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Five Tips for Hybrid/HyFlex Teaching with All Learners in Mind


Teaching a hybrid/HyFlex course allows instructors to draw on their in-person and online teaching experiences to create flexible, accessible, and equitable learning environments for in-person and remote students alike.

Many lessons can be learned from the pandemic use of hybrid/HyFlex pedagogies (see Beatty, 2020; Gannon, 2020; and Kelly, 2021 for their reflections) and our Columbia University colleagues that have been teaching in this modality (see Voices of Hybrid and Online Teaching and Learning for their experiences in the hybrid/HyFlex classroom). 

What follows are five tips for instructors who will be teaching hybrid/HyFlex courses where the majority of students will be participating in face-to-face (synchronous) class sessions while a few students will be joining remotely. Each tip encourages instructors to plan with all learners in mind, while being attentive to the needs and experiences of remote learners.

Cite this resource: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (2021). Five Tips for Hybrid/HyFlex Teaching with All Learners in Mind. Columbia University. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/teaching-with-technology/teaching-online/five-tips-hybrid/

In this video, Dr. Thomas Groll, Provost Senior Faculty Teaching Scholar and Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs, shares how he is using the HyFlex delivery mode in his Macroeconomics course. 

1. Create community for all

How will you ensure that your remote learners feel part of the learning community? How will you foster a sense of togetherness between your in-person and remote learners?

Being in the classroom with the majority of your students is exciting! It provides a lot of opportunities to connect, have spontaneous conversations, and engage students in their learning. While energizing for you and your in-person students, your fully remote students may continue to feel Zoom fatigue, cognitive overload, and disconnect. Keep these in mind as you consider your remote learners and how you can create a sense of togetherness in the hybrid/HyFlex classroom.

  • Welcome all learners prior to the start of the course (through email or CourseWorks Announcements) and at every synchronous class session–greet in-person students and look into the camera to greet remote learners, acknowledging their presence. 
  • Use icebreaker activities to get in-person and remote students interacting and familiar with who is in the course. Such activities can take place asynchronously in CourseWorks or synchronously during class sessions via Zoom (note: this will require asking your in-person students to bring a mobile device and headset). See the CTL’s resource Community Building in Online and Hybrid (HyFlex) Courses for strategies to adapt for your classroom. 
  • Set the tone by establishing a community agreement that outlines expectations of in-person and remote students. This will guide the interactions that you have in the hybrid/HyFlex course.

2. Make all course materials and learning experiences accessible  

What materials and types of learning experiences will your remote and in-person students need to achieve the same learning outcomes? Where and when will course materials be made available? 

Ensure that materials from synchronous class sessions are available in CourseWorks (e.g., posting presentation slides, readings, activities). This benefits all of your learners and assures continuity in the event of future disruption (whether weather-related or health-related, etc). 

  • Reflect back on your recent online teaching experiences and draw on the elements of instructional technologies that worked for you and your students. Columbia-supported tools like Zoom, CourseWorks, and Panopto can support all of your students’ learning. 
  • Consider CourseWorks modules, instructional videos, discussion prompts, creative assignments, etc. that can be reused from previous iterations of your course to support all of your learners. Ensure that course materials are accessible to all students (e.g., video include captions); see CTL’s Accessibility in Teaching and Learning resource. Save time by copying over CourseWorks content from previous courses (see Canvas Guide: How do I copy content from another Canvas course using the Course Import Tool?).
  • Class recordings are invaluable to students whether participating in-person or online. Make sure to hit the Zoom record button. Invite students or TAs to remind you to do so in case you forget during a synchronous class session or following a pause. 

3. Engage all of your students

What strategies will you use to engage your in-person and remote students with each other and course material? How will you ensure that your remote students have an equally engaging experience as the students participating in-person?

Create opportunities for equitable learning experiences for remote and in-person students. 

  • Plan activities that are accessible to remote and in-person students. View example plans for a 50-minute and 75-minute class session from Kevin Kelly of San Francisco State University, that include HyFlex versions of activities such as mini-lecture, think-pair-share, polling, and quickwrites (note: this resource is Google Document created by Kevin Kelly though all are welcome to suggest examples or resources to support adopting HyFlex practices). Communicate instructions and expectations for participation to in-person and remote students. 
  • Select technologies, tools, and activities that will support the class learning goals and support student engagement – whether using Zoom features (see CTL’s Active Learning for Your Online Classroom: Five Strategies Using Zoom resource for engagement strategies using Zoom) or polling (e.g., Poll Everywhere). 
  • Create opportunities for your remote students to engage with their in-person peers during synchronous sessions. When posing questions, pause to give all students time to engage, check the chat for contributions, repeat student questions, and acknowledge responses from remote and in-person students. Consider using collaborative digital spaces to which all students can contribute, whether as a whole class or in small groups (see CTL’s Collaborative Learning Online resource for ideas).  
  • Get students talking to each other asynchronously. Invite students to engage in CourseWorks discussions (see CTL’s Learning Through Synchronous and Asynchronous Discussion resource for discussion tips and strategies); when possible, reference students’ posts to online discussion during synchronous class sessions to help reinforce the connections and acknowledge student contributions. 

4. Help students succeed in your version of a hybrid/HyFlex course

How are you planning to support your learners? What will your in-person and online presence be like? What can your in-person and remote learners expect? 

Whether students are transitioning back to in-person learning or learning remotely, all students benefit from access to you, your TA(s), and support resources. 

  • Communicate about the hybrid/HyFlex course. Share with your students how the course will be taught, what you expect of your in-person and remote learners (e.g., in terms of participation and use of technology), and how you will be partnering with TAs, if applicable (a resource to share with your TAs: Supporting HyFlex/Hybrid Courses: A Resource for Course and Teaching Assistants), and students (e.g., to monitor Zoom hand raising and the chat for any questions; or to remind you to hit record or screenshare so that everyone can access the class session). Make this information available in CourseWorks (e.g., in the syllabus, through the Announcement tool) and communicate it in class. 
  • Host virtual office hours that will accommodate in-person and remote students alike. Share resources to support student learning (e.g., Maximizing Student Learning Online for your remote learners).
  • Check-in with your learners: (a) before the semester starts: survey your students to understand their needs, their access to technology, and other resources they will need for the course; (b) during class sessions: pause to create space for students to ask questions and provide feedback; (c) early on or mid-semester: ask students to share what they think is working to support their remote or in-person learning (see CTL’s Early and Mid-Semester Student Feedback resource for approaches to adapt for your course).

5. Know your classroom and set-up early

How will you use the physical classroom and the virtual learning environment to teach? What tools and instructional technologies will support your teaching and your students’ learning?

Visit and familiarize yourself with the physical classroom space, campus safety guidelines, and the technology available to support your teaching and your students’ learning. 

Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) has equipped many of Columbia’s classrooms with video cameras and microphones to create hybrid learning environments (see CUIT’s Hybrid Classroom Locations for information about what is available in Registrar-managed classrooms). View CUIT’s “Getting Started” guide which includes checklists, tips for seminar/discussion-based courses and lecture-based courses, and contact information for support. For non-Registrar classrooms, check with your department or school regarding room technology and support.

  • Test out the technology in your assigned classroom, including the camera settings and audio, to ensure that your remote students will be able to see and hear what is going on in the classroom. Be sure to check in with your students throughout the semester to ensure the technology settings are still working, and make any tweaks as necessary. 
  • Plan how you will make the space and the technology work for you and your students. Have a contingency plan for when technology issues may arise. Communicate your plan to your students. 
  • Connect with CUIT e-classroom support for help, whether scheduling an in-classroom training or day-of/in the moment classroom support. Know who to call. 
  • Arrive early to every synchronous class to set-up your classroom technology, launch Zoom, select a camera pre-settings so that your remote students can see you, and do an audio check to ensure that your remote students can hear you. 

The CTL is here to help!

For assistance with designing a hybrid/HyFlex course and the pedagogical use of Columbia-supported instructional technologies mentioned (CourseWorks, Zoom, Panopto), please request a Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) consultation by emailing ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.


Hybrid/HyFlex Teaching at Columbia

CTL on-demand resources


Beatty, B. (2020). Can HyFlex Options Support Students in the Midst of Uncertainty? EDUCAUSE Review. 

Beatty, B. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing student-directed hybrid classes (1st ed.). EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex

Educause Learning Initiative. (2020). ELI 7 Things You Should Know About… The HyFlex Course Model. EDUCAUSE.

Gannon, K. (2020). Our HyFlex Experiment: What’s Worked and What Hasn’t. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Kelly, K. (2021). COVID-19 Planning for Spring 2021: What We Learned About Hybrid Flexible Courses in Fall 2020. PilonEdTech.  

The CTL researches and experiments.

The Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning provides an array of resources and tools for instructional activities.