On this page, find advice and best practices for teaching online, hybrid, and hyflex courses at JMU. For more personalized support, request a consultation with an online learning expert or instructional designer.
Get started with teaching an online course
Teaching an online course? We recommend that you:
- Review our Teach with Canvas and Teach with Zoom or Webex information.
- Think through how you want to accomplish your core course objectives and facilitate communication and community in the all-online environment, while making the course accessible to all students.
- Decide whether you’ll record some of your course lectures and learn the basics of quality video/audio production at home.
- Consider your assessment options.
- Review our tips for teaching large online classes, if yours has high enrollment.
When the course is about to start
1. Publish your course & set notifications
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.
- Share with your students our tips for success in online learning.
- 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 Forms, or 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, provide students with essential, initial 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 (e.g. the app is not for completing assignments or other assessment 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?
What are 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” (Caulfield, How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course – available as an e-book from JMU Libraries).
How does JMU define “hybrid courses”?
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 for 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 time 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 a learning management system like Canvas so that the desired hybrid model can be achieved with a smooth transition?
Best practices for teaching hybrid courses
- Consider an appropriate mix of content delivery types. Courses can be designed to allow for a combination of asynchronous and synchronous activities.
- Offer a clear schedule of weekly/daily activities that will occur in and out of the classroom.
- Utilize Canvas Groups to enable streamlined communication with the subset of a class who will attend in-person, online synchronously, and online asynchronously respectively.
- 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 schedule for hybrid delivery, please see below. All are shared with permission.
- Becker-Blease, K. (2012) Psychology 202.002: General Psychology – Hybrid course. Oregon State University. Syllabus with schedule.
- Liu, J. C. (2019) EDUC630- Inquiries in Education – online hybrid course. James Madison University. Class schedule; class structure/layout in Canvas.
- Scheuerman, H. L. (2020). CRJU 215: Introduction to criminal justice – Hybrid course schedule. James Madison University. Class schedule before and class schedule after spring break 2020.
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 collaboratively 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, and 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.
What are “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 any number of 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 more about hyflex instruction and 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, the instructor 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 hyflex courses
- Hybrid, Hy-Flex, Hy-Stress: Teaching Under a Rock, a JMU CFI Teaching Toolbox by Cara Meixner, August 13, 2020
- HyFlex Course Design Model with Brian Beatty: Learn about the hyflex course design model through the lens of universal design for learning (UDL) via a podcast and open access book.
Get help with hybrid or hyflex teaching
For personalized support, request a consultation with an online learning expert or instructional designer.