Teach an online, hybrid, or hyflex course at JMU

JMU instructors, this is your online teaching guide. We share expert advice and best practices for teaching online, hybrid, and hyflex courses at JMU. (Are you a student? Switch to our guide to online learning.)

For personalized support, request a consultation with an online learning expert or instructional designer.

On this page:

Canvas and Zoom pages:

Prepare to teach online

Teaching an online course? We recommend that you:

Incorporate best practices in your online/hybrid teaching

When your course is about to start

  1. Publish your course & set notifications: Learn how to Publish your course in Canvas and set your Canvas notification preferences.
  2. Email your students
    • Using Canvas or your MyMadison roster, email your students to let them know the course will be held online. Timely initial communication will help reduce uncertainty and begin to cultivate the sense of connection that is critical to successful online teaching.
    • Point your students to our Taking online or hybrid courses at JMU page.
    • Ask your students a few questions to become aware of their learning needs and any concerns they have. Here is a sample student questionnaire, which you are welcome to copy or adapt. You can use QuestionPro, Google Formsor Microsoft Forms to create yours.
    • Try to balance reducing student uncertainty with sharing appropriate types and amounts of information. Avoid overwhelming students with initial communication. Instead, initially provide students with essential information and let them know when they can expect to hear more information from you.
  3. Ask whether your students have the technology they need to participate in your online course.
    • Refer students to the JMU Online Technology Requirements.
    • Some students may access the internet via their cell phones and/or via slower internet connections. Please keep this accessibility issue in mind. Using the Canvas Student app may provide more inclusive access for students for certain aspects of the course (however, the app is not for completing assignments or other assessments in a class).
  4. Share course policies: Students may experience increased uncertainty about an online class. Here are some questions to explain to students:
    • How will you define attendance and participation?
    • How often should students expect to hear from you?
    • How often do you expect students to communicate with you?
    • Where can materials (slides, handouts, notes, assignments) for classes be found?

Teaching hybrid courses

Hybrid courses combine traditional classroom activities with other learning activities, such as online instruction or experiential learning. In hybrid courses (also called blended courses), “not only is face time replaced to varying degrees by online learning, but also by experiential learning that takes place in the community or within an organization with or without the presence of a teacher. This pedagogy places the primary responsibility of learning on the learner, with the teacher’s primary role being to create opportunities and environments that foster independent and collaborative student learning” (from How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course. available as an e-book from JMU Libraries).

JMU defines hybrid courses as such: “During formal instruction, the instructor and learner occupy the same physical space less than 50% of the time. There would be limited usage of Webex/Zoom for instruction – rather, the course delivery would be a combination of live interactions between faculty and students and other delivery modes of material” (from the June 18, 2020 Request to Teach Remotely form). These hybrid classes can be taught with a variety of pedagogical approaches supported by technologies. See sample MyMadison class descriptions for hybrid courses below.

Key questions about hybrid course design: 

  • Can the class be split in two, so that half attend in-person and half attend via synchronous online sessions on one day, then they switch modes on the other day?
  • How will learning objectives be fulfilled with class activities without face-to-face time in a physical classroom space? How will asynchronously structured interactions ensure the fulfillment of learning objectives?
  • How clearly is the class schedule laid out as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly activities with due times so that the split of face-to-face and online asynchronous time can be optimally used to engage student learning?
  • How mandatory is physical space to a class, such as a ceramic studio, science laboratory, or use of high-cost instruments?
  • What benefits can result in student learning when both the in-class and live online students connect in real time?
  • How well does the asynchronous content of the class (including presentations and assessments) translate into Canvas so that the desired hybrid model can be achieved with a smooth transition?

Tips for teaching hybrid courses:

  1. Consider an appropriate mix of content delivery types. Courses can be designed with a combination of asynchronous and synchronous activities. 
  2. Offer a clear schedule of weekly/daily activities that will occur in and out of the classroom.
  3. Utilize Canvas Groups to enable streamlined communication with the subsets of a class who will attend in-person, online synchronously, and online asynchronously respectively. 
  4. Know the technology needs of your students (in terms of hardware and internet connectivity) so that you can make adjustments if technical issues arise. 

Sample schedules for hybrid courses:

If you would like to see how other faculty members have designed their class schedules for hybrid delivery, please see below. All are shared with permission.

Sample MyMadison descriptions for hybrid courses:

Below are four sample statements for a hybrid course that can be used in Class Description and/or Class Notes in MyMadison. The purpose of these samples is to help students understand how the hybrid class will be taught:

  • Sample 1 (combining in-person class activities with synchronous and asynchronous online content): This class is hybrid, combining in person face-to-face class activities in a classroom with online learning, focusing on core learning objectives of the class. According to the class schedule, students will participate in face-to-face activities and also participate online by watching live or recorded class sessions, reviewing, critiquing, and synthesizing notes, textbooks, articles, websites, or other written materials; engaging in online discussions with their peers; reviewing interactive course content and interacting with instructors during online office hours; or completing group activities or projects using online collaboration tools such as shared documents or video conference meetings.
  • Sample 2 (delivering content online and hosting in-person/face-to-face class time as scheduled): This class is hybrid, combining in-person face-to-face class activities in classrooms with online learning, focusing on core learning objectives of the class. Students are expected to read materials, watch recorded lectures and videos online via Canvas, and ask questions via Canvas or during in-person face-to-face classes. At the scheduled in-person or face-to-face class time, students and the instructor will complete activities, such as clinicals, studio work, labs, discussions, and other coursework. Assignments, quizzes, exams, and assessments may happen online or in person face-to-face.
  • Sample 3 (alternating in-person/face-to-face class time and online learning as scheduled): This class is hybrid, combining in-person face-to-face class activities in classrooms with online learning, focusing on core learning objectives of the class. A class alternates between 50% of the class attending in-person face-to-face during class time with the instructor, while the other 50% of the class participates in the scheduled class virtually and performs scheduled online individual coursework or group projects. Then the class groups switch with the 50% who were participating virtually attending in person face-to-face and the 50% who were participating in person face-to-face switching to virtual participation. The alternating schedule will be determined by the instructor.
  • Sample 4 (providing class-specific in-person/face-to-face learning and online learning as scheduled): This class is hybrid, blending in-person face-to-face class activities in the classroom with online learning, focusing on core learning objectives of the class. All students in this class are expected to attend in-person face-to-face class sessions, as determined by the instructor and communicated to the class, and participate in online learning activities by completing readings, reviewing recordings, watching videos, completing assignments, engaging in discussions with the instructor and peers, conducting group projects, etc. Assignments, quizzes, exams, and assessments may happen online or in person face-to-face.

Note: These sample statements were provided by faculty from JMU Libraries, the Center for Faculty Innovation, the College of Education, the College of Arts and Letters, the College of Science and Mathematics, the College of Health and Behavioral Studies, the School of Communication Studies, the School of Integrated Sciences, and the School of Art, Design, and Art History. They were based on resources such as Hybrid and Online Learning from the Center for Teaching Innovation at Cornell University and Active Learning in Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classrooms from the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University.

Teaching “hyflex” courses

Hyflex refers to a hybrid model that gives students flexibility as to how they can attend synchronous meetings. If you’re teaching a hyflex class, you may split your class, connect your in-person classroom to students online via Webex or Zoom, or use other approaches you deem best suitable to your situation.

A hyflex model requires you to manage both the on-campus and remote learners at the same time.

Questions to ask yourself before teaching in a hyflex mode:

Teaching in a hyflex environment requires specialized skills. Be sure to consult our classroom technology how-to guides to learn how to integrate a Hovercam with web conferencing tools. 

You’ll be prepared to manage the technology required to teach in a hyflex environment when you can answer “yes” to the following questions.

  • Do you feel comfortable using the classroom technology (e.g. turning on the projector, selecting Source, adjusting volume, and navigating the computer on the lectern)?
  • Have you scheduled and conducted online meetings or classes with Webex or Zoom through Canvas?
  • Have you used the document camera on the classroom lecterns?
  • Do you feel comfortable setting up student activities such as assignments, quizzes, and discussions through Canvas or other online means?

Once you can manage the technology, it is important to consider how you will structure and work with your class in the two modalities.

Tips for teaching in a hyflex environment:

  • A short activity is a great way to start class. While students are completing the short activity, you can properly set up the online learning environment using classroom technologies and web conferencing tools.
  • View our how-to guides for using a Hovercam with Zoom/Webex. Choose the one appropriate to your operating system (Apple or PC) and your web conferencing tool (Webex or Zoom).
  • Find more tips in the readings below.

Readings on teaching online

Get support

For personalized support, request a consultation with an online learning expert or instructional designer.

Acknowledgments

This page, and some of the pages it links to, were written by multiple JMU Libraries contributors. These pages were based on a “Flu-Proofing Teaching Resources” site developed by JMU Libraries and CFI and drew on advice about remote teaching from other institutions. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.