Ep. 101: Dell Ann Janney & Wendy Tietz - HyFlex Teaching Model

December 07, 2020 | 21 Minutes

Dell Ann Janney, Associate Dean of Experiential Education & External Relations and Professor of Accounting & MBA Program Chair at Culver-Stockton College, and Wendy Tietz, Accounting Professor at Kent State University and author, join Count Me In to talk about the Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) teaching model and its applications to accounting education. The HyFlex model has gained significant popularity following the need for remote teaching and learning. Dell Ann and Wendy explain exactly what the model does for teachers and students, and how to overcome some of the challenges that may arise. Download and listen now!

Contact Dell Ann Janney: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dell-ann-janney-at-c-sc/
Contact Wendy Tietz: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendytietz/

Mitch: (00:00)
 Welcome back to Count Me In IMA’s a podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host Mitch Roshong. And this is episode 101 of our series. Today's conversation includes my co-host Adam Larson, Wendy Tietz, and Dell Ann Janney. Wendy and Dell Ann are two academic leaders in accounting, higher education. In this episode, they discuss the high flex teaching model, which has gained value in popularity, following the recent educational and economic environments around the world. Keep listening to hear how high flex teaching is being implemented and can be used to help accounting education.

Adam: (00:45)
So let's start by defining what is high flex teaching? What is the high flex teaching model, and how has it affected the accounting classroom?

Wendy: (00:53)
So I'll answer that. The high flex teaching model gives students a choice of how to attend class. So they're going to be able to attend face to face,  traditional classroom, or they can attend during class time online and to be able to see what's going on in the classroom or the screen, and have a chat room to communicate with and/or video cameras and microphones. And then the third option is allowing students to view the recording at their own time. So that's the high flex model teaching like that, giving students the option and with this pandemic that really comes in handy to be able to accommodate all the student needs, and at my school I've been doing high flex for about 10 years because I teach large classes and this has worked very well for us. It's especially nice now. I'm not, we don't have the face-to-face option in the large classes right now, but we're still operating under that same mode. And I know Dell Ann has been in the high flex model. So Dell Ann.

Dell Ann: (02:03)
Sure. So last May, when, if we go back to May, when the spring semester ended and all classes went online and students were taking classes remotely, I think that all academic leaders began to contemplate what a fall semester would look like. And Culver Stockton College is located in a rural area, and at the time we had no cases whatsoever of COVID. However, we have students from all across the country and even around the globe. So we anticipated the likelihood that students traveling from more populated areas would arrive and land in quarantine or isolation. So as we began to plan, we decided that faculty needed to prepare to teach both face-to-face, but also allow those students that are in quarantine isolation to attend synchronously online from luxuries of their gorgeous residence halls. So some faculty would have students that were unable to attend completely due to the COVID illness and thus would record their class session for those students to watch the video asynchronously at a later time. So this approach is referred to as high flex.

Adam: (03:22)
So, and I know you have both different, schools that you teach at and they are different models, but what are some of the challenges you've encountered with this teaching model?

Dell Ann: (03:34)
Well, the challenges are many. We can start out with equipment. So in May, we began to determine that faculty would need to bring in their own lab laptops into the classroom, in order to zoom, the, the faculty would need Zoom pro accounts, they would need external web cameras, headsets, and stylists and pad in order to stay at their computer to, to teach their classes. We had all classrooms reconfigured so that the chairs were all six feet apart. That was pretty crazy. In fact, there were a lot of our faculty leaders who were going room to room to rearrange and ensure that that the rooms would actually accommodate the number of students that were originally assigned to it. So for example, our chapel, which normally seats 200 students, ended up becoming a classroom and was re reconfigured to seat 30 students in it. One of the other interesting changes that we made was that all students would be required to sit in the same seat for the purpose of contract contact tracing,and so faculty, we actually created seating chart, which felt very elementary school. And although the students are six feet apart, we still felt that that was important to be able to verify. So I would mention that actually ends up being a pandemic positive if there are any we'll, we'll count this one, because those seating charts have been really a win, not for the purpose of contact tracing, but more so it's really helped the faculty to become much quicker at learning names. So I think the combination of faculty, of the students sitting in that same seat, each class period, and then having the seating chart to glance down at and learn their names, it was definitely a win. I think another challenge was the sanitizing. We felt that as the students entered, we would expect them to sanitize the desk upon their arrival and at their departure. So faculty really needed to monitor and ensure that that happened. And probably one of the biggest challenges with the students that were in person in the classroom was of course we do require all students to wear mask. And it's often difficult to hear students through their mask when they were speaking. Now, the challenges with the students that are online synchronously probably was getting them to participate and keeping them engaged, you know, certainly the opportunity for them to just log in on Zoom, turn off their camera and then possibly head back to bed and fall asleep was pretty good. So, and occasionally of course there were the dreaded technology, wifi issues for students attending via Zoom. As I previously mentioned, we're a pretty rural area. So there are students that live out in the country with limited internet access. And I think from a teaching perspective, probably one of the biggest challenges was staying in front of the computer at all times. So that the camera was on you not being able to write on the board. I'm a very animated professor. So when I'm teaching, I'm moving around, I'm helping my students and all of this makes it incredibly challenging, especially when you're trying to help a student with an Excel issue and you're trying to stay six feet away from them. So the, the last challenge I'd mentioned would be really no breaks. We consolidated, we removed every single break from this semester. So students definitely felt that you could see it in their eyes, and certainly for the students that were here in person, as it got into week eight and nine, that you could just see in their eyes, how stressed they were. So I know that the students needed breaks, and I think I could say that our faculty needed breaks as well.

Wendy: (07:46)
Okay. We had some of the same challenges. Our classrooms were equipped with, cameras that would follow faculty moving around the room. So that was over the summer. That was a nice add on. We also have got camps in every room and every classroom has the same exact, equipment layout so faculty could go,.Of course, my classes with hundreds of students, are not being held in person. Anything above 50 cannot be held in person. So we're just doing the online. But I would, thinking back to when I started doing high flex several years ago, high flex, it's certainly harder to engage students, whether they're in front of you, whether they're online with you or whether they're watching the recording. So you always have to keep those three modes as you're teaching, as you're designing the class, because the class isn't like a face-to-face class anymore because you have these multiple audiences. So engaging students is definitely more challenging. You also need to somehow incentivize attendance in some way, because like, Dell Ann referred, that students could log in and go to sleep, or students will say, I'll watch the recording, and they have the best intentions in the world of watching the recording, but it comes Saturday night when it's due and something else comes up and they're like, Oh, I'll get it next week, and won't watch it, and so the class, because it is so flexible gets deprioritized. So we have to communicate that this is important and have to incentivize it some way. And then the other big thing is to don't assume students know how to use the technology natively, because I found in many cases, students don't know what they're doing, even though we think, Oh, they're young, they know what they're doing. So we do have to address that is so that everyone is able to use the technology and not make that assumption.

Adam: (09:50)
I'm sure many of our listeners who are listening, whether they're faculty or not, if you're a parent of grade school children, you've seen these challenges, watching your children try to, try to attend, school, remotely, as schools have opened in many ways. So I'm sure everybody can relate to a lot of those challenges, but now that we've discussed all those challenges, what are some ways that we can improve this, this method of teaching?

Dell Ann: (10:14)
So I think that having a streamlined effort in terms of having the students come directly in ensuring that they are sanitizing on their own, giving them clear directions of expectations is so important. The second factor I would say would be to create a more streamlined process for those students that are online. We of course, are using Zoom and setting up a Zoom recurring meeting so that you're not recreating that invite every time was really helpful and creating a redirect tool, which is an app in our learning management system. Copying that Zoom link invitation and providing it in that same spot in the learning management system, navigation menu is really valuable. Then the students know exactly where to go every time when they're online. I think requiring the students to turn on their video cameras is really critical. And I know that for a lot of reasons and there are a lot of great memes out there with the dog, that's got the really bad looking scruffy do versus the dog that's been all groomed, you know, asking them to turn on their video cameras. I don't think is that much. I know we discussed it as a faculty and the academic leadership, and actually the administration said, Oh, we're not going to make a policy on it per se, but rather allow the individual faculty members to kind of set, this is what I expect, and then certainly allow a student to have a reason if they did not. But I think, you know, using Zoom virtual backgrounds is another easy win, to just ensure that you're not looking at their childhood bedrooms and, you know, such when they're for those students that are already back at home. One of the big changes that I made and actually did this a year ago is that I, I began using a game-based learning platform in my intermediate accounting class. So in the Fall actually, 2019, I started creating Kahoots for every chapter in intermediate accounting. Part of the reason I did this was because of the students, smartphones are such a distraction and it seems very junior high, high school to tell them, you know, please put up your phones. So I began using Kahoot and created a Kahoot for every chapter in my intermediate accounting class, and I literally teach using Kahoot. So it's basically forcing them to answer a question every few minutes. Now Kahoot does actually let me insert teaching slides so I can pause the quiz feature to do a short two minute mini lecture or talk over a topic, but it really turned out to be a big blessing this year, because again, it's a game format. So it's constantly quizzing the students to keep them actively participating. But I found that the students that were online via Zoom would also participate in the Kahoot quite easily. And it was pretty cool to find out that some of them, you know, from whether it be their residence hall rooms or from their, their home, that they would even score higher than some of the students that were in the classroom. So I can say I was just incredibly excited to see that they were actually engaged in the learning and competing in the Kahoot.

Wendy: (13:54)
Okay, I'm going to jump in here. I use polling questions in my class. I use a combination of polling questions and Kahoot, and let me tell you why, why they're different. With Kahoot there is no way to trace a student's name. And when I talked about incentivizing attendance, one of those ways is to say, well, let's answer polling questions during class. So I use polling software that does collect the student's name and their score, which is basically did they participate. And I use polling questions much like Dell Ann does to engage with students to gauge how they're understanding, and, the poly software I use can also be used in an asynchronous environment. So if you attend my class live, you're answering polling questions throughout class. Those polling questions can take the form of multiple choice, word clouds, fill in the number, just depends. We're doing how those questions are asked. And then we use, we also use Kahoot. I use it as an optional review activity for exams. So I think Kahoot is a wonderful tool. I'm just dealing with a larger population, so I have to be able to track them some way. The other thing that we do that's different is we do not require video cameras, I guess, we are the other, the other side of the coin, there's a very compelling argument for both sides. We tend to be more concerned about students not having equitable access because some students may not have the bandwidth to support video. The students who are attending asynchronously don't have the option to have video on, and some students don't have a place where they can show video. So we do not require video and I guess that's me, some instructors could, I guess. But I haven't found it to be a problem because I've gotten used to interacting with the chat room. So I focus very much on that chat room, and I'm currently using Microsoft teams meetings for class, and we have a chat room going all the time and we start that chat before class even starts. So before classes starts, I'm talking with the students in the chat room, I'm asking them they're typing back, but we do a lot with, memes and gifs before class starts. And then I always start class with a chatroom question, like, how are you doing this week? Or, did anyone see any movies this week or anything like that just to get them loosened up and starting to talk. And the chat room works really well combined with polling question. The other thing that I think it's important to do when you’re designing the class, if you are going to be teaching in this high flex mode is to design the class, to give students, an intrinsic reason to attend class. If you're just going to get on Zoom or Team meetings or whatever, and lecture, that's something that can easily be done in a recording and they can watch it on their own. So you have to think about when you design your class, designing the engagement into the class. So not only do we have polling questions, but we do things like, Dell Ann mentioned where we do Excel assignments in class, and when I'm doing the Excel assignments, I'm pausing and stopping and asking if they have questions so they can do the Excel along with me and I can give them real time help. So I think that's important to design the class with engagement in mind, how's that engagement going to work. And then finally, when you have a high flex model, you still need to support the high flex model in an asynchronous manner with discussion boards. So that students who are not able to attend the synchronous class, have some way to chat back and forth with each other and with the instructor.

Adam: (17:51)
That's great. So, and we can tell from all the things you guys have been saying that, you have varying levels of, experience with high flex. What do you wish someone would have told you before you started using the high flex teaching model? Maybe there's things that people can avoid, pitfalls that you've run into, as they probably are, have been getting into it this first semester, if they hadn't even started in, back in the spring, like you did Dell Ann, what are some things that you wish somebody would have told you before you got started?

Dell Ann: (18:18)
I think that probably the biggest pitfall truly is, and Wendy mentioned this as well is just keeping those students engaged. You know, they're in their rooms they're in their comfort zone. They're near probably at least on our campus. Their rooms are very small, they're in a bed potentially. So I think knowing that it's maybe too comfortable, it would be beneficial to know, and to acknowledge that you really, you know, you have to ask them, these are set expectations, tell them you expect them to get out of bed. You expect them to get dressed, comb their hair, and for us, turn your camera on. It's going to indeed set the learning environment, making it much more effective. And for me, I really am, I can't stress enough that being able to do those Kahoots and seeing my remote learner participating as well as my students that are right there in person to see them engaged and participating in class has been really, really beneficial.

Wendy: (19:29)
I would. My biggest piece of advice is to communicate often and frequently with students about how the class was going to work starting with before the semester even starts for this fall. I emailed my students in early July, and I followed up with an email about every two weeks after that, just to let them know what to expect because students right now are very, insecure and are worried and they have all these different classes going on. So I think communication is key, frequent communication, and then they may not get it the first time you send it because they've got lots of things going on. So just following up with communication and being flexible. Right now, we need flexibility in the classroom more than anything. So maybe your students don't fit in the standard box, or maybe they need to be told something 12 times, but that's how life is right now.

Closing: (20:28)
This has been Count Me In IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you heard, and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.