“Teachers are designers. An essential act of our profession is the design of curriculum and learning experiences to meet specified purposes” -Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p13
Now it’s time to plan your course
At this point, you know how HyFlex started, and you have determined course learning objectives and assessments. Planning your course structure is the next step.
The terms course outline and syllabus are often used to describe the course roadmap for students. Often, these documents contain an agreement between the institution, the faculty member, and the student in terms of policies and expectations for teaching and learning experiences.
These agreements may vary according to the students’ program. For example, some accredited programs in health, trades, and technology disciplines may have specific requirements related to assessments and grading. Clarity about what students “must” do versus what they “may choose” is really important in these types of agreement documents. While offering choice means that you are focusing on a student-centred practice, it is important to provide simple, easy-to-follow guides.
Whatever you call these documents (and sometimes there is a course outline and a syllabus!) – they are key resources for students to review and understand. Clearly articulating your expectations for student achievement across specific timelines is a core beginning for successful student-faculty communication.
For clarity purposes, we will be using the term “course plan” when referring to these documents for the remainder of this unit.
HyFlex planning requires thoughtful communication about course structure for multiple modes.
The following are typical elements contained in a course plan:
- Course title
- Institutional course code
- Course description
- Course learning outcomes and objectives
- Course topics
- Required and recommended resources (e.g., textbooks, library resources, readings, etc.)
- Required equipment or software if the course requires special resources
- Confirmation of the types of formal and informal assessments, weighting, due dates
- High-level, unit-by-unit descriptions of topics, tasks, and activities
Decide on a course structure
Before you create your course plan or set up your course in the learning management system, decide how you are going to structure the course. Will you use a weekly or by topic/unit structure? Whichever structure you choose, the course should support the learning outcomes. Well-organized courses stimulate learners’ motivation and engagement.
It’s our job, as instructors, to ensure that course organization is clear and easy to follow.
A good place to start is by brainstorming a list of topics and subtopics for your course. You must ensure these align with the course learning outcomes, organize those topics into units of instruction, and then sequence them logically. Alternatively, you can review your current course content, break it into weeks/units, then sequence them logically.
Once you have a course structure figured out, you can start creating a course plan that makes it transparent to students what they should do and by when.
How to clearly communicate your course plan for HyFlex
There are several ways to create course plans for HyFlex courses. Some options may exist in your learning management system (LMS) to create reminders for students and to summarize weekly/unit activities, etc.
Because you are communicating a course plan to multi-modal learners, schedule layout is very important. Not only should you capture the key details for each unit or week (topics, instructional materials, learning activities, assessments), you should also clearly differentiate any applicable information according to the modality.
Likewise, you should indicate required course content versus recommended course content. Try adopting an icon system in your documents/LMS specific to task categories and modality for clear communication.
Cambrian College’s HyFlex Course Plan Template [.docx] is one way to clearly communicate your plan to HyFlex students.
Feel free to download and modify the template to meet your needs!
Consider creative alternatives to the traditional
Your institution may have policies related to the use of templates for course plans. It’s important to adhere to those policies. That said, you can follow institutional requirements and create communication resources in your course that go beyond required templates. Taking a creative approach to course planning may help clarify what is expected and when assessments are due.
There is often a benefit to creating simple, visual representations of course layout and expectations. There is also a benefit to recording a video that walks students through what to expect and where to find important documents and resources within the course.
Consider that your students may not attend your first class lecture in person. How are you guiding asynchronous HyFlex students with your expectations? How might you create good course plans and reminders for all students who land in your course LMS? Are there other ways than the traditional written document?
The following resources are two different ways to present a course schedule.
As you explore them, think about ways you can incorporate the style (or a part of the style) to your own HyFlex course. How can you make your course plan clear and accessible for all modalities?
Example 1: Create a course plan website
The following website (a five-minute read, unless you start exploring) explains Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s philosophy of communication with students called a “Liquid Syllabus.” Michelle’s two-minute video introduction is a great example of humanizing digital teaching and learning.
Example 2: Create a course plan infographic
A Graphic Design student at Cambrian College named Danielle Provencher created 8 openly-licensed infographic course plan templates by using PowerPoint in portrait orientation. These templates are licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.
This is a very clever and fun approach if you’re looking for more visual methods to communicate core course details with your students.
One recommendation is that you also provide a simplified, text-based version of your course plan for accessibility compliance and print-friendly options.
Modifying an existing course plan for HyFlex
More often than not, you’re probably not creating a course plan from scratch. You’ve either taught the course outside of the HyFlex environment, or you may receive a course schedule from a colleague who has taught the course before.
If you already have a course plan, determine if the schedule works in all modes and what might need to be modified for synchronous and asynchronous students. For example, if you have a class discussion inside the traditional classroom, how would you modify this learning experience for synchronous students (online) and asynchronous students (within the LMS)?
Also, consider how you will ensure students in all modes are able to hear and share in this discussion. If you traditionally teach core components in the classroom, consider how you would provide this same learning to students asynchronously (videos, audio, text).
You will be exploring these modality considerations in more depth in Modules 2 and 3. For now, start thinking about how the different modalities may affect your existing course plan and flag any needed modifications.
In a HyFlex course, it is important to set expectations right from the start. Be clear about the course structure, explain to students what HyFlex is, and explain that they may move freely between modes without needing to inform the instructor. Outline all important information within the course plan, explain how each mode is going to run, and describe what students should expect each week.
While there are various ways to present your course plan, remember that clarity is key. If students know exactly how the course is organized and what to expect, they can focus on learning the content and engaging with the course. A clearly laid-out course plan also helps you, the instructor, stay on track and create engaging lesson plans, as you will explore in Module 2.