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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.

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