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HyFlex in Minnesota ABE: What Is It, Who Needs It, and How Does It Work? – Part 1

HyFlex in Minnesota ABE: What Is It, Who Needs It, and How Does It Work? – Part 1

One of the many conundrums facing Minnesota ABE is how to meet both the needs of adult learners who prefer to learn at a distance and those who want to learn in-person – and all at a time when ABE resources are stretched thin, and public health recommendations change rapidly. HyFlex offers an educational model that can meet the needs and preferences of learners in a flexible, effective manner.

What is HyFlex? Briefly, it’s a model in which teachers teach in a classroom with students present, while simultaneously teaching others at a distance. Students can thus attend in-person or virtually, and can easily switch back and forth over time depending on needs and preferences.

As an experienced DL consultant, I admit I was a bit dubious when I started researching the HyFlex model. While it sounded interesting, it also sounded quite difficult. What I learned through interviewing Minnesota ABE practitioners is that while learning to teach in this manner offers challenges, teachers are finding many creative ways to adapt HyFlex to specific circumstances.

I spoke with three MNABE teachers who have creatively adapted HyFlex in response to local needs, integrating their own unique styles: Kim Sombke, who teaches in Wilmar (Glacial Lakes Consortium); Rallou Rice, who teaches in Elk River (Metro North; Consortium); and Christine Dreiling, a teacher at Hubbs Center (St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium). Several overall themes emerged:

  • HyFlex is easier to implement than it might initially appear, if it is approached creatively in response to specific needs. Teacher buy-in is essential to success, as is allowing teachers to adopt the model to their own styles and local circumstances.
  • The technology involved is flexible, and can be built around a variety of delivery models, depending on available resources and individual preferences.
  • HyFlex can be especially valuable when serving areas of the state where learners live far apart, and in-person classes may be small. It has great potential to grow and expand, allowing MNABE to serve a greater number of students in the future.
  • HyFlex by its nature serves students in a variety of settings, with diverse needs. It can help overcome a variety of barriers for students who cannot attend class in-person.

Kim Sombke – Willmar, Glacial Lakes Consortium

Kim Sombke began developing her HyFlex class this fall. “I said in mid-October to my manager, I’m ready to try this. We set up the OWL camera, and I spent a week adjusting to it. I told her after a week I was ready to try it in class. I used it in my existing online course; I invited students to come in person also. Two students right away said yes. After another week, I said bring on the next step. So, we opened all my classes to HyFlex.” Kim now uses HyFlex in all three of her classes.

“I really do like Zoom – it works well with in-person and at-home students. I can choose full screen, or chat with individual students. (And) I really like the OWL – it’s working very well for me.” Kim has multiple screens going at once – an iPad to control the OWL, a desktop computer which mirrors the screen, and a Chromebook. She finds the space issues – where to ‘put’ everything while she is teaching – the most challenging aspect of her classes.

“I found it surprising how quickly we can adapt to new things. It was remarkable how quickly this became the new normal; students just went with it. I learned I can multitask more than I had been. I’m making adjustments on the fly – I can do it, I just have to keep working on it. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be.”

Kim believes HyFlex offers great potential to serve adult learners, helping to address barriers such as lack of transportation and childcare. She adds, ”I think the first thing that is essential is teacher buy-in. We’re seeing how teachers are making it work. I do think we will get more buy-in, and we will serve more students.”

Get more information

  • Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, coming up in the next MN ABE Connect newsletter!
  • Join us! The next meeting of the MNABE Google Classroom: Hyflex Community of Practice is at 2:30 p.m. on December 14. Join with this Google Meet link: https://meet.google.com/quk-iiwu-tmp.
Tom Cytron-Hysom, DL Consultant Literacy Minnesota