What is FlexLearning?
FlexLearning is a course delivery method instituted by Penn State Lehigh Valley that offers students flexibility in their approach to learning. With FlexLearning, students have the choice of taking a class completely online, or in a blended/hybrid format, or completely face-to-face in the classroom. Students who choose one option over the other will have equivalent learning opportunities and the same learning outcomes.
Are all FlexLearning courses the same?
No, not all FlexLearning courses are the same. Each instructor has the freedom to organize and deliver a FlexLearning course as he or she sees fit. There are some guidelines for FlexLearning courses (primarily that the course must be available in both online and classroom delivery formats), but instructors decide what the equivalent learning components are and how the students will engage with the course materials, with the instructor, and with the other students in class.
What’s the difference between a FlexLearning course and a blended or hybrid course?
With blended or hybrid courses, there are usually some synchronous activities or classroom attendance requirements. With a FlexLearning course, all course activities and requirements can be completed without coming to campus.
In a FlexLearning course, can I do everything at my own pace?
Each instructor may answer this question differently, but generally, the answer is NO. FlexLearning does not necessarily mean self-paced learning. Students need to stay on schedule with the class just as you would in a traditional classroom course. All students, regardless of the mode of delivery, will proceed at the same pace. No one can afford to fall behind. Students in each class will have to complete assignments, quizzes, exams, reports, and projects by the posted deadlines.Some instructors may, however, allow students to work ahead, or they may allow for some flexibility based on special circumstances (students have to work this out individually with the instructor), but FlexLearning generally does not mean flexible due dates.
If I am taking a FlexLearning course, do I have to notify the instructor if I can’t come to class?
Theoretically, students do not need to tell the instructor which method they intend to use on any given day. The instructor will be available in the classroom on the scheduled day and time of the course. However, it is advisable and professional for students to communicate with the instructor regularly to keep him or her apprised of their progress, concerns, or activity in the course.
Do I have to come to school for parts of my class?
Generally, FlexLearning courses provide students with the opportunity to take the course entirely online. However, some components of a course may be best taken in a face-to-face environment, in which case the instructor will indicate attendance policy for those components. In this case, the course is referred to as a hybrid or blended course. That means that portions of the course require actual attendance by the student. Each hybrid or blended course has different attendance requirements. Some hybrid or blended courses allow the students to select when they will do lab or studio work. Specific course requirements are listed on the course page. It is important to check the attendance requirements of a hybrid or blended course before registering.
If I attend the class on campus, does that mean I won’t have any online activities?
This will vary by instructor and by course, but it is likely that there will be online activities in addition to classroom activities. In an effort to go green, there are face-to-face courses that have online quizzes taken in class or assignments submitted online. This simply means using the computer rather than using paper and pen.
If I start to take a FlexLearning course online, can I switch to attending the classes on campus later, or vice versa?
Yes, a student may switch at any time. The objective of FlexLearning is to meet the needs of a student. FlexLearning courses are designed to allow students to switch between the classroom option and the online option with no disadvantage or penalty.
Will I be at a disadvantage if I don’t come to class?
The faculty member will make attending the class a worthwhile experience, and something that students value. However, for those who are unable to attend the class sessions, there will be an equivalent learning experience so they do not miss out on the important content of the course.
FlexLearning makes use of the HyFlex principles as outlined by Dr. Brian Beatty. One of these HyFlex principles is equivalency. That means that no matter what delivery method a student chooses for taking the course, he or she will have equivalent learning activities and equivalent learning outcomes. Students won’t be placed at a disadvantage by choosing one delivery method over another.
If I can take a FlexLearning course online, why would I want to go to class?
Many students value the face-to-face social interaction in a classroom or find they learn better in a structured classroom environment. Some prefer more verbal discussion to written communication. Getting to know the instructor in person is also a benefit for many students.
If I take a FlexLearning course online, will I still have contact with the instructor?
The answer is YES, students will have contact with the instructor of the course regardless of the mode of delivery a student chooses. Online students will still have contact with the instructor through a variety of formats such as email, discussion forums, Q&A sessions, office hours, etc. Each instructor will handle communication differently and their communication procedures will be noted in the course syllabus. With FlexLearning, students have the ability to communicate with the instructor in an electronic format, or they may come to campus and talk directly with the instructor.
What about testing?
A true FlexLearning course does not require a student to attend in-person to take tests. However, if the course is a blended or hybrid course, the instructor may require the student to take exams in a supervised environment.
What about labs?
If a FlexLearning course contains lab work, a home-based lab kit will be available for use. A hybrid or blended lab-based course would allow students to do the lab work on campus while the traditional classroom work would be online.
How do I find out what PSLV courses are available in FlexLearning mode?
All PSLV FlexLearning courses, along with a description of the course and any specific requirements, are listed at http://sites.psu.edu/lvflexcourses. Courses are also listed in the Penn State Schedule of Courses with the designation “FLEXLEARNING” in the “Section Info“ section.
Are there separate course sections for online vs. classroom FlexLearning courses?
No, there are no separate sections. A FlexLearning course includes the option for students to be on campus for all classes (traditional face-to-face delivery model), some of the classes (hybrid or blended delivery model), or none of the classes (online delivery model). The course is one and the same course, no matter what delivery method the student chooses.
Are all PSLV courses available via FlexLearning?
Although many faculty have already been integrating components in their courses, FlexLearning is a relatively new concept and initiative for the campus as a whole. Hence, with a select pioneer faculty, PSLV is offering the first set of FlexLearning courses this summer and fall semester. It is anticipated that a significant number of courses will be added each semester.
What kind of technology will I need to have if I want to attend a class online?
Technology requirements for each class are listed in the syllabus. At the minimum, a student will need a good Internet connection, a reliable computer, and up-to-date software. Any specialized software or technology will be noted in the course syllabus.
What are some of the things I should think about when deciding whether to attend a course online or in the classroom?
The most important factor is to determine what type of learner you are. If you are an independent learner, then online may be for you. If you value the social aspect, then face-to-face may be for you.
Independent online learning requires tremendous discipline, a high level of motivation, and good time management. Otherwise, directed learning in the classroom might be a better choice.
A student may find that taking the course in a particular mode of delivery is not working well for him or her. In that case, the student should make the move to continue the course in a different mode of delivery before his or her class standing suffers.
Any student who experiences problems or has concerns about a class should contact the instructor. The instructor will work with the student to determine what can best be done. It may be as simple as finding a study partner, or perhaps attending a few classes that cover the topics the student is struggling with. It is critical, however, to seek out help at the first sign of difficulty.