Loyola Professors Explain How ‘HyFlex’ Classes are Managed Spring Semester

Courtesy of Robert PolakLoyola is offering a limited number of in-person classes in a "HyFlex" format for the spring semester.

While the majority of Loyola’s fall semester courses were remote, more transitioned to a “HyFlex” format for the spring semester.

A Hyflex course is offered in-person, synchronously online and asynchronously online. Students enrolled in a Hyflex course can choose whether to attend class on-campus or virtually.  

Approximately 250-300 classes, which include research in physical chemistry, interviewing for communication and circuit design laboratory, are on-campus spring semester, according to Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Norberto Grzywacz. 

There’s a team of people involved in the decision-making process in determining which classes should be delivered online and in-person, according to Grzywacz. While selecting on-campus courses, Loyola prioritized classes which require hands-on learning. Grzywacz said the university decided to keep a course online if the class didn’t need to be on-campus.

As per Loyola’s safety guidelines, professors must assign seats to students — altering furniture configuration isn’t allowed and on-campus class capacity is capped at 25 percent of normal capacity. All students and staff are asked to follow all safety guidelines, including getting regularly tested for COVID-19. 

Physics professor Robert Polak, who’s teaching an optics lab and an electronics lab on-campus, said his lab classes are in-person because hands-on experience is fundamental for both courses. 

“In electronics, understanding how to use the instruments and to build and analyze and debunk the circuits is a key component of learning the material, so we felt that we needed the students to be able to have a hands-on experience to be able to have a strong educational experience,” Polak said. 

In an effort to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the physics professor said he worked with Wellness Center Director Joan Holden to create a safety protocol for his students. The protocol includes guidelines such as washing hands and disinfecting the work environment and instruments before and after the lab procedure. Polak also said students are asked to wear gloves and a plastic barrier was installed in work areas. 

In addition, Polak said only four students are allowed in lab at once. He also said accommodations will be made if a student can’t attend class because they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Polak said it will be difficult to balance safety and ensuring a good learning experience. 

“We want the students to have a transformative educational experience, so all of us are trying the hardest we can to do that, but in the meantime, we have to keep everyone safe and that’s the most important thing,” Polak said.  

Loyola has provided the appropriate technology to professors teaching in-person so they can stream classes live for students who are unable to attend classes on-campus, according to Loyola’s website. Due to a limited number of on-campus courses, however, students were requested to enroll in a HyFlex course only if they planned to attend the course in-person.

Communication professor David Romanelli, who has been teaching at Loyola for 24 years, said he’s teaching both of his on-campus classes — small group communication and persuasion — back-to-back to limit movement around campus. 

Romanelli said he volunteered to shift his classes in-person with the purpose of helping Loyola employees because many were unable to work when campus was closed.  

“I thought it was important not only for the university and students, but also for the people that aren’t working because the campus was closed down and I hoped it would also benefit those folks as well,” Romanelli said. 

Romanelli said he’s open to feedback from his students in order to make his on-campus classes run as smoothly as possible. 

Professor Gregory Palmer, who teaches three sections of the scientific basis of environmental issues (ENVS 101) and one section of foundations of environmental science lab on-campus, said simultaneously managing one group of students online and the other group in-person is challenging for him. However, Palmer said he has a teaching assistant to help him manage both groups of students. 

Palmer said he thinks ENVS 101 is more appropriate in-person since most of the students enrolled in the course are first-years and transfer students. 

“These students are new to Loyola and potentially college, so I think they are especially likely to benefit from having as normal an experience as possible under these trying circumstances,” Palmer said. 

Palmer, who has been teaching at Loyola for three years, said he thinks Loyola has done a good job trying to keep everyone safe. He said all the students wear a mask in the classroom, everyone tries to maintain distance from one another and desks were rearranged to be six feet apart.

Professor Steven Tuttle said he felt safe during the first week of in-person instruction because everyone followed the safety guidelines. Tuttle, who teaches society in a global age, said students are given assigned seats in case the need for contact tracing arises. Tuttle also said students and professors get tested regularly in accordance with Loyola’s guidelines. 

Since everyone has been dealing with a lot since last year, Tuttle said he’s planning on being as accommodating as he can. 

“My biggest priority is to keep everyone safe and run my courses as effectively as I can,” Tuttle said. 

In the future, Hyflex courses could be shifted online for safety reasons, according to Loyola’s website. Grzywacz said in the case of a spike or new virus variant, the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois may prohibit schools and universities from holding in-person classes. 

“We need to be open-minded about all possibilities,” Grzywacz said.

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