HyFlex course options should be prioritized by UH
The coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of change with moving to online education. A couple of years later, many colleges are back in person, something many people are grateful for.
That said, in order to help students get the best education they can, UH should prioritize offering HyFlex course options.
When it took off in 2020, there was a lot of criticism of online learning. For many people, the isolation of not seeing classmates made school difficult.
The lack of a regular schedule made many students anxious. Faculty stressed while struggling to adapt their curriculum to an online format.
Because of this, many people are enjoying the return to campus. With few exceptions, the majority of courses are now back to a face-to-face format.
Nevertheless, many students also appreciated the convenience and flexibility of online learning. In fact, a Digital Learning Pulse survey found that a majority of college students want more online options.
Accessibility is a big part of preferring online learning, especially for students like theatre senior Allie Funk. She had classes go online at the start of the pandemic but now is back to in-person instruction.
“In general, (online classes) were helpful because I could do them from wherever, whether I was at home or in my dorm,” Funk said. “I could even attend a class in my recliner if I was having a really bad pain day.”
Funk’s experience exemplifies the utility of online school, especially for people whose disabilities may make it harder for them to attend class without pain. Online classes allowed her to take care of her schooling and comfort at the same time.
Online options are not only useful for disabled students, but also for students with kids.
History junior Desteny Guillen said being both a student and a parent of a young child has made her learn how to manage time better. Online classes have helped with that.
“My experience with online classes is awesome because I can do the work and readings when my son is sleeping or on my own time,” Guillen said. “Most of the work is always due at the end of the week. Therefore, each student-parent can make their own schedule on when to work and turn in their assignments.”
Remote classes provide the flexibility that people with time-consuming responsibilities, such as raising children, need to thrive as both parents and students.
Online classes are clearly, very helpful. But a student’s need for in-person or remote learning may change based on their day-to-day schedule.
HyFlex classes, which are when students can attend the same class online or in person, can be useful for students who sometimes want to attend class, but can’t always make it.
This is the case with Funk. When attending class, Funk often has to rely on the weather to be dry because of her power chair.
“If it’s raining, I have to make sure to put a bag on the controller and if it’s raining really hard, a lot of times I just can’t go to class,” Funk said. “It’s not worth potentially damaging my wheelchair.”
This is an issue that is hard to fix in other ways. The University cannot control the weather, but it can control what alternative learning options it offers to students.
When UH had a soft opening featuring HyFlex, Funk found this to be helpful.
“When I would use the HyFlex option, it was never because I didn’t want to go to class,” Funk said. “It was always situations where I wasn’t going to be going to class in person anyways. I was able to virtually attend and not miss out completely.”
It’s no secret that Houston gets rain regularly. Students like Funk shouldn’t have to choose between damaging their expensive power chair and attending class.
HyFlex can be extremely useful for other situations, such as car trouble.
Biology senior Nina Tran’s HyFlex course came in handy when her car’s tire popped on the way to school and she had to replace it.
“After having to deal with getting it changed, it really helped me to be able to attend class from home instead of worrying about making it to campus on time,” Tran said.
Many students may prefer to come to an in-person class, but a HyFlex option can give them peace of mind that they can still attend if something happens.
A HyFlex course sounds like the best of both worlds and it can be for students who need them. Of course, there is another side to HyFlex courses in the professors who teach them.
Honors College Professor Laura Bland offers all of her classes in HyFlex format.
“The biggest benefit is student accessibility,” Bland said. “I want students to be able to participate in class even if they have something else going on.”
While Bland is very pro-HyFlex, she said technology can be a big issue and sometimes just won’t work on certain days. In one of her classrooms, there’s a glare making it difficult for students online to see her or the class.
“From the professor’s side, it is a lot of extra time to do HyFlex well,” Bland said. “You might be able to fix those problems but of course, that takes class time.”
It’s not surprising that troubles arise in environments not originally built for having class in person as well as onscreen. Better technology and building classrooms with the HyFlex option in mind could probably solve many of these issues.
However, technology is not the only problem. While Bland is very enthusiastic about offering online options to students, it is no secret that some professors in general really struggle with teaching online.
Some professors at other universities have even compared HyFlex learning to dystopian fiction and there are likely faculty here who share a similar aversion. If UH expanded its online options, it would need to provide extra training and resources so that professors have what they need to teach effectively.
While it’s not an easy fix, the University should decide if its priorities lie with all student’s educational needs. Because if so, it should push for and encourage professors to teach more HyFlex courses.
The educational benefits of HyFlex are clear. It is always better for a student to attend class than not, whether that be in person or online. Having more online options can help students decide what is best for their education.
Expanding online options, especially HyFlex, would highly benefit the student body. Students deserve to thrive in their education, whether that be in a classroom, on a computer or both.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]