HyFlex Offers In-Class Experience for Students at Home
Lyndsie Thurnau, like so many students at St. Louis Community College, came to the school as a non-traditional student when she started the dental hygiene program at the Forest Park campus.
The mother of a newborn when she began in 2011, Thurnau occasionally faced the dilemma of staying home to care for her sick child or attending class to prepare for her future. She inevitably chose school but never without the emotional toil a parent feels when leaving their child in need.
Now, working on a master’s degree while serving as an instructor in STLCC’s dental hygiene program, Thurnau is preaching the value of alternative delivery systems such as HyFlex classrooms.
“When you think about community college, you think about the opportunity to elevate to get outside of your position,” said Thurnau, who served in a clinical setting for seven years before returning to her alma mater to teach. “Sometimes your position may have a lot of barriers. It could be childcare, transportation, you could be part of the sandwich generation. You could have your plate totally full and the only way you can change things is go to school and that’s what community college is for.
“But if you can’t get rid of some of those barriers, I don’t know how you’re supposed to get to class.”
As part of her master’s of education in learning and instructional design program at Wichita State University, she wrote an article about HyFlex that earned the front cover of the winter/spring edition of C2C Journal. The publication, geared for academia, explored how the use of technology can provide a beneficial way of delivering a quality education to students in a traditional classroom setting and those elsewhere.
The system provides an avenue for a personalized and immediate delivery that traditional online education might not. It uses a camera at the back of a classroom that follows the instructor, one in the front that shows the students in class, and monitors that display the online students all with the ability for the instructor to share his or her computer screen or whiteboard or digital board.
“HyFlex rooms at full capacity offer an in-class experience for people at home,” said Muha Hadziselimovic, senior manager for end user services at STLCC. “You can have 15 students in class and 20 at home, and students at home feel like they’re in the classroom.”
The College ran a pilot program at the Forest Park campus with the technology in E209 about two years ago. After getting positive reviews from both students and faculty, 12 more rooms across the district were equipped. As more instructors get comfortable with the functions of HyFlex and the availability for equipment improves, the College is considering adapting more rooms.
Though the dental hygiene accreditation body hasn’t approved the use of HyFlex, Thurnau believes the technology is beneficial for other majors and hopes that someday she can use them in her classroom.
“If nothing else, the pandemic has taught us that we have to be more accommodating,” she said. “It’s more just than convincing students to come to school sick or when their kids are sick.
“The idea of a format or delivery system that gives the students the option to either attend virtually or in person is kind of win-win and I’m kind of surprised it’s taken so long to come to.”