HyFlex Classrooms Provide Flexibility, Engagement Opportunities
Ryan Jackson was exploring all the ways he could teach in a HyFlex classroom before COVID-19 pushed possibility into reality.
This fall the chair of the Entertainment Industries and Technology department jumped in and taught six classes in a HyFlex classroom where students participated in person and via Zoom simultaneously.
“It was exhausting, but I’m not going back,” he says. “I have a lot to learn, but there are too many benefits with the HyFlex model to go back to a traditional way of teaching.”
HyFlex leverages technology so that courses are taught in a way that students can attend in person or remotely and have similar experiences. It’s a growing trend in higher education as universities like MSUM look for ways to give students more flexibility to attend their classes.
“We’re committed to enabling every single classroom for a HyFlex option,” says Daniel Heckaman, CIO. “The pandemic has permanently changed our classroom design.”
The technology in a HyFlex classroom includes, at minimum, a large-screen monitor, multiple cameras, and a video unit with integrated microphones and speakers. Instructors use a touch screen control to turn on and control the system.
Faculty choose which tools will be useful on any given day, Heckaman says. “But the days of rigidness are gone. Technology has enabled the community to connect in ways that offer so much more flexibility,” he says.
HyFlex, however, is more than the technology. It’s about rethinking how to teach so that all students are actively learning and engaged – whether they choose to attend in person or online.
“We encourage faculty to explore and try new ways of teaching. Our goal is to make learning authentic and more accessible for students,” says Karen Qualey, director of online learning.
Qualey and her team work with faculty to creatively redesign courses.
“Students are craving greater flexibility in how they learn,” she says. “And the more we learn from them, the more we can adapt.”
Jackson had been thinking about offering more of his classes online before the pandemic hit.
“If I could set up a Zoom room for someone in Minneapolis, why wouldn’t I let them join my class virtually without the burden of traveling?” he said.
In the studio where he teaches, Jackson has several cameras to control. While teaching, he monitors an online chat, reviews lecture notes, and strategically stands so that his back is never turned on any of the students in the classroom or online.
“It’s a lot, but once you get your flow going it becomes second nature,” he says. “My goal was to make everyone feel welcome and to deliver the content. Everything else was a bonus.”
Surprisingly, Jackson found that the technology not only allowed students to attend remotely, it also improved experiences for his in-person students. For example, he can zoom in on a sound board and project the image so all students can easily see the details he’s talking about.
“This whole pandemic has allowed us to reach beyond our walls; that’s powerful,” Jackson says.
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