As previously reported by The Press, Dickinson State University is considering the continuation of its hybrid flex instruction model post-pandemic.
The model allows students to attend class either in-person or virtually and to flex in and out of those two modes as needed, such as when a student is placed in quarantine. The flexibility allows students not present on campus to attend lectures and maintain assignments virtually.
After DSU President Steve Easton announced plans to continue this approach, the university's faculty senate met to discuss their concerns.
Eric Grabowsky, PhD., associate professor of communication at DSU, is also the chair of the Curriculum Council that will study the issue and make recommendations to the faculty senate.
The council is currently designing the study. Once it is designed, it will be completed and the conclusions and recommendations reported to the faculty senate. As it is early in the process, the timeline for its completion has not been established.
"If we're going to be arguing for or against modalities, delivery methods ... we have to have an understanding of what these things are, how those terms are used, how those concepts can best be applied or not be applied to Dickinson State University," Grabowsky said. "These decisions have to be studied; they have to be programmatic; they have to be course-by-course, program-by-program, department-by-department ... Not everybody can just throw everything into a hybrid or hyflex mode."
The decision to continue the hybrid-flex model must have buy-in from faculty.
"We're dealing with the scope and sweep of significant change, and that does require by policy at DSU ... that faculty involvement in a big-picture curricular decision ... We need administrators to have ideas, but we need our faculty to be involved in that process of determining to what extent those ideas are the best ideas moving forward. It's a big decision."
Corinne Brevik, PhD, is a professor of physics at DSU and the co-chair of the Department of Natural Sciences.
"I think the hybrid flex model works well in some disciplines, but it is not as effective for some other disciplines," she said. "Faculty really just need time to work with the model and get familiar with it but then to decide whether or not it is an appropriate instructional method for their given discipline."
Completing labs virtually, for example, can be difficult to do in her department.
"This method doesn't work for labs at all. We can't give somebody a rock for geology and have them run all the samples and run all the tests - which is what we do in lab - and accomplish the same thing by having them look at a picture," Brevik said. "We can give them the data and say when we ran the test, here's what you learn, but that doesn't teach them how to do it themselves."
She wants to make sure that the quality of education is not impacted by the method.
Konstandinos Voutsas, assistant professor of business at DSU, tried the hybrid flex model last year with his human resource classes and said that he did not believe there was a negative impact to quality.
This year, the university's online HR certification program was ranked number one in the nation when compared with 73 other online programs by Intelligent.com. Graduates of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship scored in the 74th percentile of the Human Resource Management section of the Peregrine exam, a nationally-normed exam is an assessment designed to determine how proficient students are in various business fields.
Voutsas said his students liked the model and that attendance was up in his classes.
"One of the positives that I see is that my students enjoy this type of model because of the flexibility," he said. "For example, if a student of mine has a new child at home ... it would be easy for that student to watch the live online class ... from home as compared to the student coming to class."