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Flex Teaching Context

There are a number of opportunities, as well as challenges, presented by teaching in Zoom rooms.

Bower et al. (2015) developed case studies from 7 Australian universities that have implemented what we're calling Flex or "bimodal" instruction at DePaul (a mix of face-to-face students and students connecting over Zoom).

Benefits

Bower et al. identified a number of benefits to Flex instruction, including:

  • greater educational access and equity
  • more access to socialization and increased peer/teacher support than that typically found in fully asynchronous online courses
  • greater enrollments at less cost (versus building out a fully online program in addition to running an on-campus program)

Challenges

Challenges identified by Bower et al. include: 

  • lack of institutional support and professional development for instructors 
  • increased demands on instructors’ attention and time

In Bower's analysis, the case studies reveal the importance of designing courses for active learning and the overall need for high levels of organization on the part of instructors. In all cases, they found attention needs to be distributed equitably between remote and F2F students.

Best Practices

Further, best practices in traditional classroom pedagogy were seen to have a positive impact in these environments, such as:

  • providing clear explanations of concepts
  • sensitively responding to student questions
  • regularly checking for student understanding
  • tightly structuring the timing of activities
  • using tone and casual language to establish a positive learning environment

Verhaart and Hagen-Hall (2011) similarly found that in order to be effective, instructors need to be skilled not only in their content areas but also in instructional design, pedagogy, and technology.

In this teaching guide, the focus will be on all three of the above elements and suggestions will be made that are both rooted in the literature as well as the collective experience of DePaul instructors teaching in these environments.

Be patient with yourself and your students as you navigate this new modality. Expect that things may not always work quite as you expect them to. Build in extra time, especially in the beginning, to become familiar with the new technology.

References 

Bower, M., Dalgarno, B. , Kennedy, G., Lee, M., Kenney, J. (2015). “Design and implementation factors in blended synchronous learning environments: Outcomes from a cross-case analysis.” Computers in Education. 86. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131515000755

Verhaart, M. & Hagen-Hall, K. (2012). gxLearning, teaching to geographically extended classes. In M. Lopez, M. Verhaart (Eds.) Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand Conference (Incorporating the 25th NACCQ Conference), Christchurch, New Zealand. October 7-10. pp 75-81.