Blending the barriers of in person and online

Teachers give opinions about the blendflex format.


Courtesy photo from Deedee Flax

Deedee Flax, technology instructor, is one of the main teachers at Seward County Community College to integrate blendflex into many of her classes. She said that multiple students prefer the computer classes to be blendfllex as they can watch back her recordings when confused to see how she does things on her screen.

Imagine being able to lay in bed on a school day in pajamas while learning quadratic functions. In 2021, this dream of some students became a reality. COVID-19 reinvented the idea of the classroom and Zoom became incorporated into many classes. According to Darin Workman, the instrumental music instructor, Seward County Community College pushed many teachers to adopt a new form of teaching because of the pandemic called blendflex. 

In this style, students could choose between three different options on how they wanted to take the class- in person, through zoom, and asynchronously. With this new category of asynchronous, one could literally take the class online… while being off. 

“We found students needed multiple possible ways to take a class, and blendflex actually gives you all three- face-to-face, hybrid, and completely online,” said Workman 

Seward County Community College offers multiple classes in the blendflex format. These are a few of the main options. (Megan Berg)

This multi-option style hasn’t been integrated by some teachers though including Workman himself. He explained the main reason why his classes weren’t integrated into blendflex was that classes like band can’t be done online. Deedee Flax, the technology instructor, agreed with this statement. 

“Really it’s the type of class. If you have a hands-on class, the blendflex is not the best way to teach it… While I think I would encourage instructors to look at the blendflex, it’s not always the right type of modality for that particular subject,” said Flax. 

A few other problems that both teachers have mentioned was technology is not always reliable. Flax mentioned that many times, zoom has cut out on her without her even realizing it. Both her blendflex and zoom students could miss parts of her lecture because her laptop wasn’t recording. 

Recording classes wasn’t something that teachers were used to either. Workman mentioned last year during his lectures, he would end up walking around as he spoke away from his camera forgetting that zoom was even on. Students would hardly or entirely not be able to hear him. 

Although COVID-19 pushed for more online classes at SCCC, these kinds of classes were around before. Sherry Moentmann, an English instructor, actually taught the multi-option class before the pandemic had happened. She said before masks and social distancing, there were still benefits to this kind of option. 

“If a student may have scheduling challenges. You’re in a tech center class, and they have a different schedule for the classes. Two of the days it works, but on the third day, it doesn’t quite. Or you have things in your schedule that move around randomly and it’s hard to predict. You don’t have to let your teacher know ahead of time ‘hey I’m going to be on zoom’ or doing asynchronous options. You can move between those. So that’s a benefit, the flexibility,” Moentmann said. 

Flax mentioned another benefit that helps teachers the most. Because they record their lectures, students who have missed a class for an appointment or sports activity can go back and watch the lecture. She said because the options help more students to take the class, class numbers can substantially raise for usually smaller classes. 

With SCCC slowly becoming maskless and ‘back to normal’, where does that leave blendflex? Moentmann commented that this kind of fromat should continue and it’s a good thing, but the essence of education still needs to happen. 

“So that might be why you’re seeing some of it back off. Because it’s not just a “well as long as I take class, it’s the same as blendflex. No, actually it’s not, and if that’s all you’re doing, we’re going to back off until you understand what’s needed,” Moentmann said.

Flax and Moentmann both see from their experience that students have realized they tend to learn better by being in class. The option works best when students understand how to use it effectively. 

Workman commented that SCCC has tried to hire more teachers with experience online to continue to offer these kinds of formats. He mentioned the names Dr. Muntz, a former English instructor, and Kevin Gleason, the history teacher, who has three of his sections on blendflex.

“When we hire, there’s a good chance a lot of the teachers now, especially because of the pandemic forcing teachers to learn, will have experience.”