What is flexible design?
A flexibly designed course can easily shift between online and in-person learning. At its core, it means designing online components that can be used regardless of how a course is taught. The best way to do that is to think in terms of modules. You probably already do that to some extent, but a modular approach requires smaller sets of learning goals and explicit instructions that students can follow regardless of whether they are in the classroom or at home.
Here’s an analogy to help: Think of your course as a stack of blocks, with each block representing an element of learning. In a typical semester, students will start at the bottom and work toward the top, reaching the overall goals you set at the beginning of the semester. If you teach in person, you may not think about day-to-day goals because the overall goals are built into activities and assignments. Especially in classes they have taught before, experienced instructors may not need to prepare much. They know what material they will focus on and what activities they will use. Then they adapt to the circumstances.
Flexible design requires you to do more planning. You must articulate smaller goals for each class period, each assignment and each module. That’s because students may not be in class to hear your instructions or you may not be in class to give instructions. You must also think about how to reach students who may have to shift between in-person and online learning. The next section helps start to think through ways of doing that.