Award Abstract #2110799

Expanding Accessibility of Learning through Blended Synchronous Instruction of Face-to-face and Remote Students

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Thomas Kim

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Nathan Mentzer [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Adrie Koehler (Co-Principal Investigator)
Shawn Farrington (Co-Principal Investigator)


Purdue University
2550 Northwestern Ave.
West Lafayette IN 479061332

NSF Program:

This project aims to serve the national interest by optimizing a highly flexible instructional model that enables college students to participate in scheduled classes either in-person or remotely as needed. This model of instruction, called HyFlex, offers learners the option of participating remotely for a few lectures or the entire course and enables students’ participation mode to change in response to their daily needs. Although the Hyflex model shows great promise, its implementation in the US and globally as an emergency response to COVID-19 has proven challenging. The mass transition from traditional in-person classroom environments to online learning in March 2020 required STEM educators to design flexible learning experiences and reconceptualize student engagement and participation. This project has the potential to transform and improve the accessibility of undergraduate STEM education in a Polytechnic Design Thinking core course required of 1500 students each year. The project proposes to expand upon a 2020-2021 pilot implementation of Hyflex by studying active learning strategies in blended synchronous instructional environments. This project is designed to further define HyFlex as an educational model, optimize the approach, scale to 1500 students annually, and study the efficacy on student learning and sense of community. Lessons learned will be shared across campus (47,000 students, faculty, and staff) and nationally.

The research team will implement literature-based best practices in HyFlex learning, use design-based research to optimize the HyFlex learning experience, and study its impacts. To investigate student learning and sense of community, the project team will use pre-existing data from a large-scale freshman core course gathered during traditional face-to-face instruction as a comparison to the proposed HyFlex environment. The project PI is the course coordinator for an active learning core Design Thinking course with 1500 students annually, providing an ideal course for this study. To manage quarantines dictated by COVID-19 protocols, the project team piloted the HyFlex model during the 2020-2021 academic year, blending face-to-face and online learners synchronously. Using Self-Determination Theory as a lens, the analysis of quantitative and qualitative pilot data suggests the model meets dynamic and rapidly changing student needs. This project will build on the 2020-2021 foundation, which also supports a rigorous study design. Two years of design-based research will iteratively optimize the HyFlex approach in 80 unique sections of the course, followed by one year of efficacy study using qualitative data to interpret quantitative results in a quasi-experimental nonequivalent comparison group design. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.