Opinion: Hybrid-Flexible classes do not have to be a scary experience

With the pandemic still affecting all of our lives, some classes at UTA are meeting virtually. But students may not be prepared to hit the ground running because they thought they were returning in person. There are ways to succeed in hybrid, flexible courses. It doesn't have to be scary.

I’ve been teaching online at UTA since 2008 and currently research evidence-based ways for students to succeed in a variety of digital formats. From what I’ve seen, a few reasons students may face challenges with online learning include feeling disconnected from the virtual format and adjusting to digital instructional settings and content. The key is to stay connected with the class and course content.

My main suggestion to students is to leverage all you can get out of your smartphone to do as many tasks as possible to stay connected with your courses, classmates, instructor, email, communications and productivity tools.

In 2021, around 97% of Americans have a cell phone, according to data from Pew Research Center. Approximately 85% of Americans have access to smartphones more than ever before. With this increased access to a handheld gadget, it is easier for students to utilize the tools and apps available to them. The UTA library also has some technology devices available to check out, like computers, tablets and webcams to leverage digital learning success.

A challenge of any virtual aspect of a course is staying disciplined and self-directed as a learner. One simple solution is to set up all due dates in your digital or print calendar and check the dates often.

The logistics of a Hybrid-Flexible course model can be trickier than online or traditional blended learning, so it’s important to stay on top of it by asking questions and doing your part in participating in the class experience.

A bonus of attending your class virtually is that you can work wherever you want to — at home, in the community or on campus. If you are watching the class recording or interacting on Canvas, you can work on your own time on the online part of the class. Think of the public places on campus as a “co-working” space to create your own learning environment outside of the formal classroom — with a few comforts around like food, coffee and more.

Research by the American Psychological Association suggests it is difficult to truly multitask, so students should avoid trying doing this while attending a virtual lecture or watching the recording. Taking notes while listening to a virtual lecture will help with focus. Participate in the chat window, if possible, even if on the mobile app version.

Leveraging a smartphone or tablet device, set up email, Canvas Student and Microsoft Teams to access the course on the Canvas Student app and any live meetings or recordings on the go. Use headphones or earbuds to access the course in a public space. Take advantage of the AI in a smartphone, such as “Siri” or Google, to help answer any questions regarding lessons or technology as well.

A good mindset is the “meet me halfway mindset” for navigating the HyFlex or hybrid format. Supplement formal learning by watching tutorials on your own on Google or LinkedIn Learning on how to use Teams and Canvas to familiarize yourself with the tools thoroughly. Feel free to reach out to your instructor if you are lost or need help with anything. Make use of the OIT Help Desk for technology issues.

Set up a digital folder on your computer for each class. You might also use OneDrive or another cloud storage system to store class items for each class. Save backup copies of your written work using the Office 365 tools such as OneDrive and Microsoft Word.

Students can also consider reaching out not only to the professor but also to an academic adviser to discuss goals and how everything is going with the course. By being proactive in communication, leveraging as many gadgets as you can, and learning all you can about the HyFlex format, the modality will become easier to navigate.

@PeggySemingson

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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