WHAT IS UMASS FLEX?
The UMass Flex initiative extends the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s world-class academics and rich extracurricular experience beyond campus borders. It offers instructors and students greater flexibility in when, where, and how they teach and learn by presenting courses across two or more modes of learning (in-person, live online, and asynchronous online). ). UMass Flex also opens doors to make other aspects of the UMass experience — from student groups to academic advising to career counseling — more adaptable to the needs of today’s students.
UMass Flex was born out of a strategic expansion of the University Without Walls announced by Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy in 2018, long before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted higher education to pivot almost overnight to virtual education. The following year, the Instructional Design, Engagement and Support (IDEAS) group partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to help an initial cohort of faculty explore flexible learning; this faculty-centric approach would later be embodied in the FlexLearning Fellows program.
The Chancellor formally presented a vision for a flexible university in his January 2021 white paper and convened the Flexible Learning Task Force in February 2021 to realize this vision. Thus began UMass Flex – a new initiative building on nearly 50 years of innovation in distance teaching and learning at UMass Amherst, and more than 150 as a residential campus with primarily students and faculty. engaged in in-person teaching and learning on the Amherst campus.
As befits our university’s history of invention and innovation, we intend to embrace this coming revolution and become leaders.
PIONEERS OF ONLINE LEARNING
UMass Amherst’s flexible learning initiatives date back nearly half a century. In 1974, the Video Instructional Program (VIP) was established at the School of Engineering, allowing students around the world to experience UMass engineering courses. In the 1980s, the VIP program began broadcasting live classes via satellite (and later via the Internet) to off-campus students.
Since then, UMass Amherst has continued to lead the way in flexible learning, embracing tools and technologies that enable remote access to education, such as PLATO – one of the first supported learning programs by computer – in the 1980s, and OWL – one of the first online programs. online learning tool — in the 1990s. These tools were early precursors to learning management systems such as Moodle and Blackboard, widely used today at UMass and other colleges. teaching to support learning outside the classroom.
A LEADER IN ONLINE PROGRAMS
In 2001, the Isenberg School of Management began offering a fully online, AACSB-accredited MBA program. In 2007, the School of Public Health and Health Sciences launched the first fully online Master of Public Health (MPH) in Nutrition program in the nation. The 2010s would see more widespread adoption and use of distance learning technologies, as well as an increase in the offering of online college programs. University Without Walls, which launched its first undergraduate graduation program in 1971, has become a leader in online education.
Today, many of UMass’ online degree programs, including the MBA, Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Nursing Education, and Master of Science Education, are top-ranked nationally and internationally by publications such as US news and world report and FinancialTimes.