A pedagogical shift to accommodate diverse learner profiles
Compare today’s classroom to one twenty years ago and you might get whiplash. Where we once clacked away on clunky computers (practicing typing, creating Excel spreadsheets – and trying to avoid dysentery on the Oregon Trail), now you’d be hard-pressed to find a course without any online aspects.
Since the dawn of the internet, and the rising prevalence of technology, there’s been a steady movement from in-person learning to online. The latest step in this pedagogical shift is HyFlex learning – a model that’s quickly gaining traction – especially in light of the 2020 pandemic.
One of the most versatile models of learning, HyFlex is a course design meant to fit around the needs of the learner. This is achieved by offering both synchronous (in-person) and asynchronous (online) learning options concurrently.
Where traditional learning models are driven largely by the desires of the instructor and constrained to limited access points (i.e., in-person), HyFlex puts the power into the hands of the student, giving them the freedom, opportunity and potential to learn at their very best.
How HyFlex works
HyFlex is different from traditional (in-person) and modern (blended) course designs because it:
- Exists simultaneously online and in-person
- Allows students to customize their schedule and learning preference from week to week, class to class, lecture to lecture
- Offers classes and course material through a variety of interactive streams (including VR and AR)
- Occurs synchronously and asynchronously for students, and can be accessed 24-7
- Allows instructors to move all (or many elements) of their program to an online format
HyFlex course design allows students the freedom to choose how they show up to learn, whether that’s in person, remotely or a mixture of both. This accommodates a greater range of learners and empowers students to take charge of their education.
It gives students:
- Flexibility to learn according to their schedule, whether they’re working a full-time job, have family commitments or need to work around any other activity their calendar dictates
- Class material that’s always available online for review, which allows for better studying and greater learning retention
- Opportunity for more learner initiative, as students choose when/where they learn
- Wider variety of learning streams that appeal to a broader range of learning styles
- Accessibility to better education for the more vulnerable learner population (such as those in remote locations, or even those suffering from social anxieties)
Tyler Wall, a Digital Learning Specialist who works with instructors to move components of their lessons online, believes HyFlex learning is an effort to make the best of both worlds – and with the least amount of work for the instructor.
HyFlex gives instructors:
- A streamlined learning system (and easier course prep) they can tweak as they see fit
- Reusability of key learning assets
- More diverse and comprehensive teaching methods to help their students achieve greater results
- More freedom on a day-to-day basis
Tyler and his team have been paving the way for online learning for about 12 years already, working with blended learning techniques (online and face-to-face). With HyFlex as the next logical step in this evolution (and the acute need for online learning sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic), the Digital Learning Department is well-positioned to help ease the transition for instructors and students.
With new technology and creative methods, Tyler and his team have been able to do the ‘impossible’. The latest hurdle was to make a real-world object, an information-rich model depicting various intricate geographical features, available online 24-7 for students.
After many iterations, Tyler found success and in effect, created nearly infinite copies of the original model, allowing easier, faster and continuous access for every student in the program.
Victories like these open so many doors for creative solutions to bring information online, and it’s just a glimpse of what’s possible.
HyFlex holds the possibility to be more than just an alternative teaching method. Done properly, it will open new doors to students from all walks of life, whether they’re a young adult working part-time as they attend post-secondary, or they’re a single mother seeking a master’s degree and limited by time constraints. HyFlex is a system designed to fit around every learner.
With this pedagogical movement, it’s essential we also shift our perspective on what exactly a quality learning environment looks like, and what it will take to maintain the same calibre of teaching. It’s a process that will require time and support from everyone; students, instructors, and faculty.
However, through this transition, we believe the college will not only offer a better learning experience for students, and a more comprehensive teaching method for instructors, but also a chance to accommodate and empower everyone who studies with us, whether that’s in person, online – or both.