How to Build Community in Hyflex Environments
In the past year and a half or so, since the start of the pandemic and the accompanying global pivot to online learning, many educators have grown accustomed to working with a set of complex instructional terms all of which attempt to describe the many (sometimes bewildering) ways that learning happens in online environments. One of those terms is hyflex, which describes a learning environment that combines three modalities: in-person synchronous, online synchronous, and online asynchronous.
What does all of that mean? In essence, it means that students who enroll in a course billed as hyflex have the option to move flexibly between three different ways of participating: 1) physically going to a class at a specific time, 2) attending that same class but online instead of in-person, and 3) working through the class materials online and in a self-paced capacity.
How hard is it to create hyflex learning experiences? Well... very. The teacher of a hyflex course has to prepare materials to be experienced in three separate modes, all without compromising the learning outcomes for students in any one mode. If you are preparing a lecture, for example, then you have to make sure the material of that lecture works equally well for people in the room, people on the screen, and people working through the content online at another time. The hyflex teacher, then, has the monumental job of designing a course to be experienced in multiple ways -- for every one class delivered, the hyflex teacher preps for three! Furthermore, the teacher has to do all of this without knowing ahead of time which mode students may choose, or when they might switch modes.
If you think this sounds daunting, you are in good company. While InSpace can’t necessarily change the complexity of the task of preparing a hyflex course, we can offer hyflex educators a key ingredient to making this instructional environment successful for teachers and students. What is that key ingredient? Quite simply, it is community. Creating and building a strong learning community with InSpace allows teachers and students in the hyflex environment to form connections across modalities, to support one another regardless of where they are, and to foster a sense of belonging that transcends location and time.
For a multitude of reasons, it’s hard to maintain a sense of connection and community among learners and educators within the hyflex environment, but InSpace offers tools to easily overcome this disconnect by bringing humanity back into the hyflex learning space. Our integration with Canvas automatically creates seamless connection opportunities that instantly and easily create community. Namely, InSpace’s enduring chat feature allows participants in the course to post, share, and support one another asynchronously at any time. Additionally, InSpace’s built-in study space allows students within a course to stop into a virtual study room at any time around the clock, and to connect and study synchronously with anyone else from the class who happens to be there.
InSpace offers educators these community-building tools to help make hyflex learning environments work better. When learners form a community, that sense of membership and connection can permeate all three modalities experienced in hylfex learning environments. By making use of these InSpace features -- enduring chat and virtual study spaces -- hyflex educators can create an open invitation to all learners and teachers within a course to connect and support one another, and in so doing, to grow a learning community that fosters belonging and joy.