Benefits and Challenges
In a HyFlex environment, students can attend and engage with their class virtually or within a traditional physical classroom space, based on personal preference or need.
HyFlex learning also provides more equitable access for students with a range of physical and emotional dis/abilities. For example, a student with mobility issues who finds it difficult to access public transportation, or a student who suffers from anxiety can have the opportunity to attend class asynchronously or synchronously.
The HyFlex classroom space is also helpful for students with a variety of learning preferences. Students who prefer a more social, interpersonal learning experience can attend in-person or synchronously; students who prefer more self-paced classes can participate asynchronously. HyFlex learning environments also allow for continued, uninterrupted instruction given specific circumstances – for example, a citywide health or safety emergency, or a snow day (CAT Subcommittee on Enhancing Teaching, Learning, and Support, 2022).
One of the greatest challenges of HyFlex is the physical space and technology difficulties inherent in the model. For example, if portable technology (like OWL’s or cameras/mics on tripods) are used, there may be issues with the security of equipment and/or frequent need for repairs. If a classroom is equipped with HyFlex technology, there is a need for maintenance and support of that technology. Although the literature supports HyFlex teaching in both small classes and large lecture-based classes, experience has shown that unless there is adequate technology and on-call technical support, HyFlex may not work in a large lecture space (Hunter College Hyflex Community Conversations, 2022).
There are also instructor considerations when it comes to teaching HyFlex classes. Many faculty members need support in developing a course in 2 or 3 modalities, including planning specific and relevant instruction, activities, and assessment. College Centers of Teaching and Learning can be of great help here (CAT Subcommittee on Enhancing Technology, Learning, and Support, 2021). There is also the cognitive overload and additional teaching anxiety that can happen within the classroom due to having to attend to synchronous and in-person modalities all at once, including if/when there are technical issues (Huang, 2017). For example, if internet connection in a classroom fails briefly, students attending class synchronously lose instructional time. Instructors then must go through the process of “admitting” students to class again and catch synchronous students up to the rest of the class. Instructors should be aware of this and have the tools and support to work through different possible HyFlex classroom situations.
Student challenges include missing all or parts of a lecture because of technology issues, as in the example above, and/or choosing a learning modality that may not work for them, thereby affecting their progress in class (Detna et al., 2022). Some students may choose a synchronous or asynchronous format because of flexibility and time constraints, but an important question needs to be asked: “Is the time expenditure by students equivalent in whichever mode they are participating in?” Student time invested needs to be equitable, therefore in-person and synchronous students need to be spending the same amount of time in the classroom as compared to asynchronous students. Also, just as instructors need preparation to be good HyFlex teachers, students need specific knowledge focusing on how to succeed within a HyFlex learning environment. This means discussing with students how to choose the modality that may work best for them. Brian Beatty (2021) does this by asking students to journal weekly about how the class is going for them. He asks about individual student progress and understanding, but also how modality choice may have affected their learning. For example, a student may share how they usually participate asynchronously, but, after listening to a recorded lecture, wished they had been present for the in-person discussion. This type of instructor-student interaction may lead to increased student insight regarding modality choice and individual course learning.