woman outside on laptop
student in her room reading on beanbag chair with guitars

Competencies and flexible pacing are cornerstones of customized learning

Competency [kom-pi-tuh-n-see]

We define competencies as the big ideas, concepts, and enduring understandings that students are expected to master before moving on.

Example of a Competency


Student will demonstrate understanding of the interaction between the factors of production and market forces by identifying the resources needed for producing goods and services and predicting how their cost and availability will impact supply, business profitability, and economic growth.

WHEN Does Learning Happen?

Students engage in learning on days and times that meet their unique needs. For example, a student’s school week might look like this:

Illustration of an online learner sitting at desk


At school for algebra and history
VLACS economics class

Tennis Team Practice

VLACS college English


At school for algebra and history

Bus leaves for tennis match

Bus returns


At school for algebra and history

VLACS economics class

Tennis Team Practice


Tennis lessons

VLACS college English

WHERE Does Learning Happen?

The location where learning takes place is flexible and changes based on the pathways and needs of the student.

map with destination pins
Illustration of a learner reading while sitting on bicycle

Chamber of Commerce

Experience: Internship

Lisa completes a project that leads to an understanding of market forces and economic growth.


Personal Finance

Lisa assumes the role of a financial literacy coach and helps create and monitor a family budget.


Experience: Travel

As part of her learning, Lisa visits the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to learn about monetary and fiscal policy.


VLACS Course
Supply & Demand

Lisa learns to apply the economic concepts of supply and demand.

HOW Does Learning Happen?

Students master competencies and earn credit through one or more learning pathways.

Illustration of two learners holding cellphones and smiling

vlacs experiences


Students participate in internships, travel, work, service learning, and more.

vlacs courses


Choose from over 140 middle and high school courses in our learning catalogue.

vlacs projects


Competencies are achieved through in-depth research and real-world applications.

vlacs college


College courses available through accredited partners.

Time is on your side.

In a customized learning environment, students set their pace based on their specific needs and goals.

Illustration of an online learner with laptop sitting on couch

traditional learning

In a traditional learning model, the expectation is that all students will learn at the same rate and master competencies by the end of the semester.

customized learning

In a customized learning model, time barriers are removed. Students can master competencies at a faster pace or work at a slower pace if they find a competency challenging.

Defining customized learning

Customized learning allows students to determine when, where, and how they will demonstrate that they learned something. This student-centered approach to education allows students to take ownership of their learning. They are empowered to take charge of their education, which better helps them recognize the relevance of their learning to the real world.

Customized learning embraces every student’s differences, their unique talents, and learning styles. With the flexibility to meet the needs of all students, an 8th grade student who excels in more rigorous courses can take a course at a higher level, a student with dyslexia can use our built-in readers to learn through listening, a student with a passion for health science can take career-focused courses in preparation for a future career in the field.

The benefits of customized learning on students

mother and son using tablet to learn at home

Customized learning lifts the barrier of time in education. Students can learn at a flexible pace, not having to wait for others to catch up. Students can take as much time to master their material until they feel confident that they comprehend each main concept. Students can finish their course faster than they would in a traditional classroom setting and even graduate early. A student who is struggling in a specific subject can modify their pace so that they can have more time to learn, instead of sliding by without total comprehension.

Customized learning is personal. The academic experience is meant to work for the individual student. Instructors are focused on forming and sticking to a plan that works best for the student. Academic expectations are set individually, and schedules and deadlines coincide with students’ learning needs and styles.

Customized learning and curriculum

At VLACS, learning is competency-based, which means students don’t move on to the next step in the curriculum until they reach competency in the steps before. This is what allows for customization. This system focuses on equipping the students with the skills they need to succeed, so learning may look different depending on student needs. Students work with their instructor to determine how they will reach competency, and how they will demonstrate it. These various learning pathways include traditional coursework, a project that puts students in a professional setting to complete a task or solve a problem, or a hands-on experience like an internship, service learning, travel, or independent learning that aligns with the competencies in their course.

Customized learning and relationships

student with mentor

Customized learning relies on one-on-one support with instructors. From the time a student crafts their academic plan to the time they complete each competency in their course, the one-on-one support allows the student to thrive. Students meet with their instructors frequently to ensure that they are on the path to success and to get help along the way. Instructors are available during office hours or by appointment. Success means more than just completing coursework at VLACS. Students must feel valued, supported, and motivated to succeed. This is achieved through relationships, coursework, and work in real-world settings that help build social capital and make critical connections that prepare them for life after graduation.

Customized learning and life skills

Customized learning improves students’ communication skills, enhances their creativity, and allows students to become problem solvers. Because of the importance of relationships in customized learning, students learn to communicate effectively and consistently in order to ensure their needs are being met. Customized learning encourages students to learn through experiences, like internships or job shadows. These experiences put students in situations where they will need to learn how to communicate with professionals in a real-world setting. There are limitless opportunities for a student to demonstrate their learning, allowing them to get creative with their education and think outside of the box and solve problems creatively. Customized learning also encourages students to be self-motivated. The flexibility of customized learning encourages independence, which requires students to stay motivated to stay on track.

Learn More

For more on customized learning at VLACS, check out our blog here and here, or read this article that explains it more.