After two years of navigating a dynamic and unpredictable pandemic, we're learning that flexibility and safety are central to promoting consistency in our everyday routines. Selecting only one delivery pathway for post-secondary courses is no longer a feasible option as the nature of COVID-19 is constantly changing, and adapting becomes increasingly challenging. Making HyFlex classrooms the standard for course delivery will mean pedagogy that works better for all students' needs regardless of whether they are face-to-face or remote in another country.
HyFlex (a combination of “hybrid” and “flexible") classrooms are designed around hybrid delivery of in-person and online instruction. Using cameras installed into physical classrooms, professors can continue face-to-face teaching while engaging with students tuning in remotely at the same time. This technology ensures all participants have the ability to either be in-person or at least feel they are in-person. Moreover, it is easy to implement at a low cost while also allowing for more students to access the same course sections and materials.
Currently, students have minimal ways of getting around class attendance requirements even in the event of being positive with COVID-19. HyFlex classrooms offer students an alternate option that will make campuses safer for all while removing barriers students face in many situations. Even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, HyFlex solutions offer a tremendous opportunity to deliver high-quality pedagogy to students requiring any accommodation needs by allowing students to select a delivery method that suits them best that day. It also benefits student groups traditionally benefiting from remote and hyflex options such as mature, part-time and those studying from abroad or unable to come on campus.
There is currently a lack of data on how many HyFlex classrooms are present in the post-secondary landscape in Ontario. However, its efficacy in colleges and universities currently utilising the technology is undeniable as an option to blend face-to-face instruction with asynchronous methods. eCampusOntario is one of the organizations in this space promoting the benefits of HyFlex classrooms and how making investments into a hybrid future will evolve post-secondary education to meet the needs of current and future learners and professionals.
If HyFlex classrooms are implemented broadly on campuses across the province, we will be able to effectively provide high-quality education to more and diverse students. Low-income students benefit by having the choice whether to bear the cost of housing and transportation. Disabled students benefit by having a wider variety of options and can utilise them freely depending on the day and situation. Students with dependents benefit by not compromising their loved ones to attend in-person lectures and miss out if unable. Any student outside of these groups benefit as well in the event of unforeseen circumstances that require them to stay home if needed, all without missing a beat in their post-secondary education. HyFlex classrooms must become a more common session delivery system to fully provide students and professors alike with the tools necessary to move post-secondary into the hybrid age and provide access to more than ever before.
Written by Malek Abou-Rabia, Policy Writer at the Brock University Students' Union.