As school districts around the country struggle with what classrooms will look like in the next month, Life West is offering students a little something for everyone.
In what Life West is calling a hyflex model, curriculum is being delivered in a hybrid model. Every class is being delivered in person, via live streaming and as a recording.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Pardeep Kullar, EdD, describes hyflex as an instructional model that gives students a choice in how they are interacting in their college experience.
“In a hyflex model, we have a lecture happening on ground in the classroom while at the same time it is live online and happening virtually, so students may log in remotely from home, they can participate in person, or they can even experience the lecture at a later time if the timing is not convenient for them,” she explained.
The decision to go with a hyflex model is based on surveys Life West conducted in the previous quarter, when all coursework was being conducted virtually, to assess whether the college was meeting student instructional needs and addressing their concerns.
Dr. Kullar said the response to the decision to go hyflex has been positive. “Students are really excited because this gives them the opportunity to choose how to interface with classmates and their instructor, and whether they want to be on campus at the time of the class.”
In surveys done last quarter, Dr. Kullar said a high percentage of those who responded did appreciate the online model for its autonomy, such as functionality that allowed them to watch a lecture later. However, students also valued and missed not having person-to-person interactions with a faculty member.
“We looked at options where we could combine opportunities for students to choose and decide what works best for them,” she said. Giving them the ability to interact with a faculty member in person was an important part of the hyflex solution. Students who are attending in person or through a live streaming session can talk to their teacher in real time.
Dr. Kullar said most of Life West’s classrooms have enough space that, even with social distancing protocols, there is enough space for all students enrolled in the class. There are a handful of classes that will require reservations first, which students can make through Canvas, the learning management system the students and faculty use for communicating about coursework.
Dr. Kullar said Life West will conduct more surveys as well as gather data from faculty members on which classes are going well remotely and which do better live. “That data will give us more information about which classes are preferred as an online option only, and which classes are better for in-person instruction,” she said.
The hyflex model gives faculty and students a bit more reassurance, in case another pivot is required. If county regulations change and do not allow any classes on campus at all, the model allows for faculty to keep on schedule and continue delivering lectures from home.
“Some faculty are also really excited for the in-person experience,” Dr. Kullar added. “They’ve enjoyed aspects of online instruction, but the personal experience is also important and they’ve been missing it.”
The great thing, she said, is that offering these options doesn’t require any extra effort on part of the faculty member or the student. All classrooms are set up for a hyflex model, with cameras and document readers on site already.
“The first priority is faculty and student health and safety,” Dr. Kullar said. “Being flexible is really key at this time. If someone isn’t feeling well, they can also do this from home.”
Student Nicole Giove said she is looking forward to having classes in person again. “I struggled with my entire schedule of classes last quarter on Zoom,” she said. “It is helpful to have the flexibility to go or watch from home, but I will definitely be returning to campus to get back on my daily routine.”
International student Diljot Virdi, who is in the U.S. on a student visa, says the hyflex system allows her to comply with requirements and also stay in the country to finish up clinic and boards. “I think it’s great the school is doing a combination of online and in-person teaching,” she said. “As an upper-quarter student, I won’t have any compulsory labs that I have to attend in person, however I will be in clinic at times. It allows me to have the choice as to whether I would rather stay at school and attend a class as opposed to viewing it online.”