Tech Services Revamps Classrooms for Hybrid Learning for Spring 2024

Author: Mag Shou
Mag is a student employee with Technology Services and is a senior at Illinois majoring in Communications.


Technology Services’ Classroom & Conference Media Engineering (CCME) team built out hybrid-flexible (HyFlex) classrooms for the Spring 2024 semester. Hyflex classrooms are designed to enable simultaneous in-person and remote learning. Equipped with advanced technology for sharing lectures via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, these classrooms address the challenges of physical space and budget constraints. HyFlex rooms enhance educational accessibility, support interactive learning, and extend enrollment capacities, reflecting a significant shift towards flexible and inclusive teaching models.   

Campus Instructional Facility Room 3018 before the HyFlex transformation
CIF 3018 before HyFlex updates
Campus Instructional Facility Room 3018 newly transformed into a HyFlex space
CIF 3018 after completed HyFlex updates

Scott Cimarusti, Manager of Enterprise Teaching and Learning Technologies, highlighted the advantages of HyFlex classrooms compared to traditional ones, stating, “HyFlex rooms offer instructors and departments the flexibility to accommodate more students than the physical seating capacity allows and to include off-campus students as well.” 

HyFlex rooms serve multiple purposes, primarily facilitating lectures while also offering opportunities for interactive discussions within technological constraints. Cimarusti elaborated, “If students have access to their own camera and microphone, they can interact with the class that way, if the instructor allows it.” Otherwise, chat via Zoom or Microsoft Teams is another option.”

For the convenience of students, numerous HyFlex classrooms are strategically located across campus, including the Ceramics Building 214, Natural History Building 1079, Wohlers 141, Henry Admin Building 156, Campus Instructional Facility 2018, and CIF 3018. “They can all be used right now,” said Tracy Whittaker, a Lead Technology Support Liaison at Technology Services.  

These HyFlex rooms can also be used by Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). “I have promoted the use of the rooms to the Special Events Committee, so they are available to RSOs and for other types of events,” said Whittaker.

Setting up HyFlex classrooms wasn’t easy. Cimarusti shared that they had to overcome difficulties in making sure rooms were fit for HyFlex teaching per many instructors’ requests.  They also had to carefully plan their budget to cover the costs of adding the needed technology and installing it while managing other projects related to audio and video on campus.  

Whittaker highlighted the key technologies added that enhance the HyFlex room functionality: 

    1. Ceiling microphones for classroom audio to be heard by remote students, with instructor-controlled muting 
    2. An instructor-controlled Pan, Tilt, Zoom camera placed strategically for eye contact, aiding remote student engagement 
    3. Dual lectern monitors for managing remote interactions via Zoom or Teams 
    4. A large back wall monitor for instructors to view the camera’s feed, ensuring visibility while moving 
    5. Another large monitor on the back wall for monitoring Zoom or Teams activity, complementing the lectern monitors 

The plan for these rooms began in 2020, according to Whittaker. Cimarusti emphasized, “These rooms have been in the planning stages for several years. Now, with advancements in technology, the remote student experience has significantly improved, and the concept of hybrid teaching and learning has gained widespread acceptance.” While many were at home this past winter break, CCME was working to transform the newest HyFlex rooms. All rooms are now available for use.