More than 200 faculty, staff, students, and community members gathered, both virtually and in the new Student Union Ballroom, for UMass Amherst’s inaugural Flex Summit which took place held Tuesday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The UMass Flex program, launched by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in 2018, is an extension of the university’s pioneering graduation program, the University Without Walls, which is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. It explores ways to present the full college experience—from coursework to career services—to students and instructors, both on and off campus.
Highlights of the full program can be found on the UMass Flex Summit site.
The summit highlighted the additional choices students will experience through UMass Flex, allowing them to complete courses while participating in internships, service-learning, international experiences, and other off-the-record opportunities. long-term campuses.
For faculty and staff, UMass Flex will use adaptive and accessible technology solutions to engage students in active, in-depth learning and support multiple types of instruction and interaction.
“UMass Flex doesn’t replace traditional classroom learning: it’s an additional part of the process,” Subbaswamy said in his opening remarks. “It builds on our reputation for excellence in face-to-face teaching and expands learning opportunities as students interact, discuss and collaborate, synchronously and asynchronously.”
Subbaswamy also noted the financial and strategic importance of UMass Flex as Northeast colleges face a dramatic drop in college-age student enrollment.
“With UMass Flex, we are positioning ourselves at the forefront of revolutionary change in higher education. We have the opportunity to continue our strong trajectory and become a national model for American research universities in a new era,” Subbaswamy said.
In his morning keynote, David Madigan, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Northeastern University, shared what he called “the inevitable trends that will change the nature of our learning environments.” .
These include human-computer interactions to accomplish tasks, increased global connectivity, immersive experiences with virtual and augmented reality technology, and changing notions of what “physical presence” means. with the normalization of the use of avatars as digital identities.
Personalized experiential learning experiences will be a priority for Northeastern going forward, he said, adding that “students are increasingly demanding their own path. They don’t want to do a cookie-cutter major, they want it to be highly personalized and they and we want it to be experiential throughout.
Brian Beatty, associate professor of instructional technology in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies, and Educational Technology at San Francisco State University, delivered the afternoon keynote. Beatty, a pioneer of the HyFlex course design model for blended learning environments, discussed the model’s values and principles, as well as its history and implementation.
He spoke about the need to change the academic mindset of course design for students who attend classes in person, and those who attend online are not treated the same or receive the same results. of learning.