though.

Other models

You can use your imagination — there’s really no limit to techniques. This is a video I made in 2011 explaining what an edcamp is using a style referred to as “the Common Craft” style. My wife Nicole drew the characters. Years later, the video has explained what edcamps are to almost 20,000 people. But you see the same principles here, in a video made with a circa 2011 phone camera.

PowerPoint Narration and Inking

And here’s the resulting PPT.  Download and jump to the Interpersonal Interaction slide and play to see how it comes out.

Session One – Teaching Presence _inked.pptx

Reading from a script

I’ve talked a bit about this in other sections, but I thought some might like more detail on it.

First off, for a lot of presentations, you don’t need your video. You can put up something to read from, and use your slides or use whiteboarding. No one can see what you’re reading from. This is my preferred way for most presentations.

But sometimes reading something you’ve written, word for word, is your best option. Here’s how you can do that while looking a little like a hostage reading from a demands paper.

  • Place your script as close to the camera as possible. If you have your document open on a laptop, put the lines you are reading near the top of the screen in a narrow window and scroll as you go, glancing down for prompts, and then back to the camera.
  • Loosen up. Stand up and “shake yourself out” if you feel too tense. Stand up and take some deep breaths.
  • Remember you are explaining to *one* person, not a full class. It’s a bit more personal. Sometimes I imagine I’m explaining this to a particular friend of mine. They’re on the other end of the lens. 
  • Treat the lens of the camera like the eyes of someone to whom you’re talking. You don’t have to stare at it 100% of the time, but check in when you can with occasional direct looks into it. 
  • Write conversationally. If you trip over words, if it feels a lot to get through, if it feels — stiff, it might not be your performance. It could be your words. Make it a bit more…conversational. Ellipses. Pauses. Sentence fragments. Shorter words. You know what I mean? That sort of thing. (See what I did there?) 
  • Don’t worry about false starts. I find I end up starting about four or five times and getting 20 seconds in and starting over. I just delete and start over. Then on time four or so I plug into the right rhythm and I’m able to plow through.

Reminder: Coherence and Rhythm


The way this course looks — the way I use eight different ways to explain things, the way one module is structured as short videos and quizzes and the next is structured a totally different way — 

I’ve structured this class to show a wide variety of approaches to structuring online presentation and interaction. This is so you can decide which of these methods are best for your class. But your class will need to choose a few core methods, and repeat them week to week. 

This is important because students need to know the rhythm of the course just like they know the rhythm of a class session. A typical rhythm, repeated week to week might be:

  1. Course readings & external video
  2. Two whiteboarding videos on specific concepts
  3. Course session with breakouts and Voicethread feedback
  4. Four question quiz
  5. Weekly feedback video, based on student questions and feedback

That might fit into a three week module like so:

Module Start

  1. Course module introduction video

Week One

  1. Course readings & external video
  2. Two whiteboarding videos on specific concepts
  3. Course session with breakouts and Voicethread feedback
  4. Four question quiz
  5. Weekly feedback video, based on student questions and feedback

Week Two

  1. Course readings & external video
  2. Two white-boarding videos on specific concepts
  3. Course session with breakouts and Voicethread feedback
  4. Four question quiz
  5. Weekly feedback video, based on student questions and feedback

Week Three

  1. Module wrap-up video (We’re coming to the end of this module, here’s what you should know…)
  2. Course readings & external video
  3. Two whiteboarding videos on questions students have had trouble with in first two weeks.
  4. Course session with breakouts and Voicethread feedback

Module End

  1. Practice Quiz
  2. Study Session
  3. Module Quiz

Or, you might have a different rhythm, with short explanatory videos with quizzes in between. You might use Canvas Studio instead of VoiceThread, or start each week with a discussion forum that gets students thinking about a specific question. But the rhythm should be there from week to week, so the students know the sequence of things they must do each week before they even go into the LMS. 

Blended Content Studio

Lesson Three: HyFlex, Zoomflex, and multimodal teaching

What is HyFlex?

There’s been a lot of talk about HyFlex lately, but unfortunately a lot of it has been a bit simplified into “I record a class and students watch it.” HyFlex is a bit richer than that, and springs from some important principles around student choice and access.

This presentation goes into the four principles (they call them ‘pillars’) and three modes of HyFlex and how these principles can work together to produce more accessible and available education to students.

Keep in mind that HyFlex was initially developed to serve underserved non-traditional students who did not want an online program but could not fully commit to regular face-to-face meetings. It wasn’t developed for pandemic pedagogy. So this video will introduce the pre-COVID formulation of HyFlex, but my subsequent videos will show how that relates to pandemic pedagogy.

With each presentation, I produce a diagram of the talk (as below). The diagrams are not necessary for understanding the talk, but might be a quick way to jog your memory or test your understanding later. For students with visual impairment we’re in the process of producing a lecture outline as an accommodation.

Outline of lecture

Image Description (Outline of talk)

Student Impressions of HyFlex

Student impressions of (traditional) HyFlex have been quite good at places where HyFlex has been implemented. But there’s a catch, at least when we think of our current situation — student positivity about the method is tied to framing around student choice, and choice is in short supply at the moment.

There’s other things in the research the applicability of which is hard to determine. In most cases, the students tend to gravitate to asynchronous and face-to-face and under-utilize synchronous online. On the other hand, that could be because in the places where HyFlex has been implemented it has usually been implemented to help students work around busy schedules, where synchronous online does not solve that problem. What the utilization of synchronous online will be in the fall is hard to guess.

Outline of lecture

Image Description (Outline of talk)

Modified HyFlex Example One: Supported Opinion Task

Here we finally get to some models that are more explicitly designed for pandemic pedagogy. In this case, I show a supported opinion task, without breakouts, that could be used in all three modes including a physically distanced classroom.

One thing to note (and a thing I’ll keep mentioning) — your best bet in putting together a class for the fall is to look into structured discussion techniques people have used for face to face education. Many of the techniques I use are pulled from Stephen Brookfield’s work, Discussion as a Way of Teaching. That book is about the face-to-face class, but it deals with questions that are magnified in a Zoom session or a multi-modal class.

The idea of structured discussion is that the free-for-all approach to classroom discussion (“Who wants to respond?”) is not particularly fair, or democratic, or efficacious. It allows a few people to dominate in unhelpful ways. Structured techniques — like the sort of pre-discussion written feeedback activity described in the video above — involve more students and foster better discussions.

Outline of lecture

I pull from more than Brookfield but you might want to flip through his packet here.

Why flexing to asynchronous is important

Equipment isn’t a big problem for most people anymore, at least as far as cost at the college level, but connectivity can be. And the impacts are not felt equally.

Image preview
Digital divide chart.

I should say one thing here — access to equipment is not as big a barrier as access to space or bandwidth which are more expensive and limited by geography (you can buy a new laptop but buying a new house or getting your cable company to lay new cable to your house is hard). However, students have to be told what equipment is required. You can do a lot of harm not being specific with students about what they need. Not telling students a laptop with certain equipment is required (when it’s clearly crucial to their success) is like telling students a textbook is optional then testing them on it. Please be clear with students on equipment.

On the other hand you are going to have some flexibility on bandwidth and space during the pandemic, as these are things which are not available to many students at any (reasonable) price.

Outline of talk

Adding a Simple Asynchronous Flex

Here we show a simple asynchronous flex for the previous activity — actually, two ways to flex it. One is direct — just have the asynchronous students duplicate the classwork. The other one shows an expansion technique.

The mindmap below provides a visual aid for the lecture, but does not contain any information not in the audio of the presentation.

Mind/Process Map

One thing I’ll say about the asynchronous flex: a lot of people ask why it’s necessary. In a normal hyflex course it’s necessary because a lot of students have unpredictable scheduling problems, so it’s important there be a full asynchronous path through the course.

I don’t know that every fall 2020 course needs a full asynchronous path through the course. But every course does need asynchronous options for students that have trouble connecting at the given time. So maybe you do encourage the synchronous session, but if someone misses it they have an option to make it up.

On the other hand, since there may be quite a few people struggling with synchronous in a course of any significant size (say, greater than 20?), why not build it in that way from the start?

Doing an Unfolding Case History on Zoom

So this is just another model. While we pull this model from Nursing programs, it can be adapted to any discipline where competency can be demonstrated through real world scenarios. And it’s highly engaging!

One thing the “unfolding” nature of it gives you is a sense of coherence and “build” to the class session. Rather than a lot of unconnected tasks, your class session is built around a narrative that pushes forward naturally.

I encourage all teachers to try this at least once. Think about a professional or scholarly situation that would take the application of your target skills or understandings, and write it up as a scenario. Break it up into sections and give it a go.

Diagram of Unfolding Case Study (described in video)

Modified Hyflex/Zoomflex Wrapup

I say this is a wrap-up, but it’s probably not. I’ll add new models here over the next few weeks.

Blended Content Studio

BCS Image Descriptions

What is Hyflex?

Hyflex (Pre-Covid)

Definition: A form of education which allows multiple modes of attendance based on student choice.

Pillars of Hyflex:

Pillar One – Learner Choice: 3 modes

  1. Face to Face
  2. Synchronous Online (Zoom)
  3. Asynchronous Online- Seems like a lot more work but is less than it seems.

Sample schedule (student chooses)

  • Face to Face
  • Face to Face
  • Asynchronous
  • Zoom
  • Asynchronous
  • Face to Face

Pillar Two – Equivalency: Most things are built once

  • Face to Face Discussion
  • Online Chat
  • VoiceThread Response


  • Poll
  • Poll
  • Quiz

Pillar Three: Reusability

  • Class -> LMS Video
  • Discussion Boards -> All students
  • Zoom Study Sessions -> All students

Pillar Four: Accessibility


Virtual Attendance is attendance.

  • No participation, no attendance.
  • No easy path, no passive path.

Allows you to be strict with other modes.

Student Impressions of Hyflex

  • Positive
  • 22 percent pay extra
  • 60% preferred
  • Framed as choice

Sample schedule

  1. Face to Face
  2. Asynchronous
  3. Asynchronous
  4. Zoom
  1. Pre-Course
  • Expect Face to Face to be wild favorite
  • Think asynchronous is not attractive
  1. Post-Course
  • Face to Face and Asynchronous more equal.
  • Used Asynchronous once.
  1. Now?
  • Lack of choice
  • Irony
  • Use Face to Face half or less.
  • Agency

Students have idealized expectations

Life intervenes

One question: Can we implement this in some way that preserves agency?



Discussing cheating is one of my least favorite things to do, but it’s a valid concern, whether a course is online or not. This presentation talks about why students cheat, and how to discourage cheating through countermeasures, course redesign, and cultural interventions (but mostly course design). It’s split into four videos. Most of it is based on the book Cheating Lessons by James W. Lang.

As part of an experiment with using Zoom to record short instructional videos, I recorded it to the cloud, which had the added benefit of provided a rough transcript. For the moment I have set permissions to public, so you can share this video with other folks.

Cheating: Introduction
Time  9 minutes

Meeting Recording:

Cheating: Course Redesign
Time : 10 minutes

Meeting Recording:

Cheating: Self-efficacy
Time: 7 minutes

Meeting Recording:

Topic: Cheating: Cultural Interventions
Time: 12 minutes

Meeting Recording: