Education Online Education

Hybrid and Flexible: A Professor’s Guide to Hyflex Teaching

How to conquer teaching during a pandemic

We have to recognize that educators have responded amazingly to the abrupt shift to online teaching. Of course, it hasn’t been easy, but in general terms, it all worked out pretty well.

I mean, we were agile.

We adapted and effectuate with the resources we had at hand and tried to continue providing our very best to our students. Other organizations couldn’t adapt that well. Many just closed down and went out of service.

We can criticize as much as we like, but let’s admit it, educators adapted fast. Chapeau.

However, we were reacting to a first-in-our-times pandemic. It caught us unnoticed. We had no choice. Adapt was our only option.

Now is time to prepare for the new normal. If we can call it normal.

A second wave of the pandemic is just around the corner. In the U.S. and South America, we are still struggling to control for the first wave.

So, no matter how much we miss our students and classrooms, we have to come around the idea that remote learning will be our new normal.

But we need to be prepared. If we want to keep our sanity and that of our students, we can’t continue functioning in an urgent-crisis-mode, not for long.

We need to think about more appropriate teaching and learning methods that encourage interaction, reflection, learning, skills development while still guaranteeing safety and health conditions to professors and students.

Below, I discuss why hybrid and flexible (Hyflex) approach is an exceptional alternative to 100% online or in-person teaching. I go through 4 crucial factors to consider when transitioning to Hyflex courses and how to provide an effective learning opportunity for all students.

Let’s begin by understanding what Hyflex is.

The Hyflex approach

The Hyflex (Hybrid-flexible) approach was first created by Brian Beatty who is Associate Professor of instructional technologies in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies, and Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University.

The idea behind the Hyflex method was to provide a bridge to a fully online program. A Hyflex program consist of hybrid classes — blending online and on-site participation modes — that provide a more flexible learning experience to students. While in a typical hybrid or blended course all students have to take part in both classroom and online sessions, Hyflex courses take into account also the possibility for some students to be 100% online or on-site. Hyflex programs allowed maximum student choice in participation mode. Students can decide for themselves which path is the “best” for them on a daily or weekly basis.

In short, the basis of Hyflex programs is to provide students with multiple forms of learning approaches: from the way content and information are presented, to the place they receive those contents, to the way we assess their knowledge.

The main difference between hybrid and Hyflex courses is the flexible component. That means that instead of building something, whether is class material or assessment activities, for just one mode (online or on-site) you build it so it’s adaptable for both modes. In this way, you are optimizing the effort and providing equal opportunities for learning to every and each student.

Example: Imagine that you were trying to fix your computer on your own. You have mainly three options: 1) you can call someone who knows how to repair it and explain to you how to do it, 2) you can check out on an online forum and follow the step-by-step instructions given by someone who has already repaired theirs, or 3) you can watch a YouTube tutorial and mirror the steps followed in the video. Probably the easier option would be to watch the YouTube tutorial. But it would also be nice if you had the written instructions to go through just in case you missed something, and why not had direct feedback from an expert to be sure you got it right. Well, that’s kind of the idea behind Hyflex.

Students as Active Learners

Contrary to traditional lecture-type teaching methods, the Hyflex approach is aimed to be student-centered. This means that students have an active role in their learning process and experience. As educators, our role is to encourage students to take full ownership of their learning, from the definition of their goals throughout the assessment of their outcomes. The role of the educator is to facilitate learning and not to impose or direct the lecture. Our major concern should lie on how to ensure our students meet their needs as learners and to adapt to the changing conditions and dynamics.

One of the four pillars of Hyflex courses is the “learners’ choice”. The idea is to give students a choice in how they complete course activities in any given week or subject. The fundamental goal of this approach is to provide flexibility to empower learners so they pursue and attain their learning outcomes in the best way.

Together with active pedagogy, Hyflex approach can only be successful if students, both online and in-person, are strongly involved in the dynamics and functioning of the course. The active role of learners should be part of the expectations of the course and need to be stated and well-established from the beginning. Consider assigning rotating roles to your students to assist you with the technology, the online discussion board, note-taking.

There are plenty of roles you can assign to your students to ensure the course and learning activities run smoothly.

You can also consider pairing or grouping students, so there is always at least one student from a group in class responsible to transfer knowledge and support to others in their group.

Active learning is not something reserved only for in-person classes. It is also suitable for remote and Hyflex approaches if you prepare well in advance the activities and ask your students to appropriate their learning process.

Having your students actively involved both in the activities and the functioning of the course will encourage them to engage with the course material and to understand the challenges of this kind of learning mode.

Asynchronous and Synchronous Student Engagement

Student engagement is by far the most critical aspect of any learning process. Without student’s engagement learning is ineffective, or not possible at all.

One of the biggest fears of shifting to hybrid, remote, or Hyflex teaching is not being able to connect with our students and to make our classes memorable.

In both remote and HyFlex classes it is crucial to establish a set of rules and expectations from the very beginning of your class. It’s important that the teacher and both in-person and online learners are on the same boat sharing a common goal: make the most of their learning together.

If this is not well-established from the first moment things can get really messy. In HyFlex classrooms, in particular, it is easy for remote students to disconnect and feel neglected by those taking part in the physical classroom. It is an enormous challenge for the educator to maintain effective communication and collaboration with both audiences. This is why it’s essential to plan for synchronous and asynchronous activities to ensure that all participation modes which lead to equivalent learning outcomes.

The key relies on how to mix distinct types of active learning activities that promote the interaction of both physical and remote learners. The aim of Hyflex is to provide equivalency and reusability of activities and resources that challenge the learner, regardless of their learning mode, to reflect upon the content and to contribute to the discussion.

Activities in both learning modes can be easily adaptable to other learning approaches and have great potential to strengthen the learner’s experience. Podcasts, video recordings, collaborative note-taking, and handouts, can be very effective both for remote and in-person students wishing to review after class. It also encourages peer-learning. The activities completed by remote learners, such as chats, forums, back-channel can of great support for in-person students and inversely.

The learning experience in Hyflex environments can be as good or even better than in the traditional physical classroom. Engaging students online is not much more difficult than engaging with them in a physical classroom. Online methods provide a wide range of alternatives to promote active learning and teamwork.

Skill and Knowledge Assessment

Another major challenge for any teaching approach is the assessment of student learning.

In a HyFlex environment, the challenge is twofold. First, we need to ensure we use techniques and tools appropriate for effective assessment both online and offline. Second, we need to coordinate the assessment activities that assure the equivalency, accessibility, and usability to all students, despite the place, the time, and the format in which learning takes place.

Traditional assessment methods are far from being a fair indicator of intelligence, knowledge, skills, or effort. And they don’t reflect the abilities and preparedness for work life.

As instructors, we need to reflect on how we can effectively evaluate student’s learning outcomes. We need to ask ourselves how the same learning outcome can be assessed both online and offline? We need to think of new approaches that are more flexible and appropriate to the environment in which learning takes place. Practices that promote reflection, learning, and skills development.

Assessing learning through group project reports, hybrid paired work, video presentations (delivered live or recorded and shared online), Backchannel discussions, Socratic seminars, blog posts and other forms of original assessment are often appropriate in all modes of instruction with very little changes needed.

We need to redefine students’ learning assessments.

Technology and Classroom setting

The main goal of Hyflex teaching is to provide students equal chances to learn and effectively participate in class activities regardless of their delivery mode (online or offline). The Hyflex approach is only effective and successful if the appropriate technology is put in place to back it up. Students, both online and offline, need to be equipped with proper hardware, software, networks, and the skills for using it. Remote learning will not be a possible alternative for a student who does not have reliable access to the internet. Accessibility is crucial. Thus, appropriate support from educators and institutions is essential for providing the appropriate environment to Hyflex teaching.

Classrooms need to be set up and equipped with image and sound capture technologies to support online learners. And both students and educators need to be proficient in the use of synchronous and asynchronous digital tools to collaborate. This technology includes videoconferencing systems, Integrated Learning Platforms, document collaboration, digital whiteboards, digital quizzes, and polls apps, collaborative annotation software, and backchannel discussion rooms.

The key to success relies on proper planning, in advance preparation, and access to the right tools.

Final thoughts

Hyper Flexible model goal is to provide an effective learning opportunity for all students, no matter where they are, and no matter the learning mode they choose.

But flexibility is only possible when all learners have proper access to it. This means that is not only about the content and information itself that has to be accessible to convenient technology and technical skills, so they have a legitimate choice to make.

Hyflex requires interactive and engaging class experience with innovative application of class content to provide optimal learning interactions. Content and activities that are easy to shift directly to fully online or fully offline and a mix in between. The main aim is to provide the most equitable delivery format to students that aligns with their needs and learning preferences.

However, shifting to Hyflex programs requires in advance and constant preparation and organization of pre-class content and coordination of both synchronous and asynchronous activities. The main challenge is to align both types of learners and instructors toward the same goal: effective collaborative learning.


Abdelmalak, M. M. M., & Parra, J. L. (2016). Expanding learning opportunities for graduate students with HyFlex course design. International Journal of Online Pedagogy and Course Design, 6(4), 19–37.

Beatty B. (2012). Hyflex course design: The advantages of letting students choose the blend. Online Learning Collective.

Beaty, Brian J. Ed. (2019) Hybrid-Flexible Course Design Implementing student-directed hybrid classes, EdTech Books.

Bruff, Derek. (2020). Active Learning in Hybrid and Socially Distanced ClassroomsVanderbilt Center for Teaching.

CNDLS. (2020). Guidebook: HyFlex TeachingInstructional Continuity at Georgetown.

Hyflex (HELIX) Implementation at Harvard Division of Continuing Education:

HyFlex Course Design Model with Brian Beatty (2020), Think UDL Podcast.

HyFlex Course Development Guide (2018). Cambrian College Teaching & Learning Innovation Hub.

Hyflex Learning with David Rhoads” (2020). Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast.

Leijon, M., & Lundgren, B. (2019). Connecting physical and virtual spaces in a HyFlex pedagogic model with a focus on teacher interaction. Journal of Learning Spaces; 1, 8.

Miller, J.B., Risser, M.D. & Griffiths, R.P. (2013). Student Choice, Instructor Flexibility:

Moving Beyond the Blended Instructional ModelIssues and Trends in Learning Technologies, 1(1).

Sowell, K., Saichaie, K., Bergman, J., & Applegate, E. (2019). High Enrollment and HyFlex: The Case for an Alternative Course ModelJournal on Excellence in College Teaching30(2), 5–28.

Talbert, R. (2020). Research report: Experiencing the hyflex modelRobert Talbert, PhD.

What To Expect in a HyFlex Course: A Faculty Handbook. (2017) Texas A&M University.

Career Advice Education

Five Things I Wish I’d Known in My Early Years as an Educator

To bring out the best of others, you need first to bring out the best of who you are.

If I have to be honest, I’d never picture myself as a professor. When I was younger I always thought teaching was not for me. I found it boring, pointless, and unrewarding. I had better ideas in mind for a professional career. Never it occurred to me I’ll end up in education.

It took me 12 years of study, 3 countries, 5 different employments, 3 interviews, and 1 lecture to realize that teaching was my thing.

Many educators, like me, got into this career path because it was our calling. For us, Education is our passion, and we are committed to making this place better for everyone.

However, that willingness to change the world through knowledge and better education can be also an enormous burden. And unfortunately is the cause for burn out and early leave from academia.

If there is something I’ve learned during my short experience as a professor is that we don’t have the power to change anyone. Change only happens when people decide to change. We can only inspire change.

But I learned this, I still am, through the hard way. In my earliest years I felt discouraged, disappointed, and a failure. Because there is nothing more disheartening than wanting to give the best of who you are to change the world and not being able to even move a grain of sand.

I wish someone had told me these 5 things in my early years as an educator. This is the advice I would give my junior self and every other junior educator entering Academia. Do yourself a favor and get this ASAP. Don’t do what I did and learn it the hard way.

1. You are not supposed to know it all

Is not because you are an educator that you have to know it all. We are human. No matter how many degrees we have under our shoulder, we can’t know everything. And that’s ok.

I remember my first lectures. I was so stressed about the questions students would ask during the class. I was prepared to give my lecture and knew very well my subject. But just the idea of having a student asking me something I wouldn’t have an answer for was afflicting.

I thought I had to know it all. I thought I had to answer with mastering and without hesitation. I thought not having an appropriate answer would make me a clown and an impostor.

But what happens, really, when you don’t know something? You learn.

Something I came to love about teaching is that you never stop learning. And your students are outstanding teachers.

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” 
― Albert Einstein

Our role as professors is not to know everything and pass on knowledge to our students. Our role is to provide the proper environment for learning to happen. It’s our role to inspire curiosity and encourage collaboration. Our role is to provide the right tools to create knowledge and question what each one of us already knows.

Not knowing everything is a strength. It shows how human we are, how eager we are to become more knowledgeable. It shows our humility.

When there is a question you don’t know how to answer, instead of falling for the anxiety or embarrassment take it as an opportunity to learn and encourage learning. This is what you can do to turn it in your favor.

  • “I don’t know the answer, I’ll look at it and come back to you with an answer soon,”
  • “I’m not sure about the answer, what are your thoughts about it?”
  • “That’s a good question, maybe we can come up with an answer as a group.”

2. Some students won’t like you

I know we want to be that one memorable professor for all of our students. We just want to give the best of who we are to each and every one of them.

We want them to think we are awesome, cool, inspiring, knowledgeable, trustworthy. We want to inspire change in them, give them the best opportunities to thrive and make it once they’re out of our classrooms. They are our children, and we love them all.

But the truth is, not everyone would like you. It doesn’t matter how much you try, or what you do to please them. Some will simply not like you, and that’s fine. It is not because some students don’t appreciate you, that you are less valuable.

The faster you come in peace with that fact, the faster you’ll start enjoying your career. Don’t lose your sleep to a few discouraging comments or behavior. Again, your job is not to change anyone, your job is to inspire change. But each person is master of their own decisions. They are also allowed to disagree with you and not like you. They are humans too.

It doesn’t mean you have to forget about them. On the contrary, keep being yourself, keep giving your best to them, to each one of them, regardless of how much they like you or not.

3. ‘No’ is a plausible answer

Many of us have a hard time saying no to people because the word no has a negative connotation. This is especially true when you are young in your career. You are passionate and you want to give your best to other people. You want to help and say yes to everything because you are eager to learn and grow.

But saying no could really save lives, yours and that of others.

When we say “No thanks, I don’t take drugs,” or when you tell your kids, “No, you can’t jump from the stairs,” we are saving lives.

The same stands true in your career. You can say, “No, I don’t really have the time” when your colleagues ask you to perform a job that is not yours to do just because they won’t find the time to do it themselves.

You can say, “No, I can’t replace you for those theses defense” when you are already overwhelmed by your own grading, service hours, and research. You might also say, “No, I can’t stay over 6 pm I have other important things to do at home”when the deadline for a report is close, and your supervisor wants to finish today, only because tomorrow he will be on holiday.

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” 
― Anna Taylor

Saying no can help you maintain your sanity, health, and life balance. And it can also help your supervisors or colleagues to be more productive, responsible, and smarter.

Saying no will not only help you achieve your career goals but it would help you win your colleagues’ respect. With a simple polite no, they will understand that your time is valuable and they’ll learn to appreciate your help and guidance when you eventually say yes.

4. You are more important than anyone else

No, this is nothing to do with being narcissistic or selfish. Is about self-worth and self-care. It doesn’t matter how much you care for others, if you don’t take care of yourself first, your efforts to be there for other people would be fruitless.

Your life, your health, your family, your goals, come first, and before anyone else’s.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.

It might seem obvious to say, but when you are an educator it’s easy to forget about it. We are so passionate and compromised with our mission that we forget we have a life besides academia.

I love my students, and I would do anything to help them thrive. I would do anything to ease their pains. I would do anything to make their learning and life experience as memorable and enjoyable as possible. But I can’t do that if I don’t take care of myself first.

You can be compassionate, kind, and engaged with your students, but you can’t live their lives for them. You can’t exchange your life for theirs. Your life is more important than anything else.

The same goes for your colleagues. Yes to kindness and empathy. But be the best person you can be to yourself first. Then share it with others. You can’t give to others if there is nothing there to give.

5. Weekends and holidays are meant for relaxing

I love my job, but to be honest, there is nothing more exhausting than being an educator. You are constantly giving the best of who you are to an audience of people that’s not always condescending.

Most of the time you are standing, speaking vigorously, walking from one classroom to the other, going up and down the stairs, running between hallways, carrying out meetings, answering to difficult questions, solving problems. Those things burn all of your energy.

I know that I feel more tired after a complete day of teaching than after a full day of sport and errands. At the end of the day, the only thing I want to do is to take a bath and fall asleep watching Netflix. I can’t, of course, my night shift starts at 5 pm when I pick up my kids from school.

Breaks are important! There is a reason for the multiple school breaks, teachers need them.

I teach adults and it takes every inch of me. It takes self-control, patience, self-efficacy, creativity, and all my energy. I can’t imagine how K12 educators feel like at the end of the day. I admire you, honestly.

So, use your breaks to relax, to re-energize, to do the other things you love. Don’t use your breaks to grade papers, design curriculums, or read theses. Use breaks to step aside from those preoccupations and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Use it to read the novels you ditched last year to read those research papers. Use it to write that book you started years ago. Use it to travel and learn about new cultures. Use it to laugh with your family and friends. Use it for whatever you want, but use it right.

Everything else can wait. Your weekends are days off, on Monday you’ll be ready to take on those preoccupations again. Your students can wait. Your colleagues can wait. Your supervisor can wait. But your health, your sanity, your life can’t wait any longer.

Teaching is a beautiful thing. Being an educator is one of the most rewarding careers. Don’t let your passion for and your engagement with your calling hinder your life goals and your identity.

To bring out the best of others, you need first to bring out the best of who you are.

“It’s not the days in your life, but the life in your days that counts.”

— Brian White

Education Online Education

A Post-Pandemic Look Into Higher Education

Can we plan for normal?

While In Europe the COVID19 situation seems to be under control, China and Iran are locking down cities and closing everything down, again.

A second wave of the pandemic was a scenario many of us have foreseen.

Still, in Europe, we are already reopening schools and planning for a normal start of the next academic year.

But can we plan for normal? Should we call it normal?

Now, the opinions on how the post-pandemic world will look like are diverse. But the only thing that seems to be a consensual opinion is that education as we know it has to change. But how will it change? That is the answer no one seems to want to answer.

Let me explain.

The online teaching market is having its say

Online teaching practices are not something new, but the pandemic gives them the light it was missing, for sure. Online diplomas and certifications exist for more than 20 years. But these were hardly competitive in the education market.

I mean, having a diploma from the Global University was never something that would shine on your CV. Even an online MIT certification was not something to brag about. At least not when looking to land your first job.

This kind of education format was mainly attractive to adult learners. Because working adults looking to continue education, they want just that,to continue education. They are (all) not going for (just) the perks. Adult learners can’t afford to leave their paying jobs to attend a full-time program at a traditional university. And it is also unlikely that their employees would pay the fees of an MBA program at a top tier college. Unless your employer is Apple or Facebook. But also you don’t need a university degree to work on Apple or Facebook.

But when it came to young undergrads looking to study for the first time, traditional on-campus universities were winning on the battlefield. These young adults were (are) looking for the campus experience. Of course they care about the quality of the courses, but they are hoping to live the full college experience. The dorms, the fraternities, the parties, the coffee break, the international exchanges, the face-to-face tutoring, and yes, the classes.

With the lockdown situation and the new sanitary conditions, the trend is reversing, somehow.

The on-campus experience is getting overrated

Small local universities, online-only academies, and flexible colleges are grasping now more attention than ever. Finally, they are getting to compete with the top-tier giants and might have a chance of winning.

Because when you put every institution under the same conditions and rules, well things like on-campus experience weigh less in the decision.

The thing is that these online universities and certification institutions have been doing online teaching for a while now. They are 20 years ahead of us; they have the know-how, the budget, and the technology. They don’t need the campus experience to attract their students.

But reputed (and usually expensive) schools, they are not ready to give up to the face-to-face student learning experience, not just yet. Online programs are just one minor piece of the puzzle for these institutions, they have these programs mainly for having a say on the adult learners population. The on-campus programs are the ones that pay the bills.

The on-campus experience is for these schools the hook to attract the big fish. But when you can’t offer that because of sanitary issues, well the hook seems less attractive.

This is causing freshman to take a gap year and wait until normality comes back to register for college. Others are demanding the reimbursement of their admission and tuition fees because e-learning is not worth the $30k a year.

Now, these demands are hurting the pockets and reputation of traditional private schools. But are opening the way for small, flexible, and open and less traditional education systems.

With that much time in their hands, recently graduated students are not just playing video games, they are looking to educate themselves and develop their skills. MOOCs, Webinars, learning apps, Online Business Academies (like HubSpot or Facebook) YouTube videos, TikTok are some sources that have been gaining momentum in the past months, since the lockdown.

The catch? They are free, they also offer pretty good content and learners actually get to develop their skills.

Of course they are not replacing completely the MBAs, since most of them don’t provide learners with certification. But they are getting the visibility they were lacking until now. And this could be the right opportunity to disrupt the education industry and win.

Back to local education

During the last decade, the international mobility of students has grown at impressive rates. In the US, 5.5% of the student population comes from overseas. This number equals to 20% in the UK, and 10% in France. In 2016 almost 5 Million students were international mobile, compared to 4M in 2012. That’s quite a number.

Most international mobile students in the US come from countries like China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. For Europe, most international students come from Asia, Africa, and other European countries.

International mobility is one of the main economic sources of higher education institutions. Not only because these international students pay for the “full” on-campus experience, but also because they contribute to the international ranking of the schools. The more the institution is able to attract international students, the better it is for its positioning in the international arena.

Now with the pandemic situation, the frontiers being closed and the visas being banned. The situation is getting complicated. Most of the exchange partnerships and programs are hurting and on stand by as the future seems blurred by a possibility of a second wave, and thus a second lockdown.

While this looks bad for big and top tier universities in the US and in Europe, it looks good for smaller and local institutions. It is the time when maybe students (and their parents) will give a better look at the education offered in their countries.

It is also the opportunity for governments to focus on their schools and education system and gain back the interest of their national students.

Not only this will be great news for national schools, but for the nations themselves as they probably lessen the drain of national brains.

Take the example of China. The government has taken several actions to reduce the drain brain of young talented students by improving their national education system. The various reforms in domestic education have reflected on a higher number of degrees granted by the Chinese universities and the repatriation of many Chinese talents living abroad.

The internationalization of both schools and students is important. A cross-cultural classroom is an amazing place to learn about communication, management, diversity, culture. But focusing on attracting international students at all costs is probably not the best way to go.

Maybe there is a way to rebalance the exchange between students and nations.

Flexible Education

If there is something that we can learn from this pandemic is that we need more flexibility. We had to abruptly change our way of working, teaching, learning, socializing. In the beginning, it was overwhelming, especially for organizations and people that were not used to remote working. But then most of us found a way to adapt.

What we’ve learned? We have to be flexible. What happens if a second wave knocks on our door next semester. What if the sanitary conditions demands us to have up to half of our class present in our classroom. What if we get to teach half of the semester and then we are in lockdown again.

We need a more flexible education: flexible schedules, flexible formats, flexible assessments, flexible classrooms, flexible credits. But flexibility also means two times more work — at least. And as much as we think that educators are superhero, we only have two hands. So if there is more work to do, schools will need to hire more staff, more faculty, or at least rebalance the teaching and service responsibilities between them. Students need to be flexible too. Adapt to the different alternatives offered to them.

We need also a more flexible mindset.

Looking at the post-pandemic future is raising questions that many of us, in Academia, have raised a long time ago. Maybe this time we will listen and finally take the actions needed to make our education systems better for everyone.


How to Give a Good Academic Paper Presentation

The art of pitching your academic research

So, you’re about to present your first academic paper? You are preparing to defend your thesis? You are about to present your research to a bunch of experts?

But, you don’t know where to start? or, how to start?

That’s ok, you are in the right place.

In this short post, I’m going to show you how to do a good academic research presentation so that your audience actually understands and appreciates it.

The main goal of an academic research presentation — like any other type of presentation — is to carry your audience through a story and grab their attention during the whole story. But no matter how good a story is, if it’s not told properly it’ll lose its audience at the very first words.

And every good story needs a good structure, otherwise, your audience will get lost in a dead-end.

To avoid getting into that dead-end and losing your audience, you should structure your presentation around 5 main questions:

  1. Who are you and what’s your story about?
  2. Why should your audience — or anyone — care about your story, and why is it relevant to tell that story now?
  3. How did you get to write your story? Who are the main characters?
  4. What happens in the story? What happens to the characters?
  5. So, What? Why this ending is better? Why should I wait for a new episode?

The order in which these questions are answered throughout your presentation can vary. Good stories might also start at the end and crawl back to its beginnings. Play with the order and see what suits best your story, only you know better what works for your research.

So let’s go now through each of the questions, shall we?

Who are you and what’s your research about?

Introduce yourself — unless you have already been introduced. Sometimes we are so impatience to give our presentation that we forget the basics.

Many times when we choose a book to read we ask ourselves about the human that wrote the book. And, as any writer researchers should include a short biography of themselves in the presentation.

And this is not to brag about yourself or your experience, but to give a human touch to the research itself. Before anyone wants to hear your story — your research — you need to tell them why they should be listening to you.

A short introduction of 30 seconds will do, your name, your background, why you are here in this room presenting and anything else that might be relevant to the research you are doing.

Give a context to your story, a kind of foreword to your research. State your thesis clearly and tell your audience why the topic you are going to address is relevant. And why they should care.

Give a hook. Start with a kind of provocation to instill curiosity and need. Try to think out of the box and talk about something your audience will found interesting. Use analogies too much known or simpler things that everyone in the room would be able to understand. Don’t talk to the experts, they already know it.

To give you an example, this is how I started one of my papers on overconfidence and innovation:

If you had to choose between The Joker and Batman, who would you want to be?

My paper was nothing to do with superheroes — at least not in a common way — but I wanted to talk about the dual personality innovators have, thus The Joker vs Batman analogy.

Once you have given your hook and presented yourself, give your audience an idea of what you are going to talk about and what awaits them during the following minutes.

Give them a roadmap of the talk, even if it seems redundant to you. This doesn’t mean you have to list your table of contents, just a prelude of your story.

In total, one minute and one slide are enough.

Why should your audience care about your Research, and why is it relevant now?

The next 2 or 3 slides should introduce the subject to the audience. Very briefly. Usually, research presentations last between 10 to 15 minutes, but many are shifting to the startup pitch format of 3 to 5 minutes. So being concise and direct to point is quite important.

Telling your audience why the topic you are researching about is important and relevant it’s essential, but should not take all time. This is just the introduction, you need to save time for the main story.

There are mainly 6 elements that make a good introduction:

  1. Define the Problem: Many speakers forget this simple point. No matter how difficult and technical the problem you are addressing is there is certainly a way to explain it concisely and clearly in less than one minute. Explain your problem as if your audience were 5 years old children, not because they are not smart or respectable, but because the simpler you get to explain a complex problem the more it shows your mastery and preparation. If the audience doesn’t understand the problem being attacked, then they won’t understand the rest of your talk, and you’ll lose them before you get to your great solution. For your slides, condense the problem into a very few carefully chosen words. An example here again from my research: Is being extremely confident in ourselves good or bad for innovation?
  2. Motivate the Audience: Explain why the problem is so important. How does the problem fit into the larger picture(e.g. entrepreneurship ecosystem, neuroscience,…)? What are its applications? What makes the problem nontrivial? If no one has done this research, why is it relevant now to do it? What are the circumstances that make it relevant now more than ever? Avoid broad statements such as “Innovation is what drives economic growth, but there are few innovative individuals, so how can we encourage people to become innovators?” Rather, focus on what really matters: “universities are investing millions to develop entrepreneurship education program, still students graduating from these programs aren’t starting any venture.”
  3. Introduce Terminology: scientific jargon is boring and complex, it should be kept to a minimum. However, sometimes is almost impossible not to refer to specific scientific terms. Any complex jargon should be introduced at the beginning of the presentation or when each term is introduced for the first time during the presentation. To avoid losing time tot his, you can prepare a short document with all the terms and definitions to hand out to the participants in the audience.
  4. Discuss Earlier Work: Do your research, you are not reinventing the wheel. There is nothing more frustrating than listening to a talk that covers something that has already been published without making reference tot hose studies. It not only shows that you didn’t do your research and that you are underprepared, but it shows you don’t know how to conduct research. This doesn’t mean that you should have read and cited ALL the works and papers that talk about the topic of your research. This is only useful if you are doing a systematic review. But you have to be sure that you know, read and cite those that really matter. You have to explain why this work is different from past wor, or how you are improving or continuing the research.
  5. Emphasize the Contributions of the Paper: Make sure that you explicitly and succinctly state the contributions made by your paper. That is the so what?. Give just a quick glimpse of your contributions and implications for the research and the practice. The audience wants to know this. Often it is the only thing that they carry away from the talk.
  6. Consider putting your Conclusion in the Introduction: Be bold. Let everyone know from the start where you are headed so that the audience can focus on what matters.

How did you get to your results? How did you conduct your study?

There should be 1 or 2 methods slides that allow the audience to understand how the research was conducted. You might include a flow chart describing the main ingredients of the methods used. Do not put too many details, just what it’s needed to understand the study. Many of the details are appropriate for the manuscript but not for the presentation. If the audience wants to have more details on the methods they can always read your full paper, or you can prepare backup slides with this information to share during the Q&As session. For example, you could just say: “During 4 weeks we conducted semi-structured interviews with top managers and employees from different organizations. Our final sample was composed of 30 individuals, from which 10 were top managers and 15 were female and aged between 25 and 60 years.” Further details are presented in backup slides or in the manuscript.

What did you find, what happened?

The next 3 slides should show the main results obtained with your research. If appropriate, it is nice to start with a slide showing the basic phenomena being studied (e.G. the process of innovation and how). It reminds your audience about the variables used and manipulated and the role they have in the situation being studied.

Next, show figures, pictures, or graphs that clearly illustrate the main results. Do not show charts and tables of raw data. No one is able to read an excel table on a presentation, if only it gives the creeps. So instead of putting large and ugly tables, no one is going to read, use beautiful and meaningful graphs and figures.

You can use free infographic apps to build awesome visual representations of your data. Apps like CanvaVenngage, or Piktochart work great.

All figures should be clearly labeled. When showing figures, be sure to explain the figure axes before you talk about the data (e.g., “the X-axis shows time. The Y-axis shows economic profit).

When presenting the data try to be as simple as possible, this is the most complex part of your research. You might be an expert, but your audience probably is not and they need to understand your results if you want to convenience them with your research.

So, What? What are the outcomes, implications and future steps?

The last 2 slides are probably the most important section of your presentation. It’s the denouement of your story, and it should be good.

Nothing is more frustrating than reading or listening to a good story to arrive to a disappointing end. All the effort you did to tell the good story is lost if you don’t curate appropriately the ending.

Some people be distracted during the whole presentation and would only pay attention to your conclusions, so those conclusions better are good.

Before getting to your end, sum up what your study was about, your research questions and objectives, and then go to the conclusion. In this way, the lousy distracted audience will also get most of your research.

List the conclusions in clear, easy to understand language. You can read them to the audience. Also give one or two sentences about what this likely means — your interpretation — for the big picture, go back to the context and motives of your research. Explain how your results improve our understanding and contribute to theory and practice.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the flaws and limitations of your study. Not only this shows you are humble but that you are prepared enough and that you are aware that things can be improved. Remember that having contradictory results to what you expected is not a bad thing, they are still results, you need to find an explanation to this.

Once you know your limitations, tell your audience how can this be improved in future research. How can other scholars address the problems and flaws, what are the next steps, and what future research should focus on?

Your job as a presenter is to not only present the paper but also lead a discussion with your audience about your research. Talk about its strengths, weaknesses, and broader implications. To help focus the class discussion, end your presentation with a list of approximately three major questions/issues worthy of further discussion.

Please finalize your presentation with at least two or three major things that should be discussed. Discussion with the audience should be especially encouraged at this point, but you should be prepared to foster this by raising these issues.

So, when preparing your presentation think like one of the people in your audience. Think about what they would ask? What would they like to discuss further? What are the points that might trigger confusion or disagreement?

If you have these questions in mind you can prepare to give appropriate answers and be less stressed out by the uncertainty of your audience reaction. You can then prepare a couple of backup slides that will help you give responses to the questions being asked and that will help you make your point.

Final thoughts

Reading and understanding academic research papers can be a tough assignment, especially because it can be very specific and you might not know or understand many terms, methodologies, or even statistical models and analysis. So preparing a presentation of an academic paper, whether is yours or others’ work, takes time and must be taken seriously.

When you are preparing your draft for the presentation, keep in mind that your audience will rely on listening comprehension, not reading comprehension. That means that your ideas need to be clear and to the point, and organized in a way that makes it possible for your audience to follow you.

And since understanding was difficult for you who had the time to read and discuss the paper with your team, you can imagine how difficult it might be for an audience that hasn’t read the paper and moreover has no expertise (or not much) on the research topic you are presenting.

So you have to be very careful about how you present your article so that your audience understands what you are saying, feel involved and curious, and off course don’t sleep while you talk.

Scientific oral presentations are not simply readings of scientific manuscripts, so being in front of an audience reading scientific terms and statistical models and equations is out of the picture. You need to provoke curiosity and engagement so that at the end of your presentation people want to know more about your research.

Don’t forget that time is precious, and not everyone is ready to give their time to listen to things they don’t find amusing or intriguing. Being concise and simple is not an easy exercise, but is crucial for passing by a message.

Follow simple presentation rules:

  • 1 slide takes 1 minute to present, so if you have 10 minutes to present don’t do more than 10 slides.
  • Don’t use small size fonts, the minimum readable size is 20pt.
  • Don’t use text when you don’t need it, the text should be only be used to highlight things that you want your audience to remember
  • Use pictures whenever you can but don’t overuse them. Pictures have to be relevant to your speech.
  • Be careful with grammar and errors. Read your slides thoroughly a couple of times before submitting them for a presentation. And ask someone else to read them also, they are more likely to find mistakes than you are as they are less biased and less attached to your topic.
  • Finally, prepare, prepare, and prepare. Mastery is only possible through training. No matter how good you are at improvising, preparing for a presentation is key for succeeding at it.

And that’s it. Good luck!

Education Online Education

5 Ways To Make Your Online Courses More Engaging

And how not to get shadowed by TikTok

We are going through uncertain times, and uncertainty creates anxiety and stress. Students are feeling it too. They might be going through difficult circumstances. Probably quarantined far from home, far from their friends. They are left alone to deal with remote internships, thesis deadlines, and much other homework.

Many students and teachers are eager to attend to their online classes at least to cope with the boredom and isolation of being under quarantine. We miss our students, and they miss us — I think.

But let’s get real, remote live classes can be boring, and TikTok is probably shadowing our awesome content.

Whether you are using Zoom, BigBlue Button or any other videoconferencing software, there are few simple tricks you can try to make your live classes more engaging, and actually memorable.

Here is how.

1. Start with a warm-up

Again students are anxious, stressed out. And nothing is worse than starting a class right away with the course topics.

Illustration by Icons 8

Students — and everyone else — need some minutes of warm-up to get into their focus zone. It’s like exercising, you can’t start running a marathon at your full speed and with no initial warm-up, you’ll breakdown.

Warm-up activities are essential for kicking off any good lecture, online or offline.

But, how can you do that online?

Start first with a kind welcoming. Yes, it might sound obvious. But we are so caught up by the routine and obligation that we might forget the essential: caring for others.

Dedicate the first five minutes of your class to ask your students how they feel, how they are dealing with the current situation, what are the difficulties they are facing. These will make participants more at ease and keen to interact.

Once everyone shares how they are and feel, you can pass to the short fun warm-up game to set the ambiance.

You don’t need to prepare a complex ice breaker. Something as simple as doing a gif contest will do. You can ask your students to share a gif that represents their current state of mind — and body — at then have them vote for the best one. Everyone would have a laugh and will get energized to start the lecture.

You can try also an emoji tournament or a show and tell. 10 to 15 minutes is enough to get the ambiance going and give students time to energize and get ready to absorb new knowledge and stay focus.

2. “Cameras and mics on” rule

One of the many issues of giving class through videoconference is that you have much less control over students’ attention.

Illustration by Icons 8

The fact that they have to be in front of the computer screen to receive the course makes it almost impossible to keep them away from distraction.

Most of them have multiple windows open in their devices while receiving the lecture. Facebook, Tiktok, Whatsapp, Instagram, everything is at their reach, keeping them from actually listening to and interacting with the class.

While we cannot completely avoid this, we can minimize the risks of procrastination by establishing the “camera and mic on” rule. The goal is to ask every participant to turn on their cameras and mics during the lecture unless there is a good explanation of why they can’t.

Turning the camera and the mic on gives the conversation more fluency and encourage participants to be more present during the lecture and get more involved in the discussion.

Zoom, Meet, and most of the videoconference apps have the option to view participants’ display on a one-screen grid. Zoom, for example, lets you see up to 49 participants display on one unique screen that updates automatically when participants enter or leave the room.

To avoid messy conversations and background noise, you can ask participants to mute their microphone only when you, or someone else, is presenting. Then ask them to leave the mic open when it’s time for group talk.

If you still struggle with students’ participation and attention then you can shout out their names and invite them to take part in the conversation.

3. Use visual collaboration

Active learning is essential for improving student engagement and ensuring student learning.

Illustration by Icons 8

Conducting remote courses should not be a limitation for encouraging active learning. But for sure just sharing a slide deck will not do.

There are plenty of apps for team collaboration that you can use with your students to create and manage knowledge together.

By dividing the class into groups you can have them work on different topics and give feedback to each group separately. Zoom has an easy to set up functionality where you can break your class into different rooms so that each team has its own workspace. Google Meet doesn’t provide this functionality yet, but there is a way to hack this with just some preparation.

Then, you can use an app for visual collaboration and create dedicated spaces for each team to work on. The most simple way to do it is by using google drive and google docs. Students can easily create their own collaborative documents in no time.

But there are more interesting apps in the market that as an educator you can access for free. My favorite one is Muralbecause they have plenty of built-in and ready to use collaborative canvas and spaces and because it’s super easy to use.

But there are many other apps like MiroConceptboard or Jamboard from google that are also great alternatives.

Choose the one that suits best.

4. Interactive quizzes

Hosting interactive quizzes during your online sessions are a great way to evaluate student knowledge and engagement.

Illustration by Icons 8

The idea of hosting interactive quizzes during your lectures is not to increase students’ anxiety but to break down the monotony and keep with the good vibe.

Here again, there is a wide range of possibilities. But these two are my favorite ones: Kahoot and Factile.

The most famous interactive quiz platform is Kahoot, a free student-response that uses all sorts of gamification techniques to engage students’ participation and enhance learning. With Kahoot, you can both host live quizzes as well as self-paced challenges for out-of-class review. Kahoot games can be played in single mode or in team mode and offers plenty of fun features to stimulate students to play and learn.

Another great platform for live learning games is Factile. Have you ever played jeopardy? Well, Factile is a free learning platform that lets teachers create engaging Jeopardy-style quiz games for the classroom. You can create and personalize your own game boards or use premade quizzes shared by the community. With Factile you can either host jeopardy games, regular multiple choice quizzes, memory games, and create study flashcards to improve students learning proficiency. As Kahoot, Factile can be played in teams or individually.

5. Wrap up with 1-minute video posts

The best way to finish every lecture is with a wrap up to summarize what has been discussed and learned during the session.

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The agile methodology for management and innovation uses “agile retrospectives” as an opportunity to learn and improve by reflecting on past events and behaviors.

The idea of retrospectives is to have participants share their thoughts after each lecture on the following questions

  • What I’ve learned?
  • What worked well? What did I enjoy?
  • What didn’t work well? What did I found challenging?
  • What are we going to try to do differently?

There are plenty of retrospective activities to derive the lessons learned, and many of them can be done remotely through a visual collaboration platform like the ones presented earlier in this post.

But the one I prefer, because it takes place after your lecture is a 1-minute retrospective video.

It’s being a will since I been using Instagram as a teaching tool, and especially as a platform where students can share their “What I’ve learned” retrospectives. You can create a private Instagram account for the class where they can share class-related content. The activity then consists of each student posting a 1-minute retrospective video where they share their answers to the 4 questions detailed before. Then classmates get to like and give feedback to other student videos.

An alternative to Instagram, and probably more suitable if you are concern about privacy and security of personal data, is Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a social learning free app to create and share short awesome videos. As an educator, you have free access to the app and you can create different grids — classrooms — and topics of discussion. Each grid has a unique code that you can share with your students so that they can access the topics and the videos being posted by the professors and classmates. It is a great tool for reflective learning and for building solid learning communities within your classes.

Instagram, Flipgrid, or even youtube are great platforms to share retrospectives, even when you are not teaching remotely. Students love to record videos and they have great skills for editing, so why not capitalize on those capabilities?

But please, please, avoid using TikTok for this. Call me old-fashioned, but crazy things happen on Tiktok and we want fun but not crazy.

To wrap up

So, after two months of forced remote teaching, this is what I’ve learned.

Students are not happy to miss classes, the enthusiasm for skipping lectures only lasted two or three days. They are stressed out, anxious about the future, and many on the edge of depression, and it’s not just that they are making a scene.

We don’t need to make it harder for them by giving them tons of work and overweighted lectures and presentations. We can’t blame them for complaining, it is not that they are lazy — not all of them.

We can’t pretend that everything it’s ok and that nothing should change. Because it’s not.

We are not ok. They are not ok.

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So, instead of contributing to their — and ours — anxiety let’s make remote learning more enjoyable, more memorable by just adjusting a few things. But mainly by remembering that even remotely we can be kind humans.

And after all, in times like this, there are more important and urgent things than learning about theorems, corollary, or postulates. So it will not hurt anyone if we give some time for mingling and having fun.

I would love to hear how you are dealing with your online courses and what you are doing to keep your students engaged. Keep me posted 🙂 !

If you want to know more about the tools you can use for free to create beautiful and engaging online courses, you can read my following post here: The Ultimate Guide to Online Resources for Educators