In January, 2011, Dr. Jackie Miller, Department of Statistics Education Specialist, was awarded a Departmental Impact Grant from the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to develop a new method of instruction to streamline Statistics 145, one of the department’s introductory courses. Over the past 15 months, Miller and graduate research associate Mark Risser have expanded the project into a new version of the “HyFlex” (hybrid, flexible) classroom model, suitable for large, on-campus courses.
The HyFlex model is a form of blended learning, one in which students can choose between online and classroom-based education, and Miller and Risser are among the first to apply the model in a large university setting. The model allows students to choose an attendance method on a daily basis, so that lecture can best fit their learning styles and daily needs. This choice is made possible through innovative use of technology: Miller’s lecture slides and notes, along with an audio stream, are broadcast live via Adobe Connect so that students not attending class face-to-face can simultaneously view lecture. Lectures are also recorded for future viewing and review, à la Khan Academy.
In addition to providing attendance options, the project attempts to further transform the traditional classroom experience by leveraging technology to increase student participation and expedite instructor feedback. Specifically, in-class web-based pollshave been incorporated into lecture (using text messaging instead of clickers), and a “backchannel” has been created, a private online site where students attending remotely can participate in and ask questions during the lecture. (Screenshots of these tools are available here.) Both of these technologies are also accessible to students attending class traditionally.
After two full quarters of implementation, students in Miller’s pilot sections are responding quite positively to the new model. Through an end-of-term survey, when asked how “instructional technology” (abbreviated IT; defined to be web polling, synchronous lecture viewing, and the backchannel) impacted the classroom experience, 90% of students “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that IT made the materials and activities more interesting; 95% said IT increased understanding of course concepts; 75% said IT increased class participation over what was expected coming into the course.
Furthermore, grades and attendance are on par with previous terms. “The decrease in face-to-face attendance is matched by the students attending class synchronously,” explains Miller. “For both winter and spring quarter, I’ve been maintaining a fairly consistent 15-20% online attendance.” Student grades for Miller’s pilot section show no practical difference from either previous terms or other same-term sections, in everything from exam grades to final grades.
Miller and Risser’s version of the HyFlex model is the cornerstone of their larger initiative, the ENABLE project (ENgaging and Adaptable Blended LEarning). The purpose of ENABLE is to provide resources for other instructors to create their own HyFlex curriculum, while also developing a HyFlex community for collaborative work both at Ohio State and nationally. The project has already garnered interest from across the country, and components of the model are being implemented in other Stat 145 sections as well as Miller’s Stat 427 section this spring. Furthermore, ENABLE has been featured at two regional conferences on technology in education, and an article for journal submission is in the works.
A full summary of the project is available through the OCIO’s website, in the Impact Grant archives (see 2011), which includes blog posts, final report, and additional results.