Hybrid Flexible Learning in the Age of COVID-19

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The first slide of Session 1 slide deck for a workshop on Hybrid Flexible Course Design. It includes Lance Eaton's contact information and the Creative Commons License

Recently, I had the opportunity to deliver a 3-session workshop on designing and teaching hybrid-flexible courses.  Hybrid-flexible course design has become immensely popular in the last few months as much of higher education is scrambling to come up with a plan for navigating fast changes in uncertain times.  

There are various definitions and other valuable voices on the topic but by and large, for me, I've always defined hybrid flexible learning as:  "A learning experience designed to empower students to determine where and how they learn best. Hybrid means mixing face to face (F2F) with online learning. Flexible means students choose their conditions (online vs. F2F) which may impact which learning materials, activities, and assessments they may end up using or engaging."

The idea came to me while I was teaching a once-a-week course--one of the worse structures for learning where convenience outranks what we know about learning.  That's not saying that learning can't happen in these 3-hour sessions, but that we know that in many ways, learning is harder to do effectively.  

Beyond realizing how the 3-hour sessions challenged effective learning, they also created an extra challenge for students. Students have complex and at times, chaotic lives.  So many of my students can have life turn on a dime and things become so fundamentally different.  In this one class, this became clear as I worked with a student who was ready to tackle the course and wanted to learn but whose personal life was going sideways in ways that were uncontrollable.  This left the student unable to attend some classes. I worked with the student but with the once-a-week structure, it just made it hard that if the student missed one class, they were essentially behind two weeks by the time they came back.  

It irked me and got me to thinking about how can that problem be solved. I had been teaching online at that point and was an instructional designer.  It struck me that there's no reason why if one teaches the same course in both formats, that one couldn't blend them together for maximum effect.  So as a final project for my Master's program in Instructional Design, I redesigned my American Literature course into a hybrid flexible course that students could take entirely face-to-face, entirely online, or move back and forth between the two as they saw fit.  It worked really well.  

I have regularly encouraged faculty to think about designing courses using Hybrid Flexible course design because I think it leaves them in the best situation to pivot and respond to whatever the challenges that might arise.  For instance, the second time I taught the course happened to be during the 2015 winter snowpocalypse where Massachusetts was hit with near-weekly blizzards for 5-6 weeks.  I met my students once on the first day in late January and then didn't meet again until the end of February.  But we didn't miss a beat because the course was structured in a way so that they were prepared to pivot online and knew what to do.  There were other things that came from that experience that I could highlight but for now, I think that's the most prevalent.  

So all of this is to say that I was delighted when my colleague at University of Saint Joseph asked me to do a 3 session workshop on Hybrid Flexible Course Design.  It happened over the course of a week and a half (because there was a weather disruption that left many participants without power--quite ironic).  

Anyways, I thought I would share some of the materials (slide decks, activity sheets, and workshop outline) so that if folks want to adapt them or want to speak with me more about doing a workshop at your institute, you can get a sense of the work that I do.  As always, the materials have a Creative Commons license.  

Here's the first slide deck to get a sense of what we cover and do.  

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