Wearing my Virtual Lenses: Designing Classes for 3 Different Delivery Methods

1B7127F2-FEB3-4342-BC15-06BFABE4AFD0For the past month or so I’ve been exploring the world of educational podcasts. There’s one topic I have yet to encounter: HyFlex learning.

Any recommendations?

In the meantime, I’m going to reflect on what I’m doing. Maybe it’ll summon all the other HyFlex-ers out there.

First, let’s start with a definition of HyFlex. It’s a mix of hybrid (both online and in person) and flexible delivery (student choice in learning methods).

There are 3 modes of delivery:

  1. Traditional face-to-face classroom style
  2. Synchronous (meaning students join virtually in real time via video conferencing. They can actively participate using their device’s microphone.)
  3. Asynchronous (meaning students view the recording and work through tasks after the class has occurred, while still staying on pace with weekly topics).

The flexible part means that students can alternate between these delivery options based on their preferences.

Technically, this means I could have a class with no one in it or a class with only virtual students, or a class with absolutely no one. Just me. 

At the beginning of the year, I ask for a heads up as to people’s preferred mode of delivery. I also request students to email me when possible if they’ll be using a different method for any particular class. This helps me get a sense for what to expect. But, because it’s intended to be flexible, I don’t bank on the advanced notice. Instead, I put on my lenses.

I have to make sure I put on my virtual lenses for every choice I make. I’ve collected quite the collection of lenses:

I love having the option to pause the recording. I pause it during breaks. I pause it during class activities. I pause it during silences while waiting for students to respond. This helps keep only the essential components in the recording. Students don’t need to fast forward through things like the break.

Flip charts and traditional white boards are out of the question. I use Zoom which allows for annotation on slides so it functions the same way as a flip chart or white board.

Using sticky notes for students to jot down ideas isn’t inclusive of virtual students. Instead, I use online platforms such as Padlet or Menti where students can share their ideas in real time. Asynchronous students can then review the contributions after the fact and still participate. In-class and synchronous students can return to these platforms to explore what other contributions have been added. If for some reason sticky notes made the most sense, I’d take photos and share them on the learning management system (Moodle).

Class handouts must equal virtual handouts. For in class students, I’ll sometimes print handouts but I’ll also have a link posted on Moodle with the activity. 

I provide both in-class and virtual options for feedback. I like the ticket out the door method and I’ll sometimes randomly bring index cards or sticky notes for students to share anonymous feedback at the end of class. But I also have Padlets specific to each course I teach in each corresponding Moodle shell so anonymous feedback can be shared at any time.

I also meet with all virtual students one on one at the beginning of the semester to not only get to know them but to answer questions they may have about online learning. Throughout the program, I check in periodically to ensure things are going okay and to ask if there’s anything I can do to improve their experience.

I try to nurture connections across all modes of delivery. This begins by students introducing themselves and posting a picture in a Padlet at the beginning of the year. I’ll coordinate wellness activities where they share a compliment or ask a question to a classmate they don’t know too well. I also take photos for memories. To include virtual students, I’ve got printed coloured photos of them taped onto sticks so they can join us. The photos are then shared to Moodle.

I make a point to acknowledge asynchronous students while recording lessons. I will suggest modifications or tips such as asking them to pause the video, jot down some notes and then continue watching.

I send out 2-3 whole class announcements each week. The purpose is multi fold: to notify students when all material is available on Moodle (as Zoom recordings require processing time, or sometimes I’ll be waiting to receive slides from a guest speaker). It also allows me to continue to be a presence, especially for asynchronous students. It’s a chance for me to provide reminders about evaluations and to respond to any concerns. For example, I may revise assignment instructions to better meet the needs of my students. I still maintain a certain standard but I’m able to tweak areas here and there based on their needs. I am transparent about changes and explain my rationale. All my decisions are intended to benefit the students. 

Sometimes I make videos specifically for asynchronous students. In one class, students sat back to back and had to coach each other to draw an item but they could only do so by referring to shapes. The point was to bring to light how easily communication can be misinterpreted. For the asynchronous students, I created a separate video for them in which I provided the instructions for them to draw. In the main class recording, I directed the students to pause the video, and go to the coaching video I created just for them and then return to the main video.

Because I help prepare students for a helping profession, I consider role-play practice to be an integral part of their experience. In class students work together in the classroom while synchronous students are put into breakout rooms where they can communicate one on one privately. But what happens when there’s only one synchronous student? I’ve paired them up with an in-class student to connect via FaceTime or Whatsapp. I make my rounds, observe role-plays and step in and provide personalized guidance. For the asynchronous students, I approach this in different ways: ask them to partner up and practice at a mutually agreeable time and/or ask them to create a written script or video and send it to me. This way, I can also provide feedback. I’ve started to explore FlipGrid as another platform for practicing skills. I’ll create a grid with a specific topic and ask students to post a video testing out their learning. I emphasize that it’s not intended to be smooth – that bumps along the way are okay. So far, this hasn’t really taken off but a few students have given it a try.

While I try to cultivate environments to practice, students may choose not to. What I do as a workaround is to incorporate role play components into assignments. I approach it in a scaffolding approach. First, as you know, I provide opportunities for practice and feedback. Not all asynchronous students take me up on the offer to send me a video or script for personalized feedback. But this is why I scaffold.

Then, they have graded evaluations that involves a video taped role play demonstrating their skills. This is to help give them incentive to take part in the practice role play exercises and, if nothing else, it allows me to assess their skills at some point.

The next stage of the scaffolding is a graded in-vivo role-play. I have one class that’s divvied up into one-on-one sessions with me. I role play a client and they have to respond based on their accumulative learning. This of course isn’t actually feasible to complete over a three hour period so I also have signup slots outside of class time. For virtual students, I connect with them via Zoom for their session. This helps me get to know each student’s skill level before the first semester comes to a close.

The third semester involves a placement and it’s important that I help coach and guide students to be successful in the field. 

I also create care packages that I mail out for online students with any supplies from the classroom, such as swag from guest speakers or Halloween goodie bags. Last year, I had the in-class students sign a Christmas card.

Was this mundane to read? Was it all common sense?

Before I started HyFlex teaching, it was hard to wrap my head around. It also felt intimidating. But it’s becoming more fluid. But I feel like there’s so much untapped potential!

I like hearing tidbits of information of what other faculty are up to and feeling inspired. And because I have yet to encounter a HyFlex episode of a Podcast, I wanted to share my experience in case someone else is looking for this particular topic. And to of course summon the other HyFlex-ers.

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