Multimodal Teaching and Learning – Overview


Multimodal Teaching and Learning (related to Resilient Pedagogy) is a technologically fluid system of instruction that tries to maximize student learning and faculty pedagogy in highly diverse or rapidly changing environments. Modality refers to location and where interactions take place. In-person is one modality, online is another modality, and hybrid approaches combine modalities. Multimodal courses are intentionally designed for multiple ways of engagement across these modalities (either simultaneously or cyclically) and to provide structured flexibility in how students participate in the course. 


Programmatically, having faculty adopt a multimodal approach allows units to offer both in-person and online offerings of the same curriculum. At the course level, adopting a multimodal approach can increase access and opportunity and often encourage flexibility and course participation, but will depend on the implementation. Some common approaches include:

  • Online lecture and content delivery paired with in-person recitation and discussion (aka flipped classroom)
  • Reduced section seat capacities for in-person instruction: split large courses into smaller cohorts, consider rotating segments of manageable numbers of students in-person while engaging the rest synchronously online
  • HyFlex: create a fully online version AND a fully in-person version and find ways to bring them together into a single course experience that has multiple participation path where students choose whether they’re engaging online on in person 
  • Hybrid: there is a single path through the curriculum in which a portion is online and the rest is in-person
  • Creating opportunities for students to shift modalities during the semester (e.g. moving from in-person to synchronous online at a set transition point)
  • Fully online either synchronous and/or asynchronous

These examples are places to start when imagining a multimodal approach, but should not be limiting as one starts the process of course planning and design. Each course will have different needs and constraints that will affect your particular model and implementation, and therefore will change course designs.


By adopting a multimodal approach to designing and teaching our courses they become more student-centered, allowing for increased access and flexibility given their individual contexts. For example, depending on the explicit technological approach, students can gain the following:

  • Geographical affordances – allowing students to be caretakers for family members, to participate in study abroad while being connected to campus, and so international students can access resources/materials if they’re not on campus  
  • Temporal affordances – allowing students to be sick and not miss presentations or assignments, allowing students to take on extra shifts at work 
  • Media affordances – allowing students to select resources that work best in their context, such as reading a text transcript, participating in asynchronous discussions, or allowing for differences in bandwidth and access to technology


The MSU teaching and learning support community is working to provide support and further information for faculty and graduate instructors who are planning multimodal approaches for their Summer and Fall 2021 courses. To get started planning your course you may wish to self-enroll in the Asynchronous Program for Online Readiness (ASPIRE) course in D2L.

Also, we want to encourage you to reach out to other faculty/instructors/staff in your program/department/college to start discussing ideas. Collaboration is a key to successful multimodal creation and implementation. In the coming weeks, there will be opportunities for workshops, support documentation, and consultation sessions.

If you are interested in learning more about multimodal teaching or need assistance planning your course please contact your college/department support, or contact the MSU IT Service Desk ( or 517-432-6200) and let them know you’d like to be connected to a learning designer for support.

To read more about multimodal teaching and learning see Valerie Irvine’s The Landscape of Merging Modalities and Doug Lederman’s The HyFlex Option for Instruction if Campuses Open This Fall

This document was contributed to and co-authored by a collaborative team from the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative, MSU IT and MSU Libraries. 


Scott Schopieray, Kate Sonka, Sarah Wellman, Shannon Kelly, Jessica Sender, Stephen Thomas, Daniel Trego, Jeremy VanHof, Jun Fu, Nick Noel, Mike Zakhem, Shereif Abou-Elseoud

Scott Schopieray

Dr. Scott Schopieray is the Assistant Dean for Academic and Research Technology in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. He is a core team member of the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative (EDLI) where he focuses on institutional strategy, motivation to teach with technology, and technological structures to support digital teaching and learning. Dr. Schopieray is also Associate Director of MESH Research, a center focusing on the future of digital scholarly publishing.