As Higher Ed Landscape Shifts, Golden West Explores New, Flexible Model

HyFlex classes giving students choice to attend in person or on Zoom show improved attendance, completion 

Huntington Beach, Calif. — Golden West College philosophy professor Dr. Jason Sheley has seen firsthand what a difference a little flexibility can make in a student’s success. One example that stands out was a student veteran who suffered from PTSD and who sometimes found it challenging to be around large groups of people. “The way that student put it was: sometimes they felt like being there in person, but some days they weren’t feeling so good, but still wanted to be part of the class.” Luckily for that student, they were enrolled in a HyFlex course, a new course classification at GWC that gives students the option to attend class in person or on Zoom on any given day during the semester.  

HyFlex classes are relatively new at Golden West – the class is structured so that students who are online are visible on a large screen during class and can interact with their in-person classmates. Students enrolled in HyFlex classes can choose how they want to attend class, with no penalty. Sheley was the first professor at GWC to teach in a HyFlex model beginning last fall and the initial data has been encouraging: HyFlex classes are showing improved attendance and course completion rates.  

“Think about the week of Thanksgiving – that’s typically a low attendance day of class,” he explains, “Last semester I had the usual, maybe three, four people in person, but online it was 15. Whereas before, that would’ve been a lost day, because it was three people that I told things to, and then I’d have to catch everybody else up.”  

Even though some universities have been offering HyFlex type courses for nearly a decade, new technology born from the COVID-19 pandemic has made this modality easier to get up and running. One piece of hardware that makes HyFlex courses run more smoothly is the Owl Web camera, which features a 360-degree camera to provide a panoramic view of the classroom, as well as a powerful microphone and speaker system that can pick up voices and broadcast them across the room. At GWC, faculty who are interested in teaching a HyFlex course can request funds to purchase an Owl camera.  

For Sheley – who was selected by students as GWC’s Teacher of the Year for 2022-2023 – the seed for courses that can be attended both in-person and online was planted years before the pandemic. “A long time ago I had a student in one of my night classes – I remember she would leave halfway through the three-hour class, and I didn’t think anything of it because students have complicated lives and lots of responsibilities outside of school,” he shares. “One night she walks up to me during a break and says ‘Dr. Sheley, I just want you to know that it has nothing to do with you. I really enjoy this class, but some nights, I really need to go home. My husband has cancer, and sometimes our caretaker has to leave early, and so I have to go home to be with him. That got me thinking: what if she didn’t have to choose?” 

Bolstered by the success of Sheley’s HyFlex courses, more instructors are signing on to teach in a hybrid format for the Fall 2023 semester at GWC. As the landscape of higher education continues to shift in a post-pandemic world, the choice between living and learning continues to be top of mind for students and faculty who have seen the kind of flexibility that technology can provide.  

“This is the way I want to teach,” Sheley says. “If I’m allowed to, every in-person class that I teach will be a HyFlex class, because that's where I’m at. I’m sold.”  

To see a complete list of Hyflex classes offered at Golden West College, visit

Located in the coastal community of Huntington Beach, also known as “Surf City,” Golden West College is highly regarded for academic quality and innovation. Founded in 1965 as part of the multi-college Coast Community College District, GWC provides enriching and innovative programs that help students: transfer to four-year institutions, earn associate degrees, complete certificates in career and technical education, advance their careers, and demonstrate college readiness.