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.
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.