As the fall 2020 semester began amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, FIU Business launched HyFlex, a course-delivery model that offers hybrid classes in a flexible structure.
Students could participate face-toface in the classroom, remotely with synchronous video streaming or watch a recording of their classes. During the fall term, students in HyFlex could go back and forth between face-to-face and remote participation based on work schedule or individual circumstances.
"We implemented more of a controlled flexibility for students to choose ahead of time whether they prefer face-to-face or remote," said Arijit Sengupta, associate dean for accreditation and technology systems at FIU Business.
While most FIU Business students were already familiar with taking classes fully online or had experienced remote learning in one of a growing number of hybrid classes, some needed help adjusting to HyFlex. The learning curve also applied to faculty members, who had to expand their use of new technology and increase course planning.
HyFlex stood out as an important option to develop for the fall because the model can give students a face-to-face learning experience under conditions of social distancing. The room where Sengupta taught was a classroom that fit 24 students while 40 were taking the course.
In an effort to improve interaction and communication among the students, Sengupta put together nine groups of seven students with two face-to-face students in each one and dedicated 20 minutes of each class to group activities.
"I tried to involve both groups of students, to have them feeling like they're part of the same class," he said. "I wanted them to be in sync with the class discussions."
Marcos Kerbel, adjunct finance lecturer, started teaching in the HyFlex mode at the start of the semester. As someone who walks around the classroom as he teaches, Kerbel found he had to make adjustments.
He worked with FIU Business Tech Support and the FIU Media Center during his first few days to fine-tune classroom setups so that he could be heard and seen by students in front of him as well as those at home.
We have to adapt to the challenges," he said.