In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Student Engagement in HyFlex Courses During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Tara A. Nelson (bio), Emily A. Berg (bio), Nathan Wood (bio), and Brent Hill (bio)

Classroom student engagement, the time and effort a learner devotes to academic activities linked to course outcomes and resulting from instructional support to participate in such activities, is commonly researched as a predictor of student learning (Kuh, 2009). Early engagement research focused on the traditional face-to-face classroom experience but has expanded over the past decade to encompass blended e-learning systems (BELS), which include asynchronous and synchronous online courses (Leijon & Lundgren, 2019). The BELS literature offers important insights into student engagement outcomes, including the necessity of class activities, accessible communication tools, and a sense of community in academic learning environments (Bower et al., 2015).

However, limited research is available regarding student engagement in HyFlex, a BELS environment where students attend class synchronously, with some participating in person and others via videoconference (Leijon & Lundgren, 2019). While a substantial body of research exists regarding student engagement in BELS, these studies are wide in scope and create overarching conclusions about engagement in virtual spaces. Student engagement in HyFlex settings may differ from that depicted in the BELS literature as students and instructors must manage a dual learning space (in-person and videoconference) synchronously compared to the singular learning space in other BELS designs

In March 2020, multiple US educational institutions adapted courses traditionally taught in face-to-face settings to HyFlex environments to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This transition continued into fall 2020, leaving instructors to adapt courses despite often having no experience with HyFlex. The lack of literature and rapid implementation of these modalities offer significant opportunities to learn about student engagement in HyFlex that otherwise may have taken years to develop (Adedoyin & Soykan, 2020). A student engagement scale specific to HyFlex provided valuable insights into how students devote time to academic activities in these learning environments.


The BELS literature was used to create the theoretical framework of this study, as previous studies have correlated student engagement to academic achievement in virtual spaces (Bower et al., 2015; Francescucci & Foster, 2014). When applied to BELS, Kuh’s (2009) definition results in three major antecedents of student [End Page 101] engagement: (a) class participation, (b) course structure, and (c) learner autonomy (Bower et al., 2015; Francescucci & Foster, 2014).

Class participation among students and with the instructor is essential to fostering engagement in BELS courses (Bower et al., 2015). Web 2.0 technologies have enhanced opportunities for class participation through videoconferencing, social media, and file sharing, among others. The goal of these tools is to promote student participation in the course in a manner similar to face-to-face interactions (Bower et al., 2015). However, class participation is enabled and constrained by course structure. While technologies are essential for students to interact, learn, and deepen content understanding, integration of too many technological tools can generate cognitive overload for students and stifle student engagement (Bower et al., 2015). Further, learner autonomy plays an important role within student engagement as personal ownership and responsibility for one’s academic performance manifested by activity choice, rationale for activities, and personal connection to course materials has been shown to increase internal locus of control (Lee et al., 2015). By fostering an internal locus of control, students are more motivated to take the initiative for their own learning and engage in coursework (Lee et al., 2015).


A web-based, cross-sectional survey was developed by the research team guided by BELS literature. The instrument was administered in fall 2020 at a mid-size, land-grant institution located in the US Midwest. All undergraduate students were invited to participate via a university email list, resulting in 1,243 participants (8.3% response rate). An incentive of $5 in campus flexible spending money was offered to the first 500 respondents, and two email reminders were sent to encourage participation.

The instrument consisted of 39 items, of which 22 measured student engagement. In addition to demographic information, participants were asked to describe their primary attendance modality within their HyFlex courses (see Table 1). A 5-point Likert scale, ranging from strongly...