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What is Flexible Learning?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

Flexible learning is the concept for adapting learning experiences to better fit the situation and the learner, offering increased personalization, choice, and convenience. Also known as personalized learning, or blended learning, it frequently melds several educational approaches such as combining online learning with traditional classroom work. It's especially well suited to serving the diverse needs of adult learners who are often balancing continuing education with other demands.

In general, flexible learning approaches have a high degree of personalization in response to the preferences and needs of the learner. The methods chosen can be tailored to each learner's strengths; someone who learns best by using hands-on methods can do so, while a more visual learner might utilize a textbook or computer-based approach. Personalization can also allow for granting credit for life experience or on-the-job training.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Other important components of flexible learning are choice and convenience. Learners have choices about when and where learning occurs and about what methods to use to accomplish their goals. An example would be making a selection between in-person classroom time or utilizing e-learning tools. Another possibility would be deciding between learning in the workplace, at home, or in a formal setting. This flexibility allows the learner to choose the most convenient, effective option so that learning can occur at a time and place that is most advantageous.

An advantage of flexible learning is the ability to mix and match instructional methods to develop a custom approach for individual learning needs and situations. In this way, the method can be matched to the learner and to the environment to make education accessible to a wide range of students. It's also possible to combine several methods to create a multimedia experience that encompasses several facets of a subject in a compelling manner. An example may include receiving factual information via an online course, then putting the learning into action with a practical application on the job or during an internship. The learner could participate in classroom time to process the experience by sharing it with other students and professionals and receiving feedback.

For many reasons, flexible learning is ideally suited to adult learners. The elements of choice and convenience help to make education more manageable for busy people with many demands on their time. The inherent flexibility makes it a natural choice for the type of work-based continuing education coursework required in many careers. Along with the emphasis on choice and personalization, flexible learning approaches also place a lot of responsibility for success on the learner. This makes it more suited to adult learners who usually have high levels of motivation to succeed.

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