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What is
HyFlex teaching
and why is it

Author: Rose de Fremery

Education has undergone tectonic shifts in recent years, pivoting to remote learning before transitioning to hybrid learning. Now, some colleges and universities are adopting a HyFlex teaching model, aiming to maximize the advantages of both virtual and in-person classroom settings.

So, what is HyFlex? Learn how this model works, what are its benefits and drawbacks, and why it's becoming such an important classroom strategy.

What is HyFlex teaching?

HyFlex teaching, or Hybrid-Flexible teaching, is a teaching model that has recently taken off in higher education settings. Although this classroom strategy shares some similarities with hybrid learning, it also has some distinct differences. In a HyFlex class, a professor delivers the lesson just as they would a traditional lesson. Some students participate in person while others join remotely. There's a third option, as well—students can learn asynchronously, on their own time, by watching a recording of the class afterward.

Benefits and drawbacks of a HyFlex class

What is HyFlex contributing to today's education system? At the heart, maximum flexibility. It offers students the fullest possible range of choice in their learning experience. Professors sometimes find that it helps them boost class attendance and enrollment. A HyFlex class allows them to reach students who cannot attend class in person or at the designated time. As a result, colleges and universities can increase access to educational opportunities for the entire community without having to add additional course sections or hire new teachers to oversee those additional sections. With all students still joining the same class, colleges can make sure that students are still learning the material regardless of how or when they participate. In the right situation, this model can help bring out the best in higher education institutions and their students.

One survey of students who had taken a HyFlex class found that 95% were very likely or likely to take another HyFlex course. Here are some other highlights from the survey:

  • The main reason those who chose to study in person did so was because they thought they learned better in person.
  • The key factor for choosing remote learning was a work or family conflict with on-campus requirements.
  • Students appreciated the flexibility of moving back and forth between participation modes and the option to participate fully online.
  • Some felt building relationships was more challenging.
  • Some were confused by the schedule.

Professors have encountered challenges with remote learning in higher education, and a HyFlex model of teaching is no exception. Rather than designing a class for one scenario—for example, an all-virtual or solely in-person class—they must prepare a lesson that students can engage with in three very different contexts: live in person, live via videoconference or asynchronously by watching a video recording later on. Sometimes, when a professor is attempting to engage students in person, the students who are joining remotely can feel left out, and vice versa.

It may take more time to address both groups of students as a result, extending the time required to teach the class (or reducing the amount of material that can be presented in the class). The professor also has to invest much more time upfront when designing the class than they would have to in a strictly in-person or virtual environment. Unlike in a traditional setting, in which all students could engage in the same activity at the same time, the professor may need to stagger these activities depending on the settings, and they will have to make sure to provide an equivalent activity for students learning asynchronously.

Keys to a successful HyFlex class

Schools must ensure that all their students have equal access to HyFlex classes, regardless of how they are joining them. According to EdTech Magazine, colleges and universities need the right equipment to succeed with this unique teaching model. Not only must they invest in the right video and audio conferencing systems to allow remote participation during a live class—capturing video of both the professor as they are presenting and students as they respond—but they must also have microphones placed in the right locations to capture everything that is being said.

Because physical classroom environments can be very noisy, with shuffling papers and bags being dropped on the floor, schools must ensure that the hardware they use has sufficient noise cancellation capabilities and that the classrooms themselves are outfitted with acoustic panels and other sound-dampening treatments, if necessary. Otherwise, students who are not in the classroom will not be able to follow the lesson nearly as well as their in-person classmates.

Then, there is the matter of making sure that the course is available for students to view online afterward and that it offers the same kinds of engaging activities that students who joined live were able to follow. Professors will need plenty of training to ensure they are well versed in using all these technologies, so they can offer the most effective learning experience possible regardless of the context.

Understand the impact of HyFlex teaching

Higher education has digitally transformed in recent years, and it is now evolving once more to include the HyFlex model of teaching. While this approach offers students maximum flexibility to participate in a class and learn at their own pace, it also requires much more preparation on the part of the professor. The extent of integration of the HyFlex class approach is still to be seen. But what is HyFlex offering right now? A welcome opportunity to reevaluate the future of higher education and how technology can help further learning.

Colleges and universities that adopt a HyFlex model or any other type of blended interactive learning model will also need to make sure they invest in the proper technology required to succeed. This way, they can make sure that every student has access to a high-quality learning experience—whether they're seated in the classroom, joining via videoconference or watching the class recording afterward.

Learn how Verizon's education solutions keep classrooms education-ready.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.