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:
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.
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]
When designing a HyFlex course, try this process:
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.
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.