Is the New Normal Sustainable


Many of us are preparing for a winter / holiday break with an anticipated return to work and classes after the first of the new year. 

As we continue to move forward, I'd like to start a conversation about how to sustain this new normal. In this report from World Education, Adult Education's Response to Emergency and Remote Teaching,  they shared the following: 

  • A vast amount of professional learning was offered in spring 2020 but we have little understanding of its impact, beyond anecdotal feedback provided by participants.
  • Rapid evolution of professional development from simple tools to sophisticated learning management systems and how to strategically use them to support instruction took place as teachers gained skills and access to digital tools.
  • Policy and guidance helped shape professional development topics.
  • Supporting distance education platform capacity and alignment with local education partners can position adult education as integral to a K20 learning system. 

As we move into the new year, I'd like to discuss how sustainable our new PD systems, topics, and delivery methods are. 

What are your thoughts? How do you see the new year as it relates to PD? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Dr. Kathy Tracey



    Hello Kathy and others,

    Thanks for bringing to our attention the Adult Education's Response to Emergency Remote Teachingreport. As one of the members of the Technical Working Group for the study, and the lead author of the adult learner study, I want to bring up a key point. This was our field's immediate response to a sudden crisis where, in days, in-person teaching for most of the country ended. The response was referred to in this study, and in others, as Emergency Remote Teaching.

    Some people assume that when at last the pandemic is under control, we will return to primarily in-person teaching because it offers higher quality instruction and because most teachers and adult learners prefer it. Others assume that distance education/remote learning will remain as an option. Still others have learned that some students now prefer remote learning because it is more convenient to avoid the time and expense involved with commuting to a class.

    I would like to suggest that a relatively new approach being seriously explored in higher education, including in community colleges, could be the next step, and that it has huge implications not only for students but possibly for professional development too. The approach is referred to as HyFlex or BlendFlex. The Flex means "flexible"; "Hy" refers to hybrid learning and "Blend" refers to blended learning. The idea is that students would always have a choice, one that could be made week by week or even day by day - to attend class in-person or to actively participate in that in-person class remotely, and in real time.  In the remote choice, it is not watching the class in progress; it is participating. In both the in-person and remote options students might have access to the Internet during class and participate in watching a short video, doing a short research project together, writing a paragraph and sharing it with classmates, conducting an online experiment -- all together. A student who couldn't participate in the class remotely or in-person has the missed-class catch-up option of watching the archived class video. In some versions of this, there is a "SWIVL" robot with a video camera that follows the teacher around the classroom so the students watching remotely or watching the archived video get a good view of the teacher and the classroom, and the students' participation. Also, in some versions there is a large video screen in the classroom on which the classroom backchat (like "chat" in Zoom") is easily seen by students in the classroom who may or may not have a portable digital device of their own. New variations on the approach are emerging all the time as teachers and students experiment, and learn its power.

    Think about the implications of HyFlex for PD. It might mean that a professional development in-person class in one area of your state, designed for up to twenty teachers, could be joined by another twenty-to-fifty or more teachers from around the state. The archived, highly interactive video might be available for months or years to others who could not attend in real time.

    As far as I know, there is no example yet of HyFlex or BlendFlex PD in adult basic skills education. Who will be first to try this? When you do, let us know, so those of us who want to see this approach in action can join you!

    David J. Rosen, Moderator

    LINCS Community Integrating Technology and Program Management groups


    David and all, 

    Here's a link to a prior LINCS discussion on the HyFlex model. After reviewing it, come back and chime in on how this model can be used in PD. 

    HyFex Discussion: 


    Kathy and others,

    One way to think about how a Hyflex or BlendFlex model might apply to PD is to start with backward design, specifically, what are the competencies (teaching skills, knowledge, experiences, and or non-cognitive skills you as a PD provider or trainer want teachers to acquire as a result of the instruction the PD course will provide? Then, assume that some teachers will prefer in-person PD instruction; some will prefer remote synchronous PD; and some will prefer asynchronous instruction (e.g. videos to watch, articles to read, with questions to answer orally in a podcast or video, or in writing.) Then, assume that for various reasons (epidemics, natural disasters, personal or family health emergencies, etc.) that those who prefer in-person classes cannot for a time choose that, or cannot attend all the classes in-person. With a flex PD class, that isn't a problem. They can switch from in-person to remote synchronous, or asynchronous, knowing that any of these modes of instruction will enable them to acquire the same competencies, and that all instructional modes lead to the same CEUs, graduate credit, or whatever certification they may need in addition to attaining the competencies themselves.

    With a flex model, presumably no teacher would need to drop out of a PD course because of institutional barriers, nor for many situational barriers.

    Your thoughts, questions, doubts, concerns? I ask, not because I think I have all the answers, or even because I am convinced that this will always work as described, but to think about what might be particularly challenging for the professional developer designing the flex course, the trainer/professional developer delivering it, or for the teacher enrolled in the flex course. I ask because I want to think this through, and would value your thoughtful critiques. Have at 'em!

    David J. Rosen