What supports do students need when beginning a HyFlex course experience? As with most, if not all, instructional delivery/course modes, there are several general supports needed, and specific supports depending on the exact implementation approach being used. This post describes a few of the general supports. A follow-on post will describe specific posts needed for several varied HyFlex course modes in use at SF State.
Generally speaking… to begin with, students need basic information about their participation options. Do they have to attend class live and in-person? When? For what purpose? Which online participation options are available to them? How do they access those? We have also found it useful to explain the various modes and highlight reasons why someone might choose one or another, and – just importantly – why someone should NOT choose one or another (especially various online options). Helping students decide which mode to use for a given session may be more important for those with little or no HyFlex experience, or those who have been unable to choose wisely in previous experiences.
Another general student support needed is the ability to identify courses available in HyFlex mode and what special arrangements are needed to enroll and participate. On our campus, for large HyFlex sections scheduled for rooms that cannot meet the full enrollment capacity, students must choose either in-person or online evaluation. If they choose in-person evaluation, they are expected to show up on campus during a scheduled exam time. If they choose online evaluation, they must complete all exams online. If they show up in person, they will not be allowed to take the exam in the scheduled classroom. This allows the university to manage larger enrollments that exceed room capacity, realizing one of the key organizational value returns enabled by HyFlex.
Related to participation decisions students must make is clearly identifying the technology required to participate in various modes. Do students need “clickers” if they attend in person? Other personal technology (laptops, etc.)? Do students need headsets to participate in live online mode? Or are speakers alone good enough? (If the synchronous technology used doesn’t allow for student audio input, or they aren’t expected to speak in class – as in many larger lecture classes – students won’t need a working mic.) Do students need special plugins, browsers, or other software applications? Do bandwidth specifications matter? (In synchronous modes, especially when video and audio channels are used, bandwidth may be a limiting factor.) For a simple example, see the technical specifications needed to use the “Coursestream” system at SF State, used for lecture capture that supports lecture-based HyFlex (and other) courses.
You may also have special access or instructions for using other instructional resources that vary from mode to mode. If you are providing hard copies of readings or handouts in class and you expect online students to access these as well (synchronously in session or asynchrnously at any other time), how will they do that? (consider copyright concerns, digitizing media, etc.) Clearly, the more consistent the use of resources across all modes, the simpler this will be – both for your students and for you as an instructor/designer.
There may be other important general factors I haven’t addressed here. I welcome your comments and questions… if you have any, you can drop them off here and I will engage you in the conversation. Next time I’ll address a few ways we address specific student needs in a variety of our classes.