Photo courtesy of Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design
Routine and unexpected circumstances impact the ability of both students and instructors to attend scheduled on-campus classes. To provide everyone an equal opportunity to study in a class, Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) and the University of St. Thomas are pioneering a new model of learning: blendflex.
Blendflex courses follow a single syllabus with regularly scheduled lectures, assignments, and assessments; however, students may attend each lecture either in-person, through video-conferencing, or by watching recorded lectures. Students are able to move back and forth between these three options at anytime throughout the class.
Carol Lee and Bonnie Quinn implemented the blendflex model at CGTC with funding from a Trade Adjust Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant to better support their students who rank among the highest in the United States in requiring federal financing for their education. Originally implemented in the health-care department, the model has become so popular it is used in over 20 courses in a number of disciplines including English and Math.
Following CGTC’s success, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota piloted the blendflex model in the summer of 2017 and is investing in expanding the model across its departments.
Instructors find the blendflex model more efficient than teaching multiple versions of the same course, being able to teach one class of 120 students rather than three classes of 40. Furthermore, at CGTC, fully enrolled blendflex courses count as two courses. The flexibility also allows instructors to keep their courses on schedule if something like a personal matter occurs by temporarily stopping in-class lectures while maintaining the online format.
The model is also being positively received by students. Over 95% of students like the flexibility of the model. Students had higher mean GPAs at CGTC between 2014-17 than students in traditional courses.
While blendflex has faced some challenges in getting started at institutions, CGTC and the University of St. Thomas are actively investing in providing the human and financial resources necessary to make the model more accessible for both students and instructors. If future courses continue reporting success, blendflex may become a more common mode of instruction across the United States.
About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.