The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adopt hybrid modalities in many different areas of everyday life. In fact, the success we’ve seen since rapidly transitioning more fully to a “hybrid society” has many questioning the value of ever returning completely to in-person interactions. This is especially true for higher ed.

The time is right to embrace hybrid learning models

A year into the pandemic, many college students are openly professing their desire to return to campus life. However, we all must realize that the desire of students to return to the campus does not equal the desire to return to the classroom. Students have not only adjusted to online and hybrid options, but many have come to prefer them. They are quite satisfied to attend some classes from their dorm room or couch while enjoying all the social benefits of a campus.

To be successful in a post-pandemic world, institutions must take a student-centric approach, recognize the changing preferences of their students and deliver education the way students want to consume it.

The power of hybrid learning

This hybrid future does not require any sacrifice in the quality of the teaching and learning experience.  In fact, numerous studies have identified hybrid forms of delivery as the most effective learning modality because of the design advantages different hybrid learning models provide. These benefits include:

  • The ability to tailor resources, activities and assessments to the most effective delivery modality
  • Multiple avenues for communication and community building
  • Greater opportunity for students to control the pace of their learning
  • The positive impact of combining synchronous and asynchronous activities to deepen and extend the learning experiences
  • Increased ownership by students of their learning experience
  • A greater degree of flexibility and choice for students

Schools have the option of taking the standard hybrid learning model a step further, making it even more student-centered, by implementing a HyFlex approach to learning. Short for “hybrid flexible,” HyFlex learning is a specific and unique form of hybrid learning. Most commonly, hybrid learning has required face-to-face synchronous sessions supported by additional online learning delivered in a learning management system (LMS). HyFlex learning takes this flexibility to the next level by including in-person, synchronous online and asynchronous online options for every course.

HyFlex is unique because it supports student choice, allowing students to mix and match their learning path by:

  • Attending synchronous sessions in person in a classroom
  • Attending synchronous sessions remotely via web conference
  • Learning in a completely asynchronous manner

What makes the HyFlex method so appealing to students is the freedom of choice. But it’s that same freedom that presents so many challenges and questions for course designers and faculty members

Equivalency of online and in-person experiences is the key

Ultimately, each student must achieve the same course-level objectives regardless of how they choose to learn – synchronously in-person, synchronously via web conference, asynchronously online or some combination of all three.

To take full advantage of the power of hybrid learning, faculty use different learning resources, activities, assignments and assessments depending on the delivery modality. It is up to them to ensure students are achieving equivalent outcomes no matter what learning path they choose.

Sometimes, achieving equivalency among different HyFlex learning paths is relatively straightforward.  For example, a standard classroom lecture can be recorded and posted in the course shell for review asynchronously. But what happens to the learning achieved through classroom discussion following the lecture when students choose to view it asynchronously?

A course designer may leverage different strategies and technologies to achieve equivalent outcomes in this situation. Examples include:

  • A required discussion board for all students who view asynchronously
  • Asking all students to write a short summary of the classroom discussion for submission to the instructor
  • Identifying key points from the classroom discussion and creating a written assignment or leading an online discussion for asynchronous students
  • Providing ways for synchronous, remote students to join discussions and ask questions in real-time from wherever they’re located

The effort will pay off in the long run

It can seem quite challenging to ensure equivalency across all modalities while still maintaining an effective and engaging student learning experience. For the faculty member and instructional designer, it will require more upfront effort as resources, activities and assessments must be developed for all delivery modalities. But this initial investment of additional time and content development work will be worthwhile down the road.

Designing HyFlex courses is all about creating a student-centric experience wherein students are fully satisfied with the learning experience and can achieve course-level objectives no matter their learning path. For the faculty member, the effort pays off with a course that is ready for whatever the future may hold, be it another pandemic or any other situation that disrupts the normal delivery of instruction.

Get the support you need to adopt a HyFlex learning model

Fortunately, there’s help for institutions looking to offer courses in a HyFlex delivery model. Collegis Education can provide the expertise, capabilities, technology and resources needed to design, deploy and support HyFlex learning models. We can ensure all the key elements needed to offer this model are in place so faculty can focus on providing engaging, high quality learning experiences – regardless of the modality.

Let our experts help you transition to more student-centered learning delivery models.

Author: Dave Lungren

Dave Lungren is the Vice-President of Content Solutions with Collegis Education. Over the past 17 years, he has worked with more than 30 institutions on the design, development and deployment of online and hybrid programs.