Getting a degree becomes more 'FLEx'ible

by admin11. January 2010 19:00

A busy life is now less of a deterrent to earning an associate of applied science (AAS) degree or a technical diploma. Fourteen Moraine Park programs are being offered as FLEx degrees, specially scheduled programs designed for the needs of the adult learner.


The FLEx degrees use accelerated on-campus courses, online courses, blended courses and/or a mixture of these models that provide greater flexibility. According to Dan Ensalaco, Moraine Park vice president of academics and economic development, while many of the 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin use some or all of these scheduling models, the term “FLEx degree” is unique to Moraine Park. “FLEx” stands for “Flexible Learning Experience.” Recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all and that adult learners often have work, family and community commitments, the College set up the FLEx scheduling models to offer more choices.


Accelerated courses shorten time spent in a classroom to six to eight weeks, with students doing more learning on their own. These programs cover the same content as traditional programs but in one or two nights per week. The traditional format of 16 weeks spent in classrooms also is available. Online learning is the most flexible, with courses and communication done through the Internet and e-mail. Blended learning combines courses conducted through the classroom, online and interactive video conferencing.


“Although the College has been providing online and blended coursework for several years, the use of a packaged accelerated program model is relatively new for Moraine Park,” said Ensalaco. “Online courses work well for many students, but not all. The expansion of the accelerated program model allows the adult learner who prefers face-to-face instruction to commit only one or two nights a week to college coursework and still complete their degree in a timely fashion.”


In addition to the time-saving convenience of the FLEx degrees, some programs are offered in a cohort model in which groups of students benefit from ongoing contact with each other throughout their studies. “This helps build camaraderie and ongoing peer support that can improve the successful completion of a program,” said Ensalaco.


The current list of 14 FLEx programs builds on existing online and blended courses and consists of business, culinary arts, education, health, information technology, veterinary science and water quality degrees. Programs with larger enrollments were targeted, since they usually have the capacity for multiple scheduling models, according to Ensalaco. Some programs were chosen based on student feedback from surveys. General education courses are available in an accelerated format one day a week or online.


“As the College continues to look at the needs of the adult learner, we anticipate that other Moraine Park programs will be included in the FLEx degree model,” he said.


Some program starts are available every eight weeks, based on enrollment. Some credits earned at other colleges may transfer into a Moraine Park FLEx program, or in some cases credits may be granted for existing knowledge and skills that relate to the curriculum.


For more information about FLEx degrees and a list of the participating programs, go to