What is Flex Learning?
There are a lot of new initiatives taking place in the world of education, both nationally and internationally. One of the newest concepts gaining ground are flex schools. However, many don’t understand what a flex school is or how it is different from the traditional educational model. What are the benefits and how is it different from other similar models, such as flipped classroom learning?
Basically, a flex school combines the power of technology with the infrastructure of a traditional learning environment. It is a form of blended learning and the model share similarities with the flipped classroom model. Unlike a flipped classroom though, often a flex school allows a student to view their instruction via the internet while they are on campus. In the flipped classroom model, students view instruction from home.
Advantages & Benefits
There are quite a few benefits to implementing this model. The first of course is that the curriculum has the potential to be more engaging and move at a faster pace. There is only so much a teacher can do to be engaging but there is a lot that can be done online. From videos to interactive activities, the potential of capturing the learner’s attention and keeping it for longer periods is far greater.
Additionally, the structure of a flex school seems to lend itself to engaging the learner on a one on one basis even more so than the traditional classroom. This may be one of its greatest strengths. In a traditional classroom, students are all put together to be taught the same content by one instructor. Unfortunately human nature kicks in and students want to socialize. Since it is all the same content, it can be difficult to know when students have shared answers and not done all the thinking themselves.
However, in a flex classroom, students may be sitting at a computer with headphones on. This one fact alone, makes it less tempting for students to carry on a conversation with their friends. Many of them are used to popping in headphones and zoning out the world. In addition, if the lessons and quizzes are individualized, they (and they alone) are responsible for doing the work and getting the credit. So they must be engaged in order to make it happen. A well written program will not allow them to move on until they have mastered the concept they need to master. So they may be taught it a few different times and different ways until they get it.
Another benefit, as discussed above, is individualized instruction. In a flex environment, students can be placed on a scripted program that correlates with their academic needs and deficiencies. So even though there may be 25 students in a lab, they may all be learning different things at a different pace. It is because of this customization that districts and schools are beginning to gravitate toward it.
Flex programs have the potential to speed up the learning process and program for those involved. My daughter recently took an online class as now required for every high school graduate in the state of Florida. It was a difficult thing and nothing was spoon fed as sometimes happens in a classroom. She had to work for it and I really liked how much it pushed her. One interesting aspect of that class was that it was based on outcomes and outputs.
She had to read or view things online and then was assessed in a variety of ways to show that she had mastered it. There was a cutoff date for completion but the rest was up to her. She could go as fast or slow as she wanted as long as she completed the course.
Flex schools have the potential to change the entire high school curriculum model because there will now be no time constraints for those students who want to accelerate their advancement. They could potentially (depending on the student’s time, motivation, and ability) take extra courses (as students do in college) and graduate high school much faster than they would have with the traditional model. I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with flex schools right now. The face of education is changing and these schools are at the forefront.