Mixed-Mode Instruction

This instructional mode offers a mix of in-person and remote instruction achieved through classroom space rotation*, reducing in-person class time by including either remote synchronous or remote asynchronous instruction, using in-person class time for experiential learning elements, or some combination of these.

Each instructor will deploy their mixed-mode course in a way that works best considering the desired learning objectives. Some possibilities include:

Rotating lecture attendance where some portion of the class attends in person and others attend via a remote synchronous environment.
Lectures delivered remotely with small group, in-person recitations or problem solving sessions.
Lectures delivered remotely with small group, in-person laboratory or performance sessions.

In the rotation model, some students attend in-person sessions while others simultaneously attend those same sessions remotely. In the virtual enriched model, asynchronous or synchronous digital content is expanded upon in the classroom through engaging teaching strategies and/or in-person aspects that cannot be delivered remotely (e.g., labs, dance, art, etc.).

*If using spaced rotation, instructors will need to divide the class according to social distancing guidelines for facilities — faculty support will be provided for this purpose.

Place: Room is assigned AND remote element provided (Zoom or other).
Time: Days and times are assigned.


Webinars designed to provide critical information to faculty and staff about mixed-mode instruction.

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Recorded Webinars

Understanding the Flexible Instructional Modes Recorded July 20, 2020Active Learning in Socially Distanced Classrooms Recorded July 24, 2020

Why It Works

  • can reduce physical classroom time
  • does not involve a complete redesign to the course, though up-front planning is required
  • allows for activities that require in-person delivery (e.g., labs, dance)
  • reduces on-campus class sizes to allow for social distancing
  • students rotated into in-class sessions still benefit from some in-person contact
  • can optimize face time spent in engaged interaction
  • high degree of flexibility for students
  • in-person experiential elements are important for skills-based learning
  • student engagement varies; creating a learning community is feasible
  • switch to complete remote delivery would require little effort if pandemic worsens
  • students who cannot or will not return to campus may still be able to participate, depending on the design of the class

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Penn State Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions

Review the following frequently asked questions about mixed-mode instruction. For additional information, read the general fall 2020 frequently asked questions.

Mixed-Mode Instruction FAQs

Mixed-Mode Instruction

The department and campus scheduler can create a “mirror” section, which provides remote options to students who request them. A “mirror” section is a CR (Remote Synchronous) or CW (Remote Asynchronous) coded section that is added to a course that is currently CP or CM. It provides a remote option for what is otherwise a course with significant in-person content. The mirrored section will meet all of the same learning objectives as the original CP/CM section. The multiple sections can be merged in Canvas to aid the instructor in providing a unified and coordinated experience for both in-person and remote students. See the evolving document, “Creating Remote Mirror Sections for In-Person Courses” for details.

Because the purpose of having a mixed-mode varies, the portion of the course that must be in-person varies. For a laboratory, studio, design, or performance-based course, the minimum number of sessions for students to be in-person is determined by the activities that must be handled with the faculty and students together. For courses that are lecture/recitation style with the recitation sessions being in-person, in-person session numbers are based on the pedagogical design of the course and how much time is dedicated to the instructive portion. If the course is mixed-mode because it is rotating students through the opportunities to be in a classroom setting with the instructor and peers, then in-person session numbers are largely driven by the capacity of the room in relation to the size of the class. Every effort will be made to find a larger room if, when using the rotational model, the in-person time is less than 33%.

You will not need two versions of your course. There are a variety of ways to structure your course so that both in-person and remote students are included. You may want to record all lectures and use class time for recitations, problem solving, discussion, etc. Or, you may want to lecture according to your normal class schedule and rotate students into your class so that each day some students are in-person while others are remote.

Think about what learning objectives for your course could be most effectively met in person and plan time for that during in-class periods.  For example, perhaps some lectures could be pre-recorded so that a portion of each class could be dedicated to hands-on activities. Read guiding questions about mixed-mode course design. 

In addition, consider flipping your class, such that all lectures appear in pre-recorded video format, and use class time for students (both in-residence and remote) to actively engage with material.

Penn State’s Canvas team is building a tool within Canvas to assign students to class meeting days and to let them know on which days they are expected to attend class.

There is no need to publish a list of student names on your syllabus. Schedule students into groups in Canvas, and list on the syllabus which groups (rotation group A, rotation group B, rotation group C, etc.) should attend on different days.

Remote students can collaborate in Zoom or using digital tools such as Canvas groups or Microsoft Teams that provide workspace, communication, and file sharing. Students have many other online applications to collaborate remotely (i.e., Zoom, Google, etc.). 

For mixed-mode courses, consider dedicating some of your in-person or synchronous remote class time for groups of students to work on projects either face-to-face or in Zoom break-out rooms.

Instructors should follow Faculty Senate Policy 42-27, Class Attendance, which identifies examples of legitimate, unavoidable reasons for absence, such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, or religious observance. Instructors should accommodate student absences with flexibility during this pandemic period, especially as we don’t want students who feel ill to think that they should attend class so that their grade is not negatively impacted by an absence. 

Other general resources about attendance requirements as a part of participation in the course:  

While you are not required to take attendance for your mixed-mode course, if you want to take attendance, consider the following options:  

  • Integrate iClickers into live or remote sessions.
  • Develop a participation survey/quiz for students to complete after each in-person session. Ask students to either expand on content discussed or ask questions they would like covered in future sessions.
  • Create a reflection assignment (e.g., one thing I learned, one thing I still have a question about).

See University guidance on what to include in course syllabi about the mask requirement.  

In addition, see Penn State syllabus requirements outlined in Faculty Senate Policy 43-00, including a number of example syllabus statements

Be sure to check with your college or campus regarding locally mandated syllabus policies. 

For this instructional mode, consider adding a brief description of how you will conduct class in this mode and your expectations for their participation. You might address questions like, should students be active during in-class discussions, should they participate in asynchronous discussion boards, or should they pose questions to Q&A tools remotely?

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View General Fall 2020 FAQs

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Resources for Enhancing Your Teaching

The following instructional resources have been curated by educational developers and instructional designers and reviewed by faculty throughout the University. They are offered in the spirit of support for instructors who need to learn teaching in new modalities or who want to enhance their teaching effectiveness in familiar modalities.

On-Demand Resources

These resources are for faculty who prefer to learn on their own, with a “give me the information and I’ll apply what works for me” approach.

Collaborative Resources

These resources are for those who prefer to talk with colleagues or someone with expertise in learning or course design.

“Explore Links and the Web” Resources

These resources are for instructors who prefer to do their own web research, exploring links and making conceptual and practical connections.

“Do a Deeper Dive” Resources

These resources are for those who prefer a directed and structured learning experience, either self-guided and/or instructor-led.

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