By Audrey Abbate, Angela Hayes & Emma Ingenohl – 1851 Contributors
At Lasell, a major new adoption is the flex class format. Flex classes are made up of resident, commuter, and remote students with resident and commuter students coming to class in-person, while their remote peers join via Zoom. This new class format is to promote equity in the learning environment and to cater to both students and professors who were given the option to remain at home last semester and this one alike.
This structure is new and different for everyone. Both professors and students have had to adapt in drastic ways in order to be able to continue to be successful in this time of crisis. For some students, this has been a relatively positive experience. Senior Forensic Science major Meagan Mattos spoke to her experience as an online student in the flex setting. She shares, “I do feel as though I am getting the same experience as my peers who are in person because we are being given the same resources to succeed, just in different settings.”
Other students however, feel as though they’re missing out on some of the conversation that occurs in the physical classroom as an online student. Senior fashion media and marketing major Madison Griffin says she prefers a completely online class to a flex course. She states, “I feel as though some professors prefer to speak with and engage the in-person students over the online ones. Sometimes I can’t hear what students are saying in the classroom, so I am missing part of the conversation.”
Junior fashion media and marketing major Alexandra Duquette agreed with this saying, “I think sometimes it can be tricky when I am on Zoom while there’s an in-person meeting happening because it’s hard to hear the other students.” Junior Emily Walton, a Sports Management major in her junior year, is a resident student who is in a flex course and feels this setting is less than ideal. Though she admitted all of her classes tend to feel the same no matter what the format is.
Professors who are in charge of facilitating flex classes have to tackle the task of connecting both online students and in person students. Kathleen Potter, Dean of the School of Fashion and Associate Professor says there is a learning curve when it comes to teaching flex. Last semester, Dean Potter only taught asynchronously online. When asked about her experience teaching flex, she stated, “What I have observed is you have to put in concerted effort to bring in both groups of people. It may not happen naturally. Over time it might, but at the beginning of the semester, it takes some facilitation.”
She also revealed that she is still learning innovative ways to do this, and hopes as time goes on even more creative options will arise.
Professor Andrea Brodeur has all of her classes in the flex format this year.
Professor Brodeur says that the biggest challenge of a flex class is not having everyone in the same place and “little technical glitches”, which make it difficult to interact as a whole class. However, she also said, “It does give students options to continue their education and if there is some uncertainty or apprehension on coming to campus then they can connect and stay on track with their educational goals”.
When it comes to making these decisions about flex courses, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Dennis Frey talked about the process of trying to match up course times and settings to adhere to both student and professor’s varying learning locations. Himself and the others involved in course scheduling had been researching a “high-flex” learning philosophy that involved similar strategies that the flex classes at Lasell have adopted.
High-flex classes involve a faculty member, an instructional designer, multiple cameras and monitors, with students present in class and online. Because Lasell does not have all the same resources, the term flex was used. He also says him and his team encouraged professors to consider synchronous and asynchronous formats and to attempt to combine live content with content that can be uploaded to Canvas. “We muddle,” Frey says. “Nothing seems to be perfect.”
In any case, the university continues to offer education opportunities to both in-person and online students.