• Mansour K. Mansour, PhD

Getting Ready for Fall 2020 with Resilience, Flexibility, and Change Management

Updated: Aug 22


Are you ready for a different teaching and learning paradigm for this coming fall? A valid question every one of us especially educators and administrators at educational organizations should ask ourselves and have answers for.

As a reaction to the COVID-19 virus spreading earlier this year across the Globe, many schools, colleges, universities, and organizations cancelled their classes and training sessions switching to all online remote engagement. Many organizations, teachers, and administrators were not prepared for this transition. With too many unanswered questions on possible treatments and/or vaccines in the near future as well the potential second and third waves of the virus, we have no option but to get ready for this unknown future. Phil Hill argued in his article titled “Revised Outlook for Higher Ed’s Online Response to COVID-19” and published on March 31, 2020 that there are four phases to this transition. Please refer to the diagram below

Earlier this year during this pandemic, I contributed the following two articles to help teachers and educators address Phases 1 and 2 and transition to remote learning:

It is wise to start thinking now if you have not started doing so already about Phases 3 and 4 referred to in the diagram above. In his April 1, 2020 article titled "Preparing for a Fall Without In-Person Classes" for Inside Higher Ed, Doug Lederman got the ball rolling, describing how “some colleges are preparing quietly to deliver better online learning at scale.” He further argues that "Any decisions about the Fall are multiple weeks, if not months, away, and many people aren't ready to discuss the topic, at least publicly. But some foresighted campus officials are (often quietly) exploring that possibility, and I'd like to share some early assertions (or at least hypotheses) based on those discussions.

  • The kind of remote learning that most campuses delivered on the fly during this spring's crisis may have been sufficient for the moment. But it was not nearly as good as the instruction most colleges normally deliver in person or that's available to students in many high-quality online programs.

  • What was sufficient to get through the crisis of the spring is unlikely to be seen as adequate in the fall, given that colleges will have had more time to prepare. The expectations will be higher, and colleges that don't deliver will risk angering students and parents and, importantly, potentially failing their most-vulnerable students.

  • Delivering higher-quality online or virtual instruction by the fall will take a huge amount of planning and work -- and it should start soon, if not now."

Different Scenarios for Fall 2020

Edward Maloney and Joshua Kim in their article titled “15 Fall Scenarios” and published on April 22, 2020 laid out 15 fall scenarios that colleges are discussing. They include starting the fall term later, bringing students back in waves of smaller groups, using hybrid online and in-person instruction or redesigning courses into shorter blocks.

Teresa Watanabe, who covers education for the Los Angeles Times, in her article published in the Los Angeles Times on April 30, 2020 “How coronavirus could change college life: Outdoor classes, small group dorms, takeout dining” reported on the different scenarios organizational educations are considering for the Fall 2020 semester.

Teresa reported on the planning efforts of "Claremont McKenna staff — often working 12-hour days, seven days a week since the pandemic intensified in mid-March — as they plan reopening scenarios. They are consulting healthcare professionals but mainly using their own expertise to prepare for myriad situations, including a worst case scenario of a second wave COVID-19 infection hitting simultaneously with flu season, sending everyone off campus again. Sharon Basso, vice president of student affairs, and her staff have assembled an Excel document with nearly 25 tabs laying out myriad details. Basso stressed that the campus will take the lead from public health officials and incorporate protocols for testing, quarantines, contact tracing and social distancing." The diagram below gives a summary of their efforts in multiple dimensions:

In Episode 3: Enter Darkness of MindWires COVID 19 Transitions podcasts, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss how different the Fall 2020 decision will be for campus decision-makers than was the Spring 2020 move to remote. The recent move was easy, in a way, with a binary choice and little second-guessing. Fall will be different. Please find below a copy of the podcast for your convenience and easy access.

The speakers identify three crucial aspects of decisions that leaders of educational organizations need in our times of ambiguity. The diagram below summarizes the main points talked about in the above podcast.

In its attempt to allow for flexibility next fall in case of continued closures and in response to the current situation, Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, moves from traditional semesters to two-course modules. Elizabeth Redden in her article titled “Rethinking the Academic Calendar” published in INSIDE HIGHER ED on April 20, 2020 reports that “In addition to rolling out the shift to modules, Beloit has also announced several other changes in response to COVID-19, including freezing tuition costs and matching in-state tuition rates at public flagship universities in the region.” For more information, check out Beloit College posted details on Curriculum Changes for Fall 2020.

Planning Must Include Student Perspectives

As colleges, universities and schools are considering their options and possible scenarios for the Fall 2020, it is imperative to take student perspective into consideration. One could argue that it is a challenging task to get students' feedback let alone authentic and critical feedback. In Episode 2: Difficulty and Value of Student Input of MindWires COVID 19 Transitions podcasts, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss the value of getting student input while making plans for Fall 2020. But that’s not always simple to do, or at least common to do. Please find below a copy of the podcast for your convenience and easy access.

Recently, a number of publications captured student feedback and in particular in relationship to the current COVID-19 situation and their plans for the Fall 2020. The following are references to those publications:

  1. High school seniors (573 completed the survey) who were planning to enroll at a traditional 4-year residential college/university in Fall 2020 prior to March 1, 2020.

  2. Current college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors (513 students completed the survey) who were enrolled at a traditional 4-year residential college/university prior to March 1, 2020.

The diagram below presents a sample of the student feedback from the above three sources. Please refer to the referenced articles and reports for more details.

Hybrid Flex (HyFlex) Model Values and Principles

What is a HyFlex Delivery? Jessica O’Reilly, Instructional Developer with the Cambrian College Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub, explains in the video below the various participation methods available to HyFlex students, including in-person, synchronous online, and asynchronous online deliveries.

Kevin Kelly in his article titled "COVID-19 Planning for Fall 2020: A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flexible Course Design" and published in PhilonEdTech on May 7, 2020 explains in simple terms what HyFlex is "In typical hybrid courses, the instructor makes most of the choices, such as when the class will meet in person or online, and the percentage of each format over the term (e.g., 50/50; two-thirds online, one-third face-to-face). In HyFlex courses, students decide when and how they participate – that is, for each and every class meeting they can choose to sit in the classroom or to join via video conference (Zoom, Adobe Connect) in real-time, or they can watch the recording and complete online activities later."

Brian Beatty in his book “Hybrid-Flexible Course Design” defines both terms:

  • "Hybrid – combines both online and face-to-face teaching and learning activities

  • Flexible – students may choose whether or not to attend face-to-face sessions … with no “learning deficit”"

He also argues that this approach adheres to four core values or principles and outlined in the diagram below:

The development of the Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) course design was first introduced in the Instructional Technologies (ITEC) graduate program at San Francisco State University. This was driven by several important institutional, faculty and student factors. Brian Beatty in 2007 published his paper titled "Hybrid classes with flexible participation options – If you build it, how will they come?" introducing the HypFlex methodology.

In Episode 1: Considering Hybrid (Flexible) Models of MindWires COVID 19 Transitions podcasts, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss the an overlooked aspect of the COVID response from higher education. Beyond traditional face-to-face models, and fully online models, there is a vast middle ground of hybrid – the combination of face-to-face and online components. Please find below a copy of the podcast for your convenience and easy access.

HyFlex Implementations and Testimonials

Dr. Jenni Hayman, Chair of Teaching & Learning at Cambrian College (in Sudbury Ontario, Canada) explains to Ken Steele via (Zoom) how the HyFlex is working for them. The video below captures that interview. The goal of HyFlex course design is to give students access to equivalent learning experiences, whether in-person, synchronous or asynchronous. You can read more about this interview in the piece titled "HyFlex Learning" and published in the EDUVATION BLOG on May 1, 2020.

Another example of implementing the HyFlex learning model comes from the Hyflex Lab at the University College at the University of Denver. The video below demonstrates their USA first graduate-level course in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as they relate to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). An emerging technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are used in GIS for mapping, data collection, and high quality imagery.

In the following video from 2012, Dr. Patricia Donohue talks about the early adoptions of HyFlex at San Francisco State University and explains how she uses the HyFlex course design in teaching graduate students. She discusses some of the key benefits that students report and explains some of the challenges of designing and implementing a HyFlex course.

It is also extremely important to listen to students' perspective on their learning experience using HyFlex. Please refer to the Student Testimonials enrolled in the Cambrian College HyFlex program. In the following video, graduate student Jess Kaufmann describes her experience as a student in several HyFlex courses. She explains a few of the key benefits and challenges she has encountered, and provides several recommendations for students and faculty considering HyFlex courses.

HyFlex Course Design, Development, and Resources

Brian Beatty in his textbook “Hybrid-Flexible Course Design” and under Section 1.4 Designing a Hybrid-Flexible Course provides 5 steps to creating an Effective learning environment for all students. The diagram below provides a summary. Please refer to the textbook for more details and worksheets.

Genesee Community College of New York State provides a HyFlex Course Development Guide. The guide offers a 9 step process for the overall HyFlex course development. The diagram below shows the 9 steps. Please refer to the guide for more details and for the associated worksheets.

Further to the Course Development Process, the HyFlex Course Development Guide from Genesee Community College of New York State provides an extensive set of course developer responsibilities outlined in the diagram below.

Educational organizations considering HyFlex learning model need to provide support for their faculty in their journey developing and delivering HyFlex classes. The diagram below provides a summary of the resources suggested in the HyFlex Course Development Guide from Genesee Community College of New York State.

Edward Maloney and Joshua Kim in their article titled "Fall Scenario #13: A HyFlex Model" and published on May 10, 2020 discussed HyFlex as one scenario -- besides being back to normal or fully remote in the fall -- that they hear more about than others. The diagram below presents a summary of the practical steps they proposed in their article.

Kevin Kelly in his article titled "COVID-19 Planning for Fall 2020: A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flexible Course Design" and published in PhilonEdTech on May 7, 2020 outlines the pros and cons of the HyFlex learning model. The diagram below is a summary of that discussion.

For further discussion on the HyFlex model to help you determine whether this is the right model for you, please refer to the post by Elizabeth A. Barre, Executive Director at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Wake Forest University, “Can we talk about hybrid-flexible models for the fall?”.

Before closing this section, I would like to bring to your attention the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model. "The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. The UDL Guidelines can be used by educators, curriculum developers, researchers, parents, and anyone else who wants to implement the UDL framework in a learning environment. These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities." The following video provides a sneak preview of how the UDL framework guides the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that can be customized and adjusted to meet individual needs.

In a new guide titled “Pandemic Planning for Distance Learning: Scenarios and Considerations for PreK–12 Education Leaders” and released on May 27th, 2020 by the Washington, DC-based think tank New America, the three authors—an instructional designer and two former teachers—lay out four possible scenarios for what school will look like in the 2020-21 school year, based on present understanding of the COVID-19 virus and health experts’ advice for school re-openings. The authors of this guide are

  • Kristina Ishmael, senior project manager of the Teaching, Learning and Tech team at New America;

  • Rebecca Heiser, a lead instructional designer at Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus;

  • and Jennifer Payne, an educational technology coordinator at an online school in Colorado.


Planning for the future in this time of uncertainty, it is extremely important that we as individuals and organizations are resilient, flexible, able to manage the change, and be creative as well innovative in utilizing and mobilizing the available resources.

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