Modality is Really About Student Access
Modality is only partially a technology question. We should be thinking about the numerous, diverse populations of students we serve when choosing a modality for our courses.
What is Modality, Anyways?
Modality is a word we use to describe a number of attributes for a course: temporality (synchronous or asynchronous), location, distance, technology (analog and digital), and method of faculty-to-student interaction.
When faculty say “online” they’re often thinking about a much broader category than what students mean when they say “online.” And to further complicate matters, the definition that an institution uses to code a modality internally can vary widely and may be more related to directing tuition than to pedagogical choices.
The image on the right shows the various modality terms used at UAF and what they mean. These terms shift a bit once the course needs to be coded for the class schedule and student registration. Be sure to contact the Registrar’s office if you have questions.
UAF Working Definitions
Face-to-face: traditional face-to-face course delivery, including lecture, seminar, laboratory, and vocational classes.
Online: A course that is completed via the internet (web-based), usually with well-developed course content and structured interaction with deadlines for assignments. No synchronous meetings are required though they may be optional.
Blended: A blended course involves face-to-face class sessions that are accompanied by online materials and activities–essentially a “blend” of both live and online learning. A fundamental component of a blended course is that these online materials are not intended to “replace” face-to-face class time; rather, they are meant to supplement and build upon the content discussed in the classroom.
Hybrid: hybrid courses differ in that their online components are intended to replace a portion of face-to-face class time. Online interactions can either be synchronous, meaning that students are interacting online in real time, such as through class sessions conducted via Zoom, or asynchronous, meaning that students interact online at different times, such as through online discussions or VoiceThread.
Distance: Distance courses meet synchronously on a regular and required basis by audio or video conferencing. Students are able to participate from any location. Asynchronous activities may be present in some distance courses but they are supplemental to synchronous meetings.
HyFlex: Courses designed in a way that allows students to take the course in a face to face setting but occasionally opt into an asynchronous module, or students may take the course asynchronously online, but can attend face to face classes when they choose.
Responsive and Inclusive Modality Matrix
Consider the following student populations when choosing your modality.
“A Synchronous Pedagogy to Improve Online Student Success”
“Tele-proximity: Tele-community of Inquiry Model. Facial Cues for Social, Cognitive, and Teacher Presence in Distance Education”
Residential broadband mapping data in AK (as of June 30, 2014)
“Connect Alaska: Final Grant Report” (2015 using above data)
Associate Director of Teaching and Learning
Madara Mason works with faculty, instructional designers, and various institutional partners across UAF to strengthen connections and adapt to new teaching and learning contexts. Along with her eCampus role, she is part of the Provost’s Faculty Development Team and UAF’s emerging Faculty Accelerator.