Thinking about HyFlex: We Want to Hear from You
By: curry mitchell, Academic Senate VP; contributions from Luke Lara, Jim Julius, and Sean Davis
When we transitioned to teaching in online spaces during the pandemic, some folks–including me–insisted that we keep in mind the difference between “remote instruction” and “online teaching.” That may sound snobby. I hear you. But I don’t mean it to be.
Getting into the Distinctions
Remote instruction describes a quick pivot, making do, being responsive to meet unplanned for circumstances and needs. Online instruction describes a designed pedagogical approach and practice. Now, what’s true is many of us teaching remotely discovered cool new modalities, situations, and mediums that afford awesome teaching and learning experiences. In other words, what started as a pivot in response to institutional and student needs has led us to discover and shape new pedagogical practices. So, boo to the snobs.
Okay, I think both the distinction in terminology and acknowledgment of professional growth and discovery are helpful ways to think about HyFlex.
Many of us who have been teaching in physical classroom spaces since the pandemic are now accustomed to using blending teaching modalities. Some of us run a Zoom call from our laptops or webcams while we teach in the classroom. Some of us upload the classroom's activities before the class meeting begins or upload a recording of the lecture afterwards. We do things like this for students who cannot make it to class that day. In other words, we are pivoting to respond to the needs of our students. And as we practice these blended learning approaches, we are discovering pedagogical value as students move across various flexible and hybrid learning pathways. Does this mean all of our teaching practices are moving inevitably toward HyFlex modalities for all of our courses? No. That’s jumping to conclusions. What I am saying is there are cool tools and techniques our colleagues are discovering as they teach with blended, HyFlex modes. But what are these “blended modes”? And what exactly does HyFlex mean?
Originally designed for graduate programs and student needs, Brian Beatty first introduced HyFlex learning in 2006 at San Francisco State University (Beatty, 2019). According to Beatty, a “true HyFlex” class will offer three different modalities simultaneously and allow the learner to choose between those modalities on a session-by-session basis (Whalley et al., 2021). The three modalities Beatty suggests are asynchronous or fully online, synchronous engagement via a mobile streaming platform like Zoom, and face-to-face instruction (Lohmann et. al, 2021). HyFlex reflects a high level of flexibility in providing students choices in learning. HyFlex has many configurations (think of a continuum), depending on the degree to which a course is available or offered through the three modalities (asynchronous online, synchronous online, and face-to-face). The key difference between HyFlex and what we typically have called Hybrid (offering a course via multiple modalities) is that HyFlex entails multiple modalities happening simultaneously with student choice about how to participate. Thus, Hybrid + Flexible = HyFlex.
So Far at MiraCosta
Former Academic Senate President, Luke Lara shared, “Some faculty at MiraCosta expressed interest in piloting HyFlex courses and with some HEERF funds, the administration supported equipping certain classrooms on campus with cameras and other technology necessary for delivering HyFlex teaching and learning.” In addition, “A handful of faculty were selected to participate in the pilot and were provided with additional compensation to develop a course that could be delivered in two modalities simultaneously: face-to-face/on-ground and synchronous online (i.e., Zoom).” One of the pilot participants, Sean Davis, Joyful Teacher in Residence and professor of Sociology, expressed, “HyFlex is a great way to teach if you are willing to ride that wave that comes with being a beginner and you're comfortable juggling a few different things during a class session. Students appreciate the flexibility, and I have come to enjoy a dynamic online and in-person experience." After the initial pilot in fall 2021, several faculty members–many of whom are associates–in various disciplines have volunteered to offer their courses via HyFlex. Since then, more and more classrooms on the Oceanside, San Elijo, and Community Learning Center sites have been outfitted with additional technology to allow for HyFlex teaching and learning.
Absent any clear direction from the statewide Academic Senate for California Community Colleges or guidelines on apportionment (e.g., MIS reporting) from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, local colleges are left to define and implement HyFlex teaching and learning. Many questions remain unanswered around 10+1 matters and working conditions.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The FA and Senate want to hear your thoughts.
The FA has taken the lead, in collaboration with the Academic Senate and MiraCosta College Academic Associate Faculty (MCCAAF), on developing a brief survey to assess faculty interest and concerns around HyFlex teaching and learning. When you receive the survey, please take 5-10 minutes to provide feedback that will help us collectively address both 10+1 matters and working conditions related to HyFlex teaching and learning. Even if you are not familiar or interested in HyFlex, we would still appreciate your feedback.
As a classroom practitioner and as a contributor to shared governance, I look forward to collaborating with you, my colleagues, as we assess the tools and confront the issues to ensure our institutional spaces, modalities, and technologies support the full range of our pedagogies. Pedagogy First!