Heather Engelhart (ABE and HSE reading teacher, Adult Education HSE exam preparation)
Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois
Description of program and learners
Waubonsee Community College, located about 45 miles west of Chicago, began offering its adult education HyFlex program in August 2020. A HyFlex model class, typically with 17–20 learners, was offered in the daytime and evening and was available in reading and math.
Recruitment and Orientation
At registration, learners selected “remote” or “f2f” (face-to-face). When f2f was full, learners were put into Heather’s HyFlex class. This was the only adult ed HyFlex model offered to adult learners at the time, but more classes were planned. Learners didn’t know when they arrived that it was a HyFlex class, though Heather oriented them once they joined. Classes met twice weekly, from 9 a.m. to noon. Learners could choose and move fluidly among in-person, synchronous remote, and asynchronous instruction, based on their needs. The asynchronous mode consisted of learners’ ability to watch recorded videos of the synchronous sessions they may have missed or wanted to revisit.
New students attended a digital technology bootcamp to be able to log in to the school’s website, learn their login information, and experience Canvas, the school’s Learning Management System (LMS). On the first day of class, the teachers reviewed the sites to log in to and learners practiced with each one.
HyFlex in Action: Course and Instruction
Heather used Google Slides to create everything. Learners also used the TABE Scoreboost booklet, a hard copy of which was made available to them. All learners had Scoreboost for thinking skills and sentence mechanics. They used Scoreboost and New Readers Press for extended response essay writing. Learners also used YouTube videos, Reading Plus, and Nearpod for all lessons.
Using Nearpod, Heather could see if learners online at home or elsewhere were participating when she looked at their answers to open-ended questions, polls, and collaboration board posts. This was highly interactive. Nearpod created reports. When learners were absent, she sent them the Nearpod slides to use asynchronously. Heather used Nearpod to create lessons when she knew she would be absent; she didn’t have to get a substitute, since, she noted, subs don’t generally know how to do HyFlex. With Nearpod, she could add questions within a video that might be part of the lesson.
Heather’s program used wireless speakers/microphones, a laptop camera, a classroom camera, and a 360 Camera and microphones. Every in-person student used a digital device — such as a laptop, one of the program’s Chromebooks, a tablet, or a smartphone. (See Waubonsee Community College digital technology equipment sheet in Appendix B.) Heather said that hardware made things both easier and more difficult. In spite of having a great technical assistance department that would send someone to her classroom or get onto her computer virtually, sometimes she still found digital technology intimidating. She took a quick training before classes began, but was still figuring some things out, sometimes using trial and error to learn to use the technology. The ceiling-mounted microphones worked amazingly well, allowing online learners to hear perfectly. The video camera was focused on Heather. She doesn’t like sitting at a desk; preferring to move around the classroom, but she couldn’t move away from her desk because she needed to see the computer. She had a regular whiteboard. When she clicked on “whiteboard” on her computer, the camera would zoom in, and online learners could see what was written there. The learners in the classroom all had digital devices — mostly Chromebooks on a cart, that is, program-purchased digital devices that were made available to learners in the classroom.
For online high school equivalency (HSE) prep learning, Heather used GED Academy and IPathways as base curricula, along with other resources she found online. She used Canvas, Google Slides, and Nearpod to organize those resources, which were available to learners for more practice if they wished. She also used Nearpod for formative assessment. She used Zoom for video-conferencing online learners. Canvas was a huge learning curve, she noted, but she came to love it because everything was in one place. She and her colleagues were trying to make videos on their own for professional development.
Technical Support and Training for Teachers and Learners
New learners attended a technology bootcamp to learn how to login into the school’s website and experience Canvas. On the first day of class, Heather reviewed the sites to log into and provided practice with each.
Teachers received training on using Nearpod. Heather would like to get together at designated times with other teachers who are using a HyFlex model within Waubonsee Community College. She would also like everyone in her department to attend COABE conference sessions on Flex models.
Implementation: Lessons Learned
Data Collected for Program Improvement
Heather used Google Forms–based learner surveys in her HyFlex class. Those showed that the HyFlex model was making a difference and providing good opportunities, and, although one learner found HyFlex distracting and didn’t like it, the majority of learners preferred it. At the end of the semester, the data showed that attendance, retention, and digital literacy skills were higher in her HyFlex class than in other non-Hyflex classes.
A career advisor came to class every week. Heather regarded this as an excellent opportunity to learn about resume preparation, interviewing tips, and more. For learners with car troubles, childcare difficulties, mobility issues, unexpected family issues, and concerns about COVID, the flexibility of the model has been especially beneficial.
Professional development and training were needed specific to HyFlex models, covering onboarding learners, staff resistance or reluctance, and classroom management with in-person and online learners. Digital technology support was needed for both teachers and learners.