Brian Beatty, Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at San Francisco State University, pioneered the HyFlex teaching style in 2006.

Aug 17 2023

Classroom Modernization Projects Support HyFlex Learning

Colleges and universities upgrade classrooms to support increased demand for flexible learning options.

Colleges and universities adapted quickly to educational challenges during the pandemic. They subscribed to collaboration tools to support online classes and upgraded in-classroom technology to enable hybrid or HyFlex learning, which was important when students returned to campus.

Now, more than three years later, many institutions have discovered that students want the flexibility and convenience of these different learning modalities to become permanent fixtures, prompting schools to further invest in new classroom technology.

“Experiences from the pandemic era of teaching and learning are having a big impact on the way students and faculty look at learning and work. We’re definitely seeing an increased interest in hybrid and remote modalities,” says Jenay Robert, an EDUCAUSE researcher.

Definitions of what constitutes a hybrid course vary, but it typically offers a mix of classroom instruction with synchronous or asynchronous online sessions. HyFlex, which comes from the words “hybrid” and “flexible,” is a type of blended course that lets students decide how to attend class: in person, live through a videoconference or by watching a recording later.

Hybrid and HyFlex courses allow students to balance education with their personal and professional lives, and that can improve recruitment and retention, educators say. For example, with HyFlex, students can make choices based on their preferred learning styles, schedules or other individual needs.

“Students are asking for flexibility. They want to be able to manage their schedules. They want to be in class when they can be there, and when they can’t, they want to do it online and still have quality,” says Brian Beatty, professor of instructional design and technology at San Francisco State University.

To support these flexible modalities for the long term, colleges and universities are adding video cameras, wireless microphones, speaker systems and large LED displays to their classrooms so that everyone can see and hear one another regardless of their location.

Click the banner below to learn more about the technology behind today's HyFlex learning spaces.

Leading the Way on HyFlex Learning at San Francisco State

SF State primarily offers classroom courses, but the school was an early adopter of the HyFlex model thanks to Beatty, who pioneered the teaching style in 2006. He perfected it over several years by experimenting with course design and technology and getting feedback from his students, who were ideal test subjects: they were graduate students in instructional design and technology.

“I had them attend class online for a week or two, and they couldn’t complain because I had a legitimate case to make. We were learning how to use these technologies differently to support learning,” Beatty says.

Today, 40 to 50 class sections are taught as official HyFlex courses each semester at SF State. Another 40 to 50 are offered as unofficially HyFlex, meaning that faculty list them as classroom courses but allow students to complete the classes online, he says.

The university has upgraded technology in about 40 classrooms to support HyFlex learning. Beatty primarily teaches in a combination HyFlex/active learning classroom that he helped design.

The classroom features two video cameras. When class starts, Beatty launches a Zoom session on an Apple iMac to allow remote students to learn synchronously and to record it for asynchronous online students.

DIG DEEPER: Building out blended learning environments for higher education.

The iMac’s built-in webcam provides a view of the front of the classroom, where Beatty spends most of his time. A Hitachi projector displays presentations on a screen there. A PTZOptics pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera mounted on the ceiling in the back provides online students a wider view of the classroom.

The audio system, featuring wireless microphones and a speaker, is critical and allows remote and in-class students to hear one another, he says. Beatty standardized on Shure wireless lavalier microphones for instructors and Shure desk mics that sit on the room’s five tables, which fit six students each.

To enable active learning, the room includes desks and chairs with wheels; instructors can rearrange them for different types of instruction. Each table has a mounted 60-inch Samsung LED display that in-person students can connect to when collaborating on projects.

Prior to COVID-19, half of Beatty’s graduate students attended class in-person and half attended virtually. Close to 90 percent of students have gone online over the past year, he says, but he anticipates more students will return to the classroom in the next school year.

The key to successfully implementing HyFlex is to ensure all students have the same learning outcomes. He engages with online synchronous students to make sure they feel like part of the class. When he has in-class students break out into small groups for a discussion or project, he asks remote students to go into their own online breakout rooms.

For asynchronous learners, he pauses the recording and directs them to do their own exercises and to add their comments in a shared classroom document online.

“It’s a way to show they are actually engaged and participating,” he says.

Brian Beatty headshot
[Students] want to be in class when they can be there, and when they can’t, they want to do it online and still have quality.”

Brian Beatty Professor of Instructional Design and Technology, San Francisco State University

Missouri State University Nearly Triples Web Conferencing Rooms

Early in the pandemic, Missouri State University tasked Brian P. Leas, coordinator of classroom instructional technologies at the institution’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, with building more web conferencing-capable rooms to enable hybrid and HyFlex learning.

The Springfield campus had a dozen Zoom Rooms for its distance learning programs, but it needed more for the start of the 2020-2021 school year to allow students to attend class while social distancing.

Leas and his team equipped 50 more rooms with videoconferencing equipment in just a week and a half, right before the start of the fall semester. They standardized on a Vaddio EasyIP system with a PTZ camera and ceiling microphones. That enabled faculty to simultaneously teach students in class and students connected live over Zoom.

“Some students were apprehensive about physically being in the classroom, and had we not had the capability to deliver classes online, we would have lost those students,” Leas says.

Two years later, Missouri State has nearly tripled the number of web conferencing-enabled rooms to support an increased demand from students for hybrid, HyFlex and online learning, Leas says. About half of Missouri State’s 365 classrooms now have web conferencing available.

In the new web conferencing rooms, he and his team have installed cameras from Panasonic and PTZOptics as well as new AVer auto-tracking cameras that automatically follow instructors and other speakers.

Some professors teach using hybrid or HyFlex models in those classrooms. Others use the rooms strictly for lecture capture, so they can upload a lesson to the learning management system for their online students, he says.

“We’ve primarily gone back to seated courses, but our faculty members have a lot more choices in the way their courses are delivered: hybrid, HyFlex, online or blended,” he says.



University of Texas at San Antonio Rethinks Classroom Design

In the Southwest, the University of Texas at San Antonio is upgrading 55 classrooms (about one-third of its learning spaces) to support flexible teaching and learning. That includes videoconferencing equipment, says Joe Tobares, executive director for academic technologies and strategic enterprise.

In Spring 2021, administrators met with faculty and students to discuss what classrooms should look like post-pandemic. They had embraced different modalities during the health crisis, including fully online courses and hybrid courses, where some class sessions were in-person and other sessions were fully online.

The HyFlex model was critical for students not comfortable with returning to the classroom immediately, says Melissa Vito, vice provost for academic innovation. “The HyFlex piece was most important to some students who wanted to be home and still participate.”

In focus groups and surveys, administrators discovered that faculty wanted to support a flexible pedagogy moving forward, including active learning and remote learning activities in their classrooms, she says.

As a result, the university developed several standard classroom configurations, including “connected” and “active connect” rooms, which leverage audiovisual equipment.

Those rooms include Panasonic AW Series 4K PTZ cameras; Shure wireless microphones; speakers; multiple LED displays from Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and others; a Crestron control panel for managing the audiovisual equipment; and an Extreme Networks switch to network the equipment together, Tobares says.

Both room designs are similar, but the active connect rooms feature movable furniture for active learning. In both rooms, faculty can choose the web conferencing software they will use, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex, Tobares says.

UTSA also has built Zoom classrooms, which are similar to the connected rooms but offer a one-touch system that allows faculty to easily launch a Zoom session at the click of a button, he says.

So far, the university has built 31 of these flexible learning spaces and will complete the remaining 24 this summer. With videoconferencing available in these classrooms, professors can invite guest lecturers to speak remotely to their students. If students are sick and can’t make it to class that day, they can join the class online.

“We have the technology to do it, and it allows faculty to be flexible and give that opportunity to students,” Tobares says.


The percentage of respondents who are modifying classroom learning spaces to support remote or hybrid learning

Source:, “EDUCAUSE QuickPoll Results: Learning Spaces Transformation,” April 1, 2023
Photography by Cody Pickens

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