HyFlex Training: Part 3

HyFlex pt 3 header

To learn more about the HyFlex model in general, you can view Part 1 of the HyFlex series. Part 2 of the HyFlex series provides information about starting a class using the new technology found in rooms, facilitating group discussions, and more.


One of the key things to remember about assessment in general is that regardless of how a student is learning, remotely or face-to-face, the learning outcomes stay the same. Backwards design is a great way to go about constructing your course so your students achieve the desired learning outcomes.

Driving mirror

In backwards design you start with what you want your student to learn or be able to do by the end of the lesson (your learning outcomes) and work backward from there to figure out how you will teach the information to the student. As you determine how you’re going to teach the student, you’re also determining how you’re going to assess the student so you know they understood the content.

There are two kinds of assessment.  The first is formative, which is conducted more frequently and through a variety of methods. You’re doing this, for example, when you ask your students questions during class. Formative assessment isn’t necessarily graded assignments, but it can be.

The second kind is summative. This kind of assessment is usually done more formally and it is meant to determine whether or not a student has achieved the learning outcomes.

Changing Things Up

Most instructors have previously used only paper-based tests and understandably are thinking about security and plagiarism as we approach using alternative forms of assessment in the HyFlex model.

The thing to remember is that assessments, formative or summative, don’t have to be comprised of just tests. Additional assessments that test for comprehension include creating outlines, making posters, drawing diagrams, or writing summaries.

A great general resource is a collection of classroom assessment techniques referred to as CATS. It’s been around for the last 20 years or so and was written by Angelo and Cross. Their top 50 assessment techniques can be found here. Another really great resource is the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. This assessment library is searchable by discipline and even breaks down by level of course.

The important part will be having all students use the same system for submitting assignments, regardless of if they are learning remotely or face-to-face on a given day.

Blackboard Learn Original has a variety of resources that can be used to assess student work in conjunction with methods you may have used in the past and/or are recommended by Angelo and Cross. Most of us are familiar with submitting a paper on Blackboard Learn Original, but other tools include journals, wikis, and discussion boards.

The important part will be having all students use the same system for submitting assignments, regardless of if they are learning remotely or face-to-face on a given day.

A Good Old Fashioned Test

Old test 

We recognize that sometimes you’re going to need to use a traditional exam in your class. One of the great things about Blackboard Learn tests and surveys is that there are many types of question formats you can choose to use beyond the traditional multiple choice and true/false formats. Hotspot questions, for example, have students identify an answer to a question by clicking on a particular part of a diagram.

There are also different test options that you can set to control how the test is presented to students, such as how long they have to take it. Cheating can be deterred with some of the test settings, and there are other tools available to instructors, such as the Respondus Lockdown Browser. Students and instructors can download it for free and it locks down the environment so that students can’t print the test, copy and paste, open other windows or other applications, and so forth.

Respondus also has a product called Respondus 4.0, free to NDSU instructors, that allows you to import tests from a word document and then publish it to Blackboard Learn Original, so you don’t have to retype the entire thing.

A Note about Technical Difficulties

One issue many of us faced last spring was connectivity issues, particularly in large classes. NDSU has worked to upgrade internet capabilities so the bandwidth can handle more students using the internet, such as when a class of 300 is all taking a test on Blackboard Learn Original at the same time.

Wifi symbol  

Fortunately, the HyFlex model means some of those students will be at home and not using the same bandwidth as those who are in the physical classroom, which should help alleviate some of the connectivity issues. If students are having difficulties with bandwidth, one thing that can help is for them to hardwire their computer with an ethernet cable instead of using WiFi.

Something that instructors can do to help with this involves making certain choices when setting up the test in Blackboard Learn Original. It is helpful to set the test questions to present all questions at once instead of one at a time. Also, it’s best to choose to not activate the “force completion” setting. This setting is off by default, but when you turn it on students who lose connectivity during the exam will lose their whole test.

Assessment in HyFlex

Something else to consider regarding the integrity of your tests is to offer several low stakes tests as you build up to final exams. If students are taking some low stakes tests all throughout the semester, by the time they get to some of the high stakes tests you’ll have a pattern of testing behavior that you can look at, which may help you uncover cheating. Additionally, building them up with those low stakes tests really helps student learning. There’s a great book by Peter Brown and two of his colleagues called “Make it Stick” that discusses this.

Ipad with graph coming out of the screen

With the semester looking so different, and even when it isn’t, getting feedback from students on how they feel the class is going is important. Blackboard Learn has surveys that can be used to this end. Another option for surveys is Qualtrics. If you don’t already have a Qualtrics account set up, you can get one for free. Aside from usual feedback, students will be able to share how class is working for them, whether remote or face-to-face, if they feel are you calling on people enough, how are the assignments going, etc.

You can then comment on a few in class, like “I’ve heard some of your students are having a hard time hearing when I’m walking all around the classroom. So, I’ll make sure my microphone is a little bit higher up.” These kinds of things help the students to know that you care about their experience and what they’re learning. It also helps you stay informed and make the course a better course.

Archive records

Something else to consider is, both with and outside of assessment, is course organization. One of the things that students comment on the most is when a course appears to be somewhat disorganized and they can’t find where things are. Students who are learning remotely won’t have the advantage of being able to stop at the teaching station after class to talk to you about things, so, if you can have your class organized and clearly labeled on Blackboard Learn Original, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of extra time fielding repetitive emails and having the same discussion over and over again, especially with those 300 seat classes.

Yuja Videos

Yuja videos have some great capabilities beyond just sharing recorded information. For example, you can optionally elect to add quiz questions to it, which can be included in the middle of the video. You are able to set points in the video where it will pause and the students will answer questions about what they just watched.  When they’re done, the video resumes. These can be scored or unscored in your Blackboard Learn Grade Center.

Faculty members who have utilized this tool in class have reported noticing a positive change in end of the semester test results because of these short, frequent checks that help students better retain the information. It’s amazing how getting creative and changing things up can sometimes produce a marked difference in student performance compared to previous years!

Best Practices in Assessment

One best practice to consider that is also extremely important across all aspects of your teaching is providing really clear directions. It may seem like you’re being redundant that you have the instructions in the syllabus and then you have it in the assignment again, but it really helps students understand expectations.


It may also be helpful to record a short video explaining what the assignment is about and why it’s being assigned. Students often feel that a lot of the work they do is busy work, and they are more invested in what they’re doing when they know there is a purpose to an assignment and what outcomes you’re expecting from it.

Rubrics are another best practice. They tie in nicely with providing clear instructions, and when students reference them they end up having a lot of their questions answered without having to come to you. They know what a great paper should look like, what a good paper will look like, and what a passing paper will look like.

Rubrics can be put right into Blackboard Learn Original, and in the Grade Center students can see exactly why they got a C instead of an A or a B.

A final best practice we’ll discuss here (though there are plenty more) is flexibility. This is the hard one to think about with online testing when we already have concerns about the integrity of the test and of our students, but our current situation requires us to remain as flexible as possible.

We’ve already discussed several ways you can use Blackboard Learn Original to protect the integrity of your test, but we want to underscore the importance of considering individual situations and keeping a flexible mind throughout this time.

Attendance in HyFlex

The last part we’re going to address that a lot of instructors are talking about is attendance. There are a lot of different ways you can take attendance other than just running down a list of names and having the students confirm their presence. Attendance can be gathered in a purposeful way that builds community and provides learning at the same time.

You could use voice thread or blogs to track attendance. With voice thread, students can actually post a brief statement and say hello to their fellow classmates. Similarly, in the blog feature or on a discussion board, you could incorporate a kind of check in.

Women with a mask on

One option is with pictures. You as the instructor could post a picture of yourself and students could, in response, post a picture of themselves. You can then put your mask on and post another picture so you can recognize each other with masks on. This can build community and make the learning environment a bit more fun.

Other ways to take attendance include through formative assessment techniques. These can be ungraded, graded, or even pass/fail. Examples could be the one-minute paper or the thirty-second paper (see CATS techniques listed above), a little quiz, a check in on how they felt things went that class period, general class feedback, or a question about what they want to see different tomorrow.

Lastly you can use the video conferencing platform itself. You can see who is present on the call and take note, use polling, or have students check in through the text chat.

A Few Last Thoughts on Attendance

Set up your expectations for attendance right away and make it known to students that you want them to participate. It’s kind of scary to get into building in participation points, but if you know that students are looking for points, adding a points component can help them to stay engaged.

Also, let students know that if they are having technical difficulties, they need to communicate with you. Also, provide information in your syllabus where they need to go to get help (such as the help desk).

This post does contain a lot of information, and the video above includes even more, but these are important considerations to make when facing a semester of HyFlex teaching.

About the Authors:

Lori Swinney

Lori Swinney is an Instructional Designer with NDSU’s Learning & Applied Innovation Center. She joined the department in July 2020 to help provide support as the campus transitions to HyFlex teaching and learning. Swinney retired, after 28 years, from the University of North Dakota in December 2019. Swinney served as the director of the Center for Instructional & Learning Technologies up to December 2018, when several departments were restructured and her position and others became a part of the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy.  Lori completed her B.S. in Psychology, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Higher Education Teaching & Learning, with a focus in Instructional Design & Technology. She has been teaching as an adjunct assistant professor at UND since 2003. The courses include online, hybrid and traditional face-to-face in College Teaching, Web-Based Instruction and Multicultural Education.

Amy Tichy

Amy Tichy is pursuing her M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at NDSU.  She graduated with a Master of Arts in Theatre with a concentration in Drama Therapy from Kansas State University (2014), where she was a Graduate Teaching Assistant, lecturing 6 credits of Public Speaking per semester, and with a Bachelor of Science in History Education and Theatre Education from Dickinson State University (2010).  Amy is a licensed teacher and a Registered Drama Therapist.  She works in the Office of Teaching and Learning as a Graduate Assistant.

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OwnerLinda C.GroupIT Knowledge Base
Created2023-09-25 11:00:35Updated2023-11-20 10:13:55
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