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Self-Paced vs. Flexible Paced in an Online School

10 Sep

Self-Paced vs. Flexible Paced in an Online School

Posted By: 
Tamra Excell

Aug 11, 2014 6:00:00 AM

“What do you mean due dates?” Maria was confused by the report saying her son was behind in a class. The school said it was self-paced, so when the family went out of town for a funeral last week, she didn’t worry about him missing school. He should just be able to get back into the flow when they returned, right?

If the school was truly self-paced like it claimed, then Maria’s expectations would be correct. However, the term is often misused. When some schools say self-paced, they really mean “flexible” pacing with due dates still being used. Instead, while a self-paced program might set certain expectations for academic progress over the course of a year, perhaps even with monthly status checks, due dates for individual assignments are not set.

In a self-paced personalized learning model, a student can also work faster in one class than another, or opt to work on only one or two classes at a time. Once a class has been completed, another class can be started right away. Many students find it easier to focus or to learn concepts in-depth by only having one or two subject areas at once.

Let’s put ourselves in the place of the student for a moment. Most adults take two or three classes at a time in college. Can you imagine taking six at a time? It’s not just about the work load either. It’s about the ability to dive deeply into a subject area as well as being able to stay on top of what needs to be done. Most teens will tell you that they much prefer two or three classes at a time, especially if integration is not an option.

So now what will happen with Maria’s son? He is “behind” and trying to learn with that added stress. Likely the school even reduced points for his class, which means the grade is no longer reflecting actual learning. Also, why bother completing a learning unit when the points have already been lost? The goal orientation has moved away from learning to point collection, and a sense that nothing can be done about points lost.

What’s the solution? Allow the student to move forward from where he left off, and without penalty. Before the “in the real world” argument is tossed in here, remember this: the typical class doesn’t look anything like the real world. If it did, it would allow the worker time off to attend a funeral. Really.