Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools were left closed for the spring semester and had to quickly move courses online for the remainder of the school year. With the fall semester here, schools are looking at a variety of options to accommodate students and teachers with a range of learning experiences. Some of the most popular course models that schools are offering for Fall 2020 include continued distance learning or fully online classes, as well as a new “HyFlex” format.
While HyFlex is not a new concept, its relevance has certainly increased exponentially over the last few months. HyFlex refers to a hybrid environment that caters to both in-person and online participants, allowing them the flexibility to participate virtually, in-person, or a mixture of the two.
In a time where we’re trying to limit occupancy in both meeting rooms and classrooms, the HyFlex model has become a huge topic of discussion. How do we provide an experience that puts everyone on an equal playing field, where remote participants feel like they’re part of the room, but also where the people in the room feel more connected to the remote participants? In short, how do we facilitate real collaboration across the digital divide? To do this, you have to provide more than a small camera and display, you need to create a presence and connection.
Effective Audio and Visual Set-Up
With an external zoom-capable tracking camera and microphones, remote participants will have the ability to see and hear the presenter/instructor at the front of the room just as they would if they were in the room. They also need to see the instructor and the content simultaneously, just as they would in-person, so they’re not switching their eyes back and forth between boxes on a screen. A camera and microphones can additionally be set up to face the in-person participants, so that remote participants can see and hear the other people in the room to effectively participate in group discussions.
The Value of Large Screens and Video Walls
Large screens or a video wall at the rear of the room can provide the presenter/instructor with a view of the remote participants in a scale that recreates presence in the room, as opposed to straining to see who is speaking or having to turn their back on the in-person participants to address the online ones.
Additionally, large screens in the front of the room can display content and remote participants to the in-person participants, so remote participants can be a greater presence and in-person participants can feel like they are able to engage in valuable discussions with remote participants.
In the future, HyFlex spaces will likely also leverage 360-degree view cameras that allow remote participants to explore the space individually and create their own perspective.
More Than a Reactionary Model
HyFlex spaces are the future of work and education and will extend well beyond our current situation. The benefits for remote participants in other offices or locations, for distance learning, and for recording, meetings and discussions are far-reaching and will provide value well beyond current restrictions on occupancy and gatherings. This model has been discussed since 2006—it’s not reactionary, it's visionary. The future of spaces includes HyFlex long-term.