Promoting active learning and equity in a HyFlex course Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 30/10/2019

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We developed a practical IT course in HyFlex format, allowing students to complete any part of the course in online and/or face-to-face mode, and implemented methods to promote equity and engagement, taking into account the differences in each mode.


When tasked with the development of the new course “Information and Security Management” for second-year ICT students in Trimester 2, 2017, we decided to develop it in HyFlex mode.

HyFlex mode allows students to complete any part of a course in online and/or face-to-face mode. Yet, the increased flexibility of HyFlex mode for students brings with it two unique challenges for course designers, additional to those inherent to online and face-to-face instruction individually.

Firstly, how can we ensure equity between the two parallel modes for student learning? Students should have the same learning opportunities in either mode without being disadvantaged by choosing one mode over the other.

Specifically, students should have equitable access to course resources, computer software to complete learning activities, and learning support.

Secondly, how can we promote student engagement by leveraging the characteristics of each mode?

The implementation of active learning strategies for student engagement in online mode often differs from that in face-to-face mode. Therefore, student engagement measures should be customised to best suit each mode.


We implemented a range of methods to ensure equity for students between online and face-to-face mode:

  • Short video lectures embedded on the course site in Learning@Griffith, in addition to the recordings from the face-to-face lectures.
  • A social question answering platform as the course discussion forum, where students can answer other students’ questions and instructors can endorse these answers, similar to a wiki-style format.
  • Detailed step-by-step instructions to complete the practical lab activities using software that is freely available, runs on all major operating systems, and is well-supported.

We implemented the following methods to promote engagement for students in both modes:

  • An ePortfolio that consisted of a learning journal and a lab journal. Students would make weekly entries to reflect on and reinforce the concepts from the lectures and labs. The ePortfolio entries were graded and received feedback from the teaching team.
  • Reflective questions in the face-to-face lectures and video lectures. Video lectures with embedded reflective questions would pause to present the question, ask the student to choose an answer, and then reveal the answer upon resuming.
  • Group work for teams across both modes to complete the two major assignments in the course.
  • Peer review for the first major assignment using an online platform.


Interestingly, while the preference for online video lectures and face-to-face lectures was almost split evenly, several students mentioned that they found value in using both modes together, such as watching the video lectures for pre-class preparation or recapping the face-to-face lecture. In the final student experience of course (SEC) survey, 61% of students strongly agreed that the video lectures had assisted their learning.

The social question answering platform received visits from nearly two-thirds of the cohort and recorded an average response time of just 38 minutes. There were only few questions regarding the lab instructions on the platform and similarly in the lab classrooms, suggesting that our instructions were sufficiently detailed and scaffolded.

As one student mentioned in our mid-term survey:

“I really like the comments in lab questions saying for ‘If you cannot remember how to do X then refer to Lab X or X.’ This is fantastic for the pre-conditions. Keep it up!”

For their weekly ePortfolio, students made use of the flexible format offered by the platform and created entries of varied formats, e.g., elaborate mind maps. They found value in constructing their ePortfolio, as 29% of students praised the learning journals in the SEC qualitative feedback, e.g.,

“I have noticed that I have retained a lot more information from this course than other courses due to these learning journals”.

We noticed an increased level of interaction in the face-to-face lectures by regularly stopping and posing reflective questions to the students. This would often lead to discussions about students’ personal experiences or real-world examples related to the concepts of that lecture.

In the words of a student:

“I enjoyed stoppages in lectures to discuss matters in more details”.

Both assignments completed through group work had a high completion rate. In the peer review process, 70% of submissions received at least two peer reviews. Interestingly, the mean difference between peer review marks and actual marks given by the teaching team for a submission was only 14%.

Enabling Technology

The educational technologies and tools we used in our course included:

  • PebblePad as the ePortfolio platform and to support group work with peer review 
  • Piazza as the social question answering platform
  • SEED labs for hands-on practice with information security problems
  • Codeanywhere and phpMyAdmin for hands-on practice with database management problems
  • Vizia to embed reflective questions in video lectures(service retired)

Griffith Graduate Attributes

To read more:

Binnewies S., Wang Z. (2019) Challenges of Student Equity and Engagement in a HyFlex Course. In: Allan C., Campbell C., Crough J. (eds) Blended Learning Designs in STEM Higher Education. Springer, Singapore.

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Preferred Citation

Binnewies, S., Wang, Z. (2019). Promoting active learning and equity in a HyFlex course. Retrieved from