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This article discusses the student-centred-hybrid model.

At the very heart of HyFlex learning is the student-centred-hybrid model.

Most of us believe that we are doing what is best for our students, and it can be perplexing when we receive feedback that seems to suggest otherwise.

At the heart of HyFlex is a shift away from a didactic method to a more constructivist approach of teaching. The didactic method of teaching centres on structured learning that is planned in advance (Indeed, 2021). It usually consists of teachers presenting pre-planned lessons to address specific learning objectives (Indeed, 2021). A constructivist approach on the other hand is where the teacher takes more of a facilitator role and helps the student to become more active in their learning (McLeod, 2019a). This is because constructivist theory centres on the idea that knowledge is gained through past experiences, and in teaching practice, this means the student’s prior knowledge is considered in the classroom rather than prescribing to a set learning plan (McLeod, 2019a).

This table from SimplyPsychology (McLeod, 2019a) shows the difference between the two quite well:


Consider what type of teaching approach you currently use and what you might have tried. Share your responses in the discussion section below.

A good starting place to understand constructivist approaches to teaching and learning is in the work of Lev Vygotsky. His work dates back to the early 1900s, but it has formed the foundation for much of the teaching strategies that consider the way a person learns and specifically in Vygotsky’s case, how a child learns (Vygotsky, 1978). Vygotsky’s main theory is the Zone of Proximal Development, which describes a child’s learning ability with different levels of assistance (McLeod, 2019b). The inner zone is what the child can do on their own, the second is what they can do with assistance/guidance, and the third is what they cannot do (McLeod, 2019b).

When we adapt the basic premise of the Zone of Proximal Development, we start to put the student as an individual at the centre of the decisions made about the learning experiences we design and the way we teach.
However, with the adult at the centre of the learning design, a picture emerges of someone who wants to be given choices to support their learning. These choices will manifest in flexible delivery style, time, and modes while providing meaningful learning experiences that may sit within theories of experiential, inquiry, problem and project based learning (to name a few). When both temporal and geographic constraints are eliminated and learning design is student-centred, then HyFlex approaches become possible and viable.
Taking a closer look at Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) as a learning theory, Downes (2022) reiterates the learner as having two separate networks: personal learning and social learning. In simple terms, and related to our theme of flexibility and choice regarding HyFlex, learning does not happen in isolation. Students may think it does (or some may want it to), but learning is about making connections through online networks. Another way to look at this is through a Personal Learning Network (Oddone, 2018) developed through local and global interaction with others. Constructivist learning requires social interaction and a designed HyFlex model provides choices for how, when, and what this looks like for the learner.
“Connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks” (Downes, 2022, p.59).

Identifying the unique needs of your students (and teachers) is an important part of the process when moving to or designing HyFlex learning. Their preferences for connection, communication, collaboration and creation or co-construction of learning should be considered. Development of learner digital literacy (Oddone, n.d), including media literacy and improved confidence when using technology for learning—both as an individual and with peers and teachers—is another aspect of HyFlex. We will explore educational technologies later in this course. For now, consider your context and expectations for student connection, social networking, leading to collaborative co-construction of knowledge.

Interesting texts for further reading
Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6 (4),50-70.
Online Education: Foundations, planning and pedagogy. Picciano, A (2019): Routledge.
Learning online: The student experience. Veletsianos, G (2020): John Hopkins University Press
Wright, Gloria Brown (2011). “Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education” (PDF). International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 23 (3): 93–94. ISSN 1812-9129.
Downes, S. (2022). Connectivism. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 17(1), 58-87.
Garrison, D. R. & Anderson, R. (2003). E-Learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. Routledge.
Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (2019). A Posthumanist Critique of Flexible Online Learning and its “Anytime Anyplace” Claims. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(3), 1005-1018.
Indeed Editorial Team. What is didactic teaching? [Internet]. Indeed; 2021. Available from:,personal%20preferences%20and%20other%20factors
McLeod, Saul. Constructivism as a theory for teaching and learning. [Internet]. SimplyPsychology; 2019a. Available from:
McLeod, Saul. Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding. [Internet]. SimplyPsychology; 2019b. Available from:
Oddone, K. (n.d.). Defining and developing digital literacy Part 1: Theories and models.
Oddone, K. (2018, January 21). PLNs: Theory and practice.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press.
© University of Southern Queensland
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