In-person Classes are Going to Become Hyflex Courses — And How to Start Preparing

We all want everything to go back to normal. We miss seeing our students, laughter, hugs, working with groups, hands-on lessons and labs, hallway conversations, lunch with friends, and the insights that come out of spontaneous discussions. We miss the joy. Our students miss all of this too.

By the beginning of August, the party line from many schools and colleges has been that they plan on reopening in the fall, and resuming in-person classes. Many people where I teach are eagerly moving forward with planning instruction on the assumption that we will be back in classrooms with our students at least some of the time.

Spiking rates of COVID-19 might force us to start teaching online again; we should all have contingency plans for a repetition of last March. Even if that does not happen, our classrooms are not going to return to normal. Some schools are planning on having each half of a class meet on alternate days. Others are allowing students and their families to choose whether to attend online or in-person.

Even if our classes are meeting in person, teachers are going to have to navigate a patchwork of attendance issues. How will students access our classes if they are quarantined for two weeks? Or if they are sick? Or if they are too concerned for their safety to come to class? Not to mention that we will have to excuse any student who says they feel sick, or who says that returning to school doesn’t feel safe. Attendance policies will become meaningless. Assignment deadlines might too.

Image for post
Image for post

We are going to need to re-think how we structure our courses.

Currently, course structures are usually categorized as:

  • In-person = traditional classes that are entirely in person)

Until a treatment or cure for COVID-19 is found, all of our “in-person” classes are going to become de facto hyflex classes. Inevitably, even if our class is defined as an “in person” class, we will end up having to provide online options, and likely both synchronous and asynchronous options as well.

Some of my colleagues have taught hyflex graduate courses, and they say that teaching in that format can double, or even triple, planning time because they need to plan what each class is going to look like for students who are 1) in the room, 2) Zooming in, 3) not able to attend at that time, who will need to access the recorded content later. But they also said that the amount of work involved can depend on how we structure our courses.

I am not writing this to freak anyone out. We can mitigate some of the negative impacts if we start planning for this reality now. We should start considering what our classes and course policies will look like in hyflex formats. I don’t think any of us have all the answers for what quality hyflex instruction looks like — particularly at the K-12 level. But here are some questions and ideas to consider as we adapt to hyflex models:

What would you want students to be in class for? What can students get from face-to-face meetings that they can’t get in any other format?

  • Consider what most needs to happen when you see students in person and prioritize using class time for that.

Where will students primarily get information for your course?

  • Lectures — consider ways to film and post your lectures. Better yet, don’t rely solely on lectures.

What will students need to do? What work will you need to see and check?

  • If students are doing worksheets or quizzes, consider putting those in digital formats such as quizzes on your course management system or on Peardeck, Google Forms, Quizlet, Kahoot, etc.

What kinds of feedback do students need from us and at what times?

  • How will students see (and show that they have read) our written feedback? Course management systems like Google Classroom, plus Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and many other systems allow us to write comments directly on documents. Or we could consider or screencasts of us reading their work and providing verbal feedback.

How and when will students interact?

  • Small groups — create break-out groups in Zoom. Or use laptops to zoom in a student and move the laptop to put them in groups with the students.

What physical materials will students need?

  • Classroom supplies — ask students to find these at the start of the lesson, or send an email in advance telling them what to bring to class meetings. Work with the district or school in advance to send or loan materials to students who can’t come to school. Or consider other items they could use at home or access digitally.

What else we will need to do to make hybrid teaching a success

Teach norms

Just as we explicitly teach students how to interact with each other in our classrooms, we will need to explicitly teach them how to interact online, or how to interact when some students are in the room and some are online. Consider what you will need to teach your students about dressing appropriately, eating and drinking at appropriate times, appropriate language, turn-taking, attentiveness, how and when to “chat” either in person or with Zoom’s “chat” feature, how to raise their hands, how to be excused, and all other behaviors you would expect regardless of whether they are in person or online.

Rethink class policies

Many of us give credit for attendance, but we are entering a term where there will be multiple, often legitimate, reasons why students cannot attend class. We may need to have more flexible attendance policies.

Homework policies

What would provide students enough structure to be successful while also providing enough flexibility to allow them to manage access, health, and other issues? Perhaps instead of attendance and rigid due dates, we should consider:

  • Check-ins — contact with us by a certain date

Opportunities for Growth

While hyflex teaching is going to create a lot of challenges and changes, disruptions to our typical teaching schemas can also lead to innovation. This can be an opportunity for all of us to rethink what content is really important for students to learn, what kinds of interactions among students we are trying to foster, and what pedagogies and policies will best help students be successful. Are there other forms of instruction that are as good or better than teaching all of our students the same content, at the same time? Are there ways that more choice and flexibility could help students learn better and foster a stronger sense of agency and ownership? Are there forms of interaction that could foster a stronger sense of community or provide better feedback? Does “teaching” always mean having to teach a group of 30 students all at once? Does learning always have to happen in lockstep? So many of us have been working within the brick and mortar classroom paradigms for so long that we haven’t been able to do much thinking out of the box (literally). Maybe we don’t all know what hyflex learning will look like this year, but we will have a chance to work together to expand our thinking about teaching and learning.

I would love to see or hear about what people are doing to move to hyflex instruction. Please add what you’re doing to the comments!

Written by

Suzie Null is a former middle and high school teacher and current professor of Teacher Education. Follow her on Twitter at WritingontheWall @NullSet16

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store