Flexible Hybrid Model for Fall 2020 Teaching and Learning


During the Summer Institute for Online Teaching (SIOT) participants learn about instructional design and nationally-recognized quality standards, legal and ethical issues related to online courses, authentic assessments, research-based principles of instruction, and strategies for managing time and communication in online courses. For more information and access to the self-guided version, see the SIOT homepage.

CTT Online Teaching Guide

This resource aims to provide the essentials needed to teach online whether a course is fully or partially online.

Given the challenges face-to-face learning presented in the fall of 2020, it is important to create a broad framework for teaching and learning that allows the university to be prepared for any eventuality, and that ensures equitable treatment of its students no matter what their situation might be. Students who are unable to attend classes for whatever reason should not be disadvantaged. Simultaneously this framework should facilitate the needs of instructors to tailor their materials, activities, and styles to the demands of their own disciplines.

What follows is an attempt to outline a framework using hybrid face-to-face and online modes. The framework owes something to the HyFlex model but is not prescriptive. There are a few basic approaches that will be important for all classes in the fall, whether or not they are built out from an online or face-to-face model:

Basic Approach for Fall 2020

UNL Examples of Flexible Hybrid Courses

In July, four professors in Arts and Sciences gave in-depth presentations on how they planned to implement flexible hybrid course designs this Fall. The recording of this workshop is available along with the handouts.

Social distancing rules will affect room numbers in the fall so, in order to maintain an equitable arrangement for courses with a face-to-face component, students should only sign up for a certain percentage of the live classes for the semester. A course with 100 students, for example, would mean students attend 3 or 4 live classes out of 15 or 16. The remainder of those taking the course when not at the class in person would engage with a live stream, or with lecture capture. It would be possible to manage high-enrollment courses in this way, but how many face-to-face experiences a student had in the semester would likely depend on the cap on room numbers. Labs, and other practical classes, should function in a similar fashion, the number of classes that students might attend in a course depending on social distancing and other health and safety measures.


The HyFlex model is a conceptual framework—not software— so it can be implemented using existing course management system and online tools. While courses are assigned a classroom, all classes will be offered both online and in the physical space. Students are able to attend either or both—those who attend face-to-face classes can join the online class discussion if they like, and those who attend online can later review in-class classes that are posted in audio or audio/video format.

  • All in-person courses should be prepared for the integration of online students. There are different ways that this could happen.
  • The preparation could be as simple as setting up a live-stream of in-person lectures so that students can attend on Zoom. Those students would be able to ask questions and interact with an instructor in real-time.
  • Another approach would involve the creation of an online version of a course with specific elements re-purposed to in-person activity. Live classes, for example, for a percentage of students each week as outlined above. As well as facilitated discussion boards and other ways in which students could interact with instructors.
  • While the version in the last bullet point may initially require more work on courses that have never been taught online, it offers the most flexibility in case of emergencies. It also provides the highest quality experience for those students who are taking the course virtually, whilst allowing equitable participation for those in face-to-face situations.

A Note on Assessment

  • In the interests of equity and efficiency, we advise that students be asked to complete assignments remotely and submit them online whether there is a face-to-face component of the course or not. To overcome academic integrity issues, instructors would be encouraged to create assignments that make cheating harder, rather than rely on technology. Using more authentic assessments, such as projects, presentations, case studies, increases student engagement, make it more difficult for students to easily find answers online. (For more information see the guide to remote assessment and the chapter on assessment in the CTT Guide to Online Teaching.)

Read more about HyFlex (PDF)

The following is a link to the College of Arts and Sciences page detailing approaches to fall delivery: https://cas.unl.edu/cas-approaches-fall-course-delivery

Additional Points to Note

  • All classrooms would need high-quality video and audio transmission capabilities to allow online access to a course. Any information conveyed in-person would be made available online by posting the recording of the classroom activity.
  • As noted above, the number of students allowed in a classroom at any single time is likely to be lower than the cap for a course. Any sign-up procedure should ensure that the students that need to be present physically can be, and all other students have an equal opportunity to attend the class in person the same number of times.
  • It is difficult to offer equal treatment to students who are on Zoom during an in-person lecture. A TA or an appointed student might monitor the Zoom chat for any questions from virtual students and manage other forms of participation.

Advantages of the Hybrid Model

  • Should it become necessary, for example, to shift all teaching online in response to a new outbreak, this would be relatively easy.
  • Social distancing becomes easier as an element of it is built into student teaching schedules.
  • The system is increasingly flexible as it becomes clear as the semester progresses which modes students are opting for. It may be possible that the direction of travel means that later in the semester an instructor can accommodate, for example, all those students wanting a face-to-face experience.
  • Apart from devising a system to determine which students attend face-to-face classes, and when, the process is relatively simple. The CTT and IT Services can both support the move to online courses with one-to-one advice, a late-summer institute, workshops, and the new online teaching guide.
  • Both preparedness and equity are addressed in these proposals. In terms of preparedness, if versions of the hybrid-flexible model are adopted, most courses would require relatively minor changes for them to pivot to wholly online delivery should that become necessary. In terms of equity, all students would have an equal opportunity to engage with face-to-face classes

Challenges that Remain

  • Labs, performance, and studio courses would still have to develop a pathway through the course for students who engage entirely online.
  • Faculty have limited time & resources, and developing a high-quality online course can be challenging, so both instructors and support services may well be stretched.
  • For courses that choose to use a hybrid version that maintains normal classroom activity and includes live-streaming only, with little other virtual material, it will be very difficult to move online if that becomes necessary.
  • Running synchronous class meetings equitably would likely require someone to help facilitate interactions with the online students, and not all courses have such resources available.