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Digital Toolbox: Developing a Hyflex Course

by Jeff Kuhn, Audra Anjum, and Patrick Mose from the Office of Instructional Innovation

At a Glance 

  • Hyflex helps you ensure that all students learn, regardless of whether:
    • They cannot attend a face-to-face session (e.g. due to being immunocompromised) 
    • They are unable to attend a synchronous online class session (e.g. due to illness, low internet bandwidth, etc.)
    • They have difficulty learning from asynchronous content (e.g. attention challenges)
  • Hyflex classes leverage face-to-face, asynchronous online learning, and synchronous online learning equally, and unlike traditional online/in-person hybrid courses, hyflex gives students the choice about which learning modes they choose.
  • Hyflex requires conceptualizing course content, modalities of learning, and classroom infrastructure as an integrated whole.
  • Instructors should design their courses with an eye toward how class materials, discussions, and activities can shift between physical and digital spaces with minimal disruption to class flow.
  • Traditionally we have thought of students' learning contexts as static over the semester, such as choosing to study online due to work. With hyflex, we need to conceptualize student learning contexts that are dynamic and fluid. A student may choose to meet face-to-face one day but attend class virtually the following session

Overview: Hyflex compared to hybrid

The hyflex model for instruction is different than the hybrid model in one key aspect: the decision on how students will engage with course content.

  • Hybrid instruction presumes that students will learn online and in-person. The balance between each mode of instruction is decided by the instructor prior to the start of the semester.
  • Hyflex assumes that students’ learning conditions will change over the course of a semester and gives them the choice to decide how best to learn.

In a hyflex model, students have the agency to decide how they want to engage with the class on any given day. A student could choose to attend face-to-face on Tuesday, attend virtually on Thursday, and access course content asynchronously for the entire following week. The choice is theirs. From a practical standpoint, this creates uncertainty in class on a day-to-day basis, but with proper planning and implementation, the hyflex model can provide students a way to stay abreast of class content during an unpredictable semester.

Tools for creating a hyflex class

Creating a hyflex classroom requires establishing an infrastructure that treats the physical and digital portions of the class as equal. Doing so requires three fundamental tools:

  1. a tool to stream and record live classroom sessions
  2. a tool to host class materials
  3. a tool for students to share documents for homework, or group work.

The best tools for these needs are as follows:

Tool 1 – Stream and Record Live Classes: Teams

Microsoft Teams is a centralized messaging system that can serve as a many-to-many communication platform with functions for instant messaging, video conferencing, and file storage. The core of a hyflex class is Teams' video conferencing and screen sharing functionalities.

At the start of a face-to-face class, instructors should:

  1. Log into Teams
  2. Start the pre-scheduled meeting
  3. If there are any materials the instructor plans to share on screen, enable screen sharing so students attending remotely can view the same content. 

Further functions of Teams that can be used in a hyflex class are: 

  • Chat: Teams features three forms of chat functionality:
    • Group Chat: Messages sent in group chat go to all members of a Team. This form of chat can be used for conversations on specific class topics, or weekly modules
    • Individual Chat: Messages can be sent to specific individuals for one-to-one or one-to-few communication. This form of chat can be used for “office hour” type scenarios where an individual student has a question for the instructor, or when communication is needed during small group work.
    • Meeting Chat: Each video conference created in Teams automatically has a chat created where attendees can message, share links, or other content. These chats persist after the meeting has concluded.
  • Video Conferencing: Meetings can be scheduled in advance for members of a Team. These meetings will automatically be added to attendees Catmail calendars.
  • File Storage: Each Team contains a Files tab where materials can be posted to share with students. This functionality is a fine choice for ancillary class materials such as optional readings, or links to relevant websites. 

Tool 2 – Host Class Materials: Blackboard

Blackboard can serve as the organizer of class content. Consider it a one-to-many platform where you can store materials critical to student success, such as readings, homework assignments, the syllabus, and schedule. Teams-related content (such as links to your pre-scheduled Teams meetings or the PowerPoint files you present in class) can be hyperlinked inside your Blackboard course to make student navigation between platforms more efficient. 

Within Blackboard is VoiceThread, a tool for audio- and video-based asynchronous discussions. Videos of synchronous class sessions can be uploaded to VoiceThread to allow students who missed the synchronous session to view the class and post their comments and questions for class participation.

Tool 3 – Share class documents: OneDrive

OneDrive is the cloud hosting service for Microsoft-related tools, such as Word or PowerPoint, and it can also be used to store media files. Within OneDrive, users can create online variants of Word documents, PowerPoints, or other Microsoft Office tools.

These documents can be shared with multiple users with each members’ edits tracked and updated in real-time. Students attending class face-to-face and those attending at-home can collaborate on the same document for group assignments.

Example hyflex scenario

Example: English 1510 - Writing and Rhetoric I
Format: Hyflex class
Scenario: 20 students

Before class begins the instructor opens the visual aids, such as any documents, PowerPoints, or videos for the days class. The instructor then opens Microsoft Teams and navigates to the Teams group for the class. After checking the Teams group for any questions that may have been posted by students, the instructor navigates to the calendar in Teams to open the Teams meeting for the day's class.

On this day, seven students come in-person and another eight students join via Teams. The remaining five students are not present for the synchronous class.

The instructor uses the first few minutes of class to engage students in conversation and answer questions related to the homework for the day’s class. The instructor is mindful throughout the session to give eye contact to the students in the classroom as well as those present in the Teams meeting. Next, the instructor asks Jia, a student present in the classroom, to monitor the Teams chat for the day. Should students in the Teams have questions, they can raise their hand or post a question to the meeting chat. Jia will monitor the Teams meeting for these while the instructor lectures for 10-15 minutes. 

The instructor notifies the class the lecture will be recorded before pressing the record meeting button in Teams. Next, the instructor turns on screen sharing in Teams and shares their desktop screen before opening up the PowerPoint window. The PowerPoint is visible on the projector screen in the classroom as well as inside of the Teams meeting for the online attendees. The instructor delivers a lecture during which they engage both in class students and the Teams meeting to ensure students are following along.

Once the lecture has concluded, the instructor stops recording in Teams. Transitioning to an in-class activity, the instructor opens a document with the student groupings, which are a mix of in-class, and on-Teams students. In-class students get out their laptops. Each group has a captain who has the responsibility of inviting their groups members to a new Teams meeting. While the captain creates a meeting, the group’s note-taker creates a Word document in OneDrive to share with all members of the group. With the groups set, the instructor provides instructions for the activity and then the students get to work.

As students work, the instructor uses the time to download the recorded lecture from Microsoft Stream to their desktop. The faculty navigates to Blackboard and uploads the video to a VoiceThread assignment so that absent students can later watch the presentation and post comments or questions to receive participation credit for the day.

Once the allotted time for the group work has expired, the instructor calls for all the online students to reconvene in the main Teams meeting to debrief on the group activity. After this, the instructor winds down the class, reminds students of the homework assignments for the next meeting, then ends the class.