What the Heck is HyFlex Learning!?

What the Heck is HyFlex Learning!?


To begin I need to admit that I have never heard of the term HyFlex learning prior to last week.  This is where I began my research this week.  I needed to figure out exactly what this type of learning was and what it ecompasses.

What is HyFlex?

Leigh shared a great article titled Educause’s article titled, “7 Things You Should Know About The HyFlex Course Model” which outlines HyFlex Learning model. First off, this type of learning model has many moving parts that need to be aligned and functioning well to be an effective mode to deliver online education. This can make it difficult to do well. 

Simply stated, HyFlex learning is a type of learning environment which combines face to face (F2F) and online learning together.  A more in depth and detailed outline describes HyFlex learning as a format which offers the student the choice of engaging their learning in-person, synchronously online and asynchronously;  the student has the flexibility in how they will participate daily.  


Within the article from Educause Learning Initiative, was another article that sheds some light on what Hyflex Learning is.  Brian Beatty outlines in Hybrid Flexible Course Design  that the result of HyFlex learning is a “student-directed, multimodal learning experience.”  This approach provides students with autonomy, flexibility and seamless engagement no matter where, how, or when they engage with the course.


What Goes Into HyFlex Learning!?

Now that I have a somewhat decent grasp on this HyFlex Learning concept, it is now time to dive into how the heck it is implemented! HyFlex Learning requires educators to adapt to an environment that they may or may not be accustomed to.  It requires them to rethink the entire learning experience and how students are going to be interacting with their peers, instructors, and course material.  The teacher must organize and develop the course content, tools, and channels in a way that will reflect the structure of the HyFlex framework. All of these components must jive together to ensure a smooth course implementation.

A few major components that go into making the HyFlex framework tick are: all students must have access to the learning resources, the instructor and their peers regardless of how they choose to engage with the content.  All educational resources must be online and students will typically take part in some sort of online chat or forum.  With that said, students also need to have unlimited internet access so they are able to take part in all the aspects of their HyFlex course offering.  A different component to HyFlex learning that may not be seen in other online learning modules is its ability to provide students the opportunity to complete classwork asynchronously or away from the designated in person or synchronous classes.

Advantages to HyFlex

There are a number of advantages to implementing and utilizing the HyFlex Learning model. One of the major advantages is its ability to continue learning through different adverse times, while also maintaining the health and safety of all involved.  We are seeing this currently play out as we are navigating the current health crisis of COVID-19.  This model will provide opportunities for learning to continue even when it is not safe to congregate and collaborate in person.  A global health crisis is not the only situation where this learning model can be effective.  There are situations such as natural disasters or disability which can create a situation where classes or students individually are unable to attend F2F classes, but would be able to continue learning with the utilization of the HyFlex model. 

Brian Beatty outlines in is chapter on Costs and Benefits to Hybrid Flexible Course and Programs some of the  advantages to HyFlex:

 Advantages for Students: 

  • Increase access to courses – when attending class in person is problematic, and when desired classes are scheduled at the same time
  • Schedule control – more control over day to day schedules associated with attending class.
  • More learning resourcesmultiple modes of participation often require more robust instructional materials, enabling richer instruction and providing additional opportunities for learning 

Advantages for Educators:

  • Able to serve more students with the same resources (time, instructional materials, distance, travel)
  • Develop skills and experience in teaching online without giving up classroom instruction
  • Provide a built-in alternative when classroom instruction isn’t possible due to scheduling conflicts

Disadvantages to HyFlex

Brian Beatty also outlines in is chapter on Costs and Benefits to Hybrid Flexible Course and Programs some of the  disadvantages to HyFlex:

Disadvantages for Students:

  • Requires personal management related to learning path: decision-making (which way to participate?) and when online is chosen, requires substantial time management skills.
  • Personal and technical resources are required to participate in the online version of the course: (most commonly) hardware, network, ability to engage in online learning platforms, and the ability to learn through mediated experiences.
  • Digital Divide – not all students have the same access to technology and as a result may impact their ability to take engage in the online portions of this model wheter it is synchronous or asynchronous.

Disadvantages for Educators:

  • Design and develop a course that supports multiple and simultaneous modes of student participation, essentially creating both fully face to face and online formats.
  • Manage the technical complexity of multi-modal instruction, especially when synchronous participation is supported.
  • Administrate the participation of students in varied formats: tracking attendance and participation, practice and assessment activities, and providing interaction and feedback.
  • Managing the moving parts to effectively excute this type of learning model. The technology and curriculum must align and the technology must work consistently for all those involved. Finally, the learnig must be equivalent no matter the learning path chosen by the student.

HyFlex Feasibility

With the continuation of the technology boom and the current global COVID 19 pandemic, I think the HyFlex Learning model is gaining more and more momentum as the education world is forced to pivot over and over in hopes of providing opportunities for learning to continue.  The pandemic has shown us that it is indeed possible to provide good learning opportunities without having an in-person component.  We will continue to see more students engaging if this is a model that is offered on a continual basis due to the flexible nature of this model alone. 

I feel that HyFlex has a major draw towards the Graduate level courses or to an audience who may find it difficult to attend in person classes or to continue their education due to time constraints and other responsibilities.  Like most things that require change, there are going to be those who are not in favor of this model and will continue to operate in their previous ways, which I see as a good thing and another opportunity provided! 



6 thoughts on “What the Heck is HyFlex Learning!?

  1. Very Informative – great post. I appreciated learning through your post. I think HyFlex learning would be a fabulous place to begin for some of our students that are transient and simply don’t get to the building as often as I would like them to as a teacher.

  2. Bret,

    I enjoyed reading your comprehensive post about the HyFlex Model. I also appreciated that you broke down the advantages and disadvantages of this model for teachers and students. I think this model would be difficult to implement straight off the hop… It requires a very gradual start to ensure all the moving parts are functioning accordingly. I thought I would really struggle with online courses, but I’ve actually enjoyed them. I would love to take a HyFlex structured class, as I’ve learned, sometimes you surprise yourself!

    Leona, great point about transient students. This flexible and accessible model would certainly give these students more options to engage in their learning!

  3. Great post Bret,
    As Leigh mentioned earlier, I don’t think this is something a less established teacher could implement. There are a lot of ‘balls to juggle’ in a regular teaching environment and this simply adds more ‘balls’. Once established, it appears the advantages for students are abundant. In saying this, it seems as though students need to be intrinsically motivated to participate in HyFlex or they could be easily left behind and overlooked. Struggling students have more difficulties maintaining their school relationships and communities. Online learning has already shown us that motivated students show up everyday. Clearly I need to explore HyFlex further!

  4. Bret,
    You gave a very thorough and engaging explanation of this type of learning. I myself have never been in a class that uses this model and I would be curious to see how many people would actually choose in-person learning when given the option between the two. I would imagine that students new to University or new to the city would be more likely to want the in-person learning experience, but in a master’s program when most students have careers and families, online learning seems to be the way to go. I’m curious to hear if any of my fellow graduate students would prefer to be in person at the university as opposed to online!

  5. Thanks for the great overview of HyFlex learning! I was pretty confused about the different terminology, but better understand it after your post. I like the idea that it might support more transient students, but also wonder (and have found in my experience) that transiency is also often coupled with issues like poverty, which often means a lack of access to technology. Maybe that will change since access to the internet is now being seen as human right. Anyhow, thanks again for sharing this information.

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