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The attribute of choice

Read this article about how choice fits into HyFlex learning.
© University of Southern Queensland

Choice in the context of HyFlex is all about providing choices for the learner. For a learner to have choice, they must have access to multiple resources, pathways, multimedia and modes.

A common approach to learning design is to be “student-centred”, and this is a popular idea in instructional design models. However, there is a difference between student-centred and learner-choice. The first focuses on the learning designer making decisions that they believe will facilitate an authentic student experience. On the other hand, learner choice firmly shifts the learning journey into the hands of the learner with the learning designer needing to provide multiple and various opportunities for the learner.

Fundamentally the teacher/instructor must be willing to “let go” of a significant amount of control in the learning journey and to trust the student to make choices that may be different from ones previously imagined by the designer/teacher/instructor. There are four main considerations when it comes to choice: achieving learning outcomes, learning mode, accessing key content, and interaction and combination.

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Achieving learning outcomes

When trust is evident between the learner and the designer/teacher/instructor, the learner will move with confidence through the choices they make. Ultimately, they will develop the skills to navigate to the learning outcomes they need for the results they want. In some cases students will say they don’t like choice, but this may be because they are unfamiliar with being given choice and autonomy in their learning experiences. In these instances, the student needs to be supported to explore the choices in a safe environment, one in which risk is considered a positive attribute to undertake. Once students have experienced the positive aspects of choice, they won’t want to go back to being restricted in their learning experiences.

Learning mode

Underpinning HyFlex learning is the choice about learning mode (online, on-campus, asynchronous), but this can be extended to choice at all stages of the learning experience. For example, a very simple shift can be from providing a list of topics to choose from (something that looks like student choice) to asking the learner to formulate a question to guide their research. The result is that the learner has more autonomy and yet still researches in the discipline area. For this to happen successfully, the teacher/instructor has an important support role to listen to the learner’s interests and help develop a sense of inquiry.

Accessing key content

Another type of choice that is important and in some way different from traditional instructional design, is providing multiple modes of content and resources. The concept of “redundancy” (see Reiser and Dempsey (2012), for example) is often cited as a reason not to provide multiple versions of the same idea or concept. However, in a HyFlex model, the provision for multiple ways in which the learner can explore content initiates flexibility and assures that the learner is not “missing” part of the learning. For example, one learner may prefer to watch a video and not read the text, while another might read the text and never watch the video. If they feel pressured to consume all of the provided content, the element of choice has been removed. If they know they can achieve the learning outcomes through choosing which parts they engage with, then they have true flexibility.

Interaction and contribution

In HyFlex, the students should be provided with choice about when, where and how they study. To be able to do this and provide equivalency of experience is where the true test of the design for learning comes into play. A learner can be given a variety of opportunities and means to interact with their peers, the content and the teacher. Furthermore, providing choices in how, when and where they contribute results in greater participation and overall satisfaction.

© University of Southern Queensland
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Introduction to HyFlex Learning and Teaching

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