Futures and Hyflex
by Mary Gross
Recently I have attended a few workshops to get an introduction to Futures Mindset. Simply put, it is a way of planning for the future based on recognizing signals and uncovering patterns today that will impact our tomorrow. It is defined as engaging people in thinking deeply about complex issues, imagining new possibilities, connecting signals into larger patterns, connecting the past with the present and the future, and making better choices today.
Although a pandemic occurring this decade might not have been much of a surprise after-the-fact, an impactful event like this wasn’t on the radar of futures planning, and the the entire college had to pivot quickly to meet the new restrictive realities presented to us—as an institution—in order to continue our services to students. The Pandemic has served as a catalyst for changing the way we deliver courses and services to our students, and we all recognize that seismic shifts have occurred in our work that will forever change what was the norm pre-pandemic.
Student Services has reimagined how it provides services to students. Counseling, Library, and Tutoring Services are prime examples of how shifting to nearly all-remote options revealed we can actually serve more students than ever before and in more personalized ways. And even as the number of students returning to campus increases, these options for remote services continue to be in high-demand and will perhaps become the preferred mode of engagement into the future.
As faculty had to reimagine classes using Canvas and Zoom, students too were able to reimagine how they accessed courses, and many have found the convenience of more flexible modalities appealing.
Like many on campus, my program has experienced a continuous decrease in enrollment over the past ten years with perhaps the last two being most significant. And like many programs, my Spring Semester offerings of online and/or Zoom were the first to fill with the on-ground sections languishing. Our own internal departmental communication with students revealed that they prefer remote instruction, and we are able to serve many students from out-of-country, out-of-state, and even out of our local college area because of it. We received another signal when it was time to return “to campus” after our on-ground classes went remote for the first month of the semester; many of the students said they would prefer to stay on Zoom because of the flexibility it affords them versus coming physically to campus.
Now, I am considering the idea of meeting student needs through offering Hyflex sections. This seems an appealing option not only to provide our courses in a modality that works best for each student; it would also help address lower enrollment issues with on-ground sections. But the working conditions implications are impactful. We need to consider more fully the many iterations Hyflex classes can take, the professional development needs to do it well, the technology to assist with execution, additional personnel assistance for Zoom oversight, compensation for extra workload, etc. We have had some faculty participate in a Hyflex pilot, others who have volunteered, and others who may have shifted to this modality for the enrollment benefits. Regardless, we know the future will likely mandate the growth of Hyflex, so we need to start considering the working conditions implications now.
Soon you will be receiving a survey about Hyflex to ask about your interest, experience, and/or impacts you perceive will be critical to address before considering a move in this direction. This is just one example of numerous shifts the future has in store for us, and planning for the potential growth of Hyflex and its impacts must be done in the present. As the exclusive bargaining unit for all full-time faculty’s working conditions, we are obligated to ensure equity among those who will be early adopters as well as those electing this in the future, and we must carefully negotiate any impacts this new modality will bring.