Faculty are just as frustrated as students when it comes to adapting to the new HyFlex reality. To put it plainly, some classes don’t translate to Zoom formats. The format can leave professors worried that some students are left behind and students missing out on vital learning interactions.
Gina Tuzzi, a painting professor of eight years, has adapted her style to ensure all of her students receive the same quality of teaching. Tuzzi is trying to find equitable ways for students to interact with one another.
“I have this room of 4-foot by 5-foot paintings, and the students are not painting in a way that’s visible to the camera because of the way we are distanced from one another,” Tuzzi said.
There are also some challenges digitally communicating a visual medium. Tuzzi believes that it’s something that should be taught and understood in person. The experience of a 20 foot painting doesn’t translate through a little screen. That doesn’t deter Tuzzi from creating a new adaptable learning experience.
Many professors are trying their own unique adaptations of HyFlex classrooms. Tuzzi found the best way around it has been to split time between students in person and online. Trying to teach both at the same time is not viable for all classroom settings. Students in different learning settings communicate differently, and it takes planning to facilitate that communication gap.
“I’m really spread thin,” Tuzzi said. “The thing I worry about is the experience the students are having. I stress about being face to face in a pandemic and worried about exposure.”
The pandemic has challenged students and instructors to learn in new ways. Tuzzi was grateful for the support she found within her department to adapt.
HyFlex has its glitches, but there are new paths of access and learning on HSU campus. Tuzzi has found that her students use many different modalities to learn. For some students, HyFlex is really working. It allows accessibility in ways that weren’t accounted for in pre-pandemic classrooms. It can give a voice to students who otherwise would not feel confident in sharing.
Robert Yunker is the Labs and Classrooms Support Lead and hero of HyFlex. He’s been here to help instructors troubleshoot since before the start of the semester. Yunker sees HyFlex as a new extension of learning that wasn’t available before.
“Different instructors are adapting differently. Some are embracing it and some are a little more hesitant. Most realize what we gotta do and that we’re all trying,” Yunker said.
He noted that a lot of instructors are making it their own. Some teach from the Redwood Bowl, use creative camera angles to view art projects, or even fix a camera under a fume hood to give a safe but clear view of chemical reactions.
Other professors find themselves in a virtual abyss talking only to blank squares on their screen. They are having a hard time with students who have their cameras turned off. Forming relationships with students has become a difficult task for professors. Engagement and interaction can be a vital part of learning, but engaging and forming relationships hasn’t yet adapted to the world of Zoom. Knowing what their students comprehend and what is falling through the cracks is more of a challenge.
Many assume a combination of classroom, online, and Zoom would prepare students and faculty for HyFlex, but HyFlex isn’t a combination of all of those methods. HyFlex is a new method of teaching. Today’s students find themselves the guinea pigs of a new era in education. Everyone is relearning how to learn.
This tool of learning has offered new avenues of accessibility for many students. Using HyFlex can prevent colds from spreading in classrooms. It enables mobility restricted students to learn in the comfort of their own space or even allow student athletes to learn while on the road. No one enjoys being restricted, but HyFlex can be a tool of empathy and accessibility. So next time you’re waiting out a laggy screen or those awkward Zoom interruptions, stop to take a breath and practice patience. Next time you see your professor online or in person, say thanks.