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Do we need a flexible approach to the learning environment?

A flexible approach to the learning environment helps students choose their learning path. This will contribute to their growth and readiness for the future. A flexible learning environment does not mean a lack of control over students' studies.

This article is part of the Flexible Learning Guide. Learn all about Flexible Thinking Activities, Flexibility in the Classroom, and Flexible Online Classes.


A flexible learning environment is borderless and boundless. 

Learning is no longer viewed as it was used to – yes, it is a must and a way of growing, but as learners have unlimited access to information, the teachers and the learning environments have a different meaning. 

A flexible learning approach is the present and more like the future of learning. It is a strategy that teachers and schools prefer to the traditional approach to learning. There are various reasons for this, and you will find all of them below.


The importance of a flexible learning environment 


The need for a flexible environment arises from society’s technology development. Technology made it possible for students to learn from anywhere at any time. Learning spaces become more and more virtual. 

Moreover, students have become increasingly demanding. This means their attention span is minimal if the class does not provide them with the flexibility of expressions, a flexible approach, of course, the possibility of critical thinking, self-paced learning and the availability to study from anywhere at any time.


Examples of flexible learning environment 

The flexible learning environment can be grouped in the type of learning, the space and the pace.

A flexible learning environment can be 

 – Physical

 – Online

 – Hybrid

 – Blended 

The space for the flexible learning environment can be 

 – Virtual

 – Hybrid 

 – Face to face

A flexible learning environment can also be

 – At your own pace

 – Synchronous

 – Asynchronous


Flexible learning spaces 

A flexible learning space is a physical space where students can study differently from the traditional one. The physical learning environment width depends significantly on the classroom, the number of students and the activities.

That means 

 – They are grouped differently.

 – The room split is different so that there are more groups of students having various activities,

 – There is that physical space that can be grouped according to the needs. Thus, the flexible wall can be put up and create a smaller space, and take out and make a bigger space. 

“Spaces that are flexible, accommodating different approaches and uses, improve the odds for effective learning” (Oblinger, 2006)


Elements of a flexible learning environment 

Time, space and pace are the main elements of a flexible environment. For these three arise the others that directly impact the degree of flexibility. 

Thus, space in a flexible learning environment space, there is the need for ergonomic furniture, flexible moving furniture, one that can help create that sense of environment where students are not bound to a particular space and can move, think and create. This sense of furniture also helps create an easier interaction between the students and the teachers and between the students and their colleagues. 

What does a flexible learning space mean?

More than the actual physical space, it can also mean online learning, blended learning and hybrid learning


How to create a flexible learning environment 

To create a flexible learning environment, you need to be ready to be flexible. A flexible learning environment needs trust from the students that the teacher will provide the learning outcome and from their colleagues. 

A flexible learning environment needs much more than a flexible physical space. 

At Spark School, we commit to offering a flexible learning environment where students can grow and learn from challenges. We support them through it and commit to being there whenever they have questions. Our main learning space is online, but this does not mean we have no interactions in the classroom. We organise many social gatherings, online and offline. It is up to students and teachers to find the pace at which the course will be held. 

You can find more on why flexibility in our learning environment is important to our students and us from today’s webinar, discussing sports and education and how they can coexist. 


The effects of flexible learning on students 


Flexible learning, mainly because of its name, directly impacts the learning process. While this is a direct and straight forwards impact, the long term impact will take time to see. 

A straightforwards effect that a flexible learning environment may have on students is improving the learning experience. Thus, students tend to be more engaged in the classroom as the teacher creates the openness for students to express themselves, develop their critical thinking, take on challenges and be free to fail and learn from mistakes.

The idea is that this type of learning environment gives students a voice and choice and empowers them with being responsible for their path, which usually develops them and grows them into responsible human beings. The autonomy a flexible learning environment offers to students is good autonomy. While it may be seen as autonomy, it is not random, and parents should not fear that a flexible learning environment will not teach their children as much as a traditional one. 



While there is a need for flexible learning and a flexible learning environment, there is also a need for both students and teachers to “associate what they learn with where they learned it” 

(Gee, 2006, Human-centered design guidelines. In D.G. Oblinger (Ed.), Learning spaces (pp.10.1-10.13). EDUCAUSE. ).

We believe it is essential to consider mixing a flexible learning environment with a traditional one to get the most out of their learning experiences. For example, you might consider keeping the course as a book despite the online environment, not only virtual. Despite the new space arrangement, you might consider creating spaces where students can interact. 

What is vital to keep in mind as far as the learning environment is concerned is to share your view and the school’s view of a flexible learning environment approach with the students. They are, in the end, the ones that should benefit from it. 


Flexible Learning Environment FAQ 

What is a flexible learning environment? 

A flexible learning environment has no strings as far as the space concerns, learning pace, and learning time. 

What are the advantages of a flexible learning environment? 

The advantages of a learning environment vary depending on the situation and the actual learning environment. There are situations where students need flexibility:

 – They travel with their families.

 – Students find it hard not to express their opinions, and they learn by doing so

 – Some of them practice professional sports or have various passions that require a flexible education program.

 – They are stress-free as they can learn at their own pace

Why is flexibility important for students? 

Flexibility is important to students as it is a means of expression, and it allows them to choose. Having the option to choose makes them feel somewhat in control of their lives. And it is a good thing – it is the first step into learning to take on responsibility. Students, usually high school students, are at an age where they need to be heard, and they like to make their own decisions. This generation’s need is to give them a flexible learning environment where they can express and study at their own pace.