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Course Design: HyFlex Course Design


Hybrid-Flexible delivery (coined HyFlex) was developed by Brian J. Beatty at San Francisco State University in 2005 in response to enrollment concerns; specifically, that a successful residential Masters of Arts (MA) program needed to attract a broader diversity of students and provide more participation options for current students (Beatty, 2019).

The suggestion was made to move the MA program completely online, but Beatty and his colleagues faced a range of barriers that would prevent the development of a fully online program, including lack of institutional support, lack of faculty experience teaching online, and a perceived lack of support from enrolled students that were located regionally. The conundrum of how to continue offering a fully in-person program with the additional opportunity to take the program fully online seemed out of reach.

Beatty and his colleagues researched blended and hybrid models used in higher education to see if a design model already existed. Although the research provided them with great advice, they thought a traditional blended learning approach wouldn’t quite capture the delivery mode they were envisioning.

Beatty experimented with some delivery options for both synchronous (in-person and online) students and asynchronous students in his courses over a few terms, with students providing valuable feedback as ‘design partners’ (Beatty, 2019).

By allowing students to attend classes synchronously or asynchronously at any given time without forfeiting the quality of the learning experience, Beatty had, in essence, created a new delivery mode: HyFlex.

In Beatty’s HyFlex course, students can choose to participate in any mode:

  • Face-to-face, in-class, in-person (in a classroom on campus)
  • Synchronous online via video conferencing during the in-person class
  • Asynchronous online in the learning management system (LMS)

HyFlex allows participation in any mode of delivery throughout the semester according to student wants, needs, and schedules. Because of this, it is recommended to plan HyFlex courses well in advance, starting with the asynchronous mode and by using high-quality instructional materials, learning activities, and engagement strategies.


Start planning with the end goal

When starting to develop HyFlex courses, it is recommended to use a backward design. In the book Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe outline a framework for designing courses using this strategy.

In backward design, the instructor starts with the end in mind by determining learning outcomes that describe what the learner will know or be able to do by the end of the course. After the learning outcomes have been determined, the instructor identifies the assessments that evaluate whether a learner has met those outcomes.

Once the outcomes and assessments are determined, the instructor starts to build the learning plan, including instructional materials (content) and learning activities (engagement) (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005). It is vital that HyFlex courses are intentionally designed using a backward design approach well in advance of the start of the semester.

The following 5-minute video provides a good overview of Backward Design and how focusing on the “destination” in the course creates a more engaging and meaningful experience.

About Backward Design [5:16] Video Transcript [.docx]

Consider all the pieces to the HyFlex puzzle

When designing a HyFlex course, try this process:

  1. Learning Outcomes: Identify what the learner should know and/or be able to do by the end of the course.
  2. Assessment: Identify assessments that evaluate whether the learner met the outcome(s). 
  3. Learning Plan: Identify the topics/units and instructional materials to be included in each. Identify learning activities to engage students in the content.
  4. Considerations: Consider how instructional materials, learning activities, and assessments will be experienced by learners in each delivery mode.
  5. Reflect + Revise: At the end of the semester, reflect on what worked and what didn’t work; revise as needed.

cycle diagram with each of the five process steps illustrated

Beatty’s Four Fundamental Values for HyFlex

Beatty outlines four fundamental values that an instructor should consider when designing a HyFlex course - consider how you can apply them in the early stages of course design.

Learner Choice: Learners choose between participation modes daily, weekly, or topically.

It is vital that students understand how HyFlex courses are set up, expectations in HyFlex environments, and the fluidity in moving between the different delivery modes at any given point in the semester.

Equivalency: Activities in all participation modes lead to equivalent learning outcomes.

Students in any delivery mode should experience the same quality of instructional materials, learning activities, and assessments. They don’t need to be the same; they need to be of equivalent quality depending on the delivery mode.

Reusability: Reuse artifacts from learning activities in each participation mode for all students.

Where possible, design instructional materials and learning activities that can be used across all modes of delivery.

Accessibility: Provide equitable access to all participation modes (Beatty, 2019).

It is important to note here that all instructional materials, learning activities, and resources should be accessible according to accessibility laws in your location.

Consider these additional core principles

In addition to Beatty’s fundamental values, there are a few other core principles to contemplate: the organization of the materials within the course, the use of a predictable and consistent format, and the implementation of the course content and assessments.

  • Organization refers to the advanced work that goes into building a course and working through some practical and theoretical challenges that stem from having different modes of students participating in the same course.
  • Predictability refers to creating an environment where learners and the instructor understand the nuances of how students in all modalities are expected to engage with the course. It also means designing elements, like learning objects, that work for all modalities, giving course participants a predictable way of engaging with the material.
  • Consistency refers to class policies and rules, like how group work is conducted. For instance, can students participate in groups outside of class time asynchronously or are required to meet synchronously? Due to the flexible nature of HyFlex courses, it is important to set the “ground rules” for how the course will operate and follow through consistently throughout the course.
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  • Last Updated: Sep 15, 2023 10:54 AM
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