Back in 2018, before the pandemic forced the world online, Waubonsee Community College’s Office of Faculty Development and Engagement began investigating one of the most flexible delivery for classrooms; something that could put students in control of where, when, and how they attend class either fully online, entirely in-person, or both.
We knew we wanted something to be as flexible as possible. And that is when the class modality, Flex, was born. We began including other departments with the rough plan and name in place, as launching a new modality impacts nearly everyone.
Our original plan was to pilot Flex in a single classroom within a single academic program at a time. Of course, that all changed when the pandemic hit and requirements for in-person class sizes changed. Waubonsee was light years ahead in the adoption and success of Flex as an emerging modality; the college did not have to pass technology burdens to faculty and staff because it had already created, tested, and provided a class modality solution. When requirements changed, our faculty and students were allowed to opt-in to whatever modality they preferred, and were literally able to ‘walk into class and be live.’
We officially launched in Fall 2020 with English Composition, Introduction to Linux, Programming, Windows and mathematics literacy courses. Our Flex offerings quickly expanded, and by Spring 2021, we had over 25 courses with multiple rooms across all four of our campuses! We are anticipating even more Flex courses in Fall 2021.
When a Flex class is scheduled, the room will automatically turn itself on, start a Zoom meeting and begin recording the session. An HD camera in the room is activated, microphones in the ceiling capture room audio and remote attendees appear on a large display. When class is over, the Zoom meeting closes and the recording is transferred to Waubonsee’s video repository, where captions are applied. All this happens behind the scenes, and the entire process is initiated by sending a single email!
Furthermore, owing to the flexibility of its design, we have been able to host a variety of other special events, remote guests, conference sessions, and even a live music concert through Flex.
While we have had many early successes, we continue to learn from and further refine Flex to create the most accessible and adaptable choice for our students. Flex courses are incredibly convenient for students who may have medical issues, work schedule conflicts, or other unexpected events that would otherwise prevent them from completing a traditional face-to-face course. Flex courses are exceptionally resilient to unexpected weather conditions and other events that disrupt traditional course delivery modes.
Eamon Newman is the Assistant Dean for Online Learning and Flexible Delivery at Waubonsee Community College.