Chancellor Appoints Flexible Learning Task Force to Extend Reach of UMass Amherst to Both Traditional and Non-traditional Students

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has appointed a Flexible Learning Task Force to develop a strategic plan that advances UMass Amherst’s ability to provide high-quality education to students anywhere and at anytime, a key to both extending the mission of the university and meeting tomorrow’s challenges in the educational marketplace.

The task force will be co-chaired by Jim Kurose, distinguished professor ofcomputer science and associate chancellor for partnership and innovation, and Mzamo Mangaliso, associate professor of management. The multi-faceted process will include five subgroups, involving more than 50 faculty, staff and students. The chancellor has charged the task force with submitting its report by May 31. They will undertake extensive campus outreach and will post regular updates on a dedicated website:

Subbaswamy notes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges to the UMass Amherst community. The determined response from our faculty and students to the necessity of remote instruction has shown that this modality can deliver good educational outcomes. In Spring 2021, we are expecting to learn more about these new instructional models. This forced, large-scale experiment presents a great opportunity for UMass Amherst to more quickly realize its previously announced vision of becoming a true University Without Walls, vastly extending its reach to both traditional and non-traditional students—a vehicle for lifelong learning. This will require continued innovation in our pedagogy, but innovation is one thing that universities are all about.”

The task force will include subgroups on:

  • Instruction, Pedagogy and Technology, co-chaired by Tilman Wolf, senior vice provost for academic affairs, and Linda Isbell,professor of psychological and brain sciences
  • Finances, chaired by DeborahGould, associate provost for administration and finance
  • Workload and Support,chaired by Anne Massey, dean of the Isenberg School of Management
  • Student Experience and Equity, chaired by Mari Castañeda, dean of the Commonwealth Honors College
  • Academic Calendar, Course Registration and Facilities, chaired by John Wells, senior vice provost

The task force website includes the chancellor’s detailed charge to each subgroup and complete membership of the task force.

Co-chairs Kurose and Mangaliso observe, “This initiative is grounded in the excellence of our on-campus teaching at UMass Amherst and envisioning opportunities for our faculty

to extend that high-quality experience to students in new ways that provide flexibility and enhanced educational opportunities for students. We view this as critical for the university’s future success, and we are excited to have many teaching faculty and students involved in the task force. Our report to the chancellor will define the university’s vision and mission for flexible learning, identify near-term opportunities as well as medium- and long-term goals, and resources and policies necessary to accomplish those goals.”

One student Task Force member is undergraduate Adam Lechowicz, a double major in computer science and political science. He says, “The Flexible Learning Task Force is a bold step into the future, and one that has the potential to complement the existing on-campus UMass experience that students love by expanding access to high-quality education. I anticipate the task force will advance a vision that expands access and provides flexibility for all future students, while also strengthening progress towards our mission—to provide an affordable and accessible education of high quality.”

Upcoming outreach events will be publicized in the coming weeks, and members of the campus community can connect with the task force by writing to