Flexible learning

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Enjoy the water - Learning to breast stroke, a photo by Tom@HK

About this page as a course[edit | edit source]

This page will assist you in understanding the principles of Flexible Learning by exploring related information, ideas and new practices in formal education. After reading through this information, and taking up opportunities for learning support it is hoped you will be able to apply flexible teaching and learning techniques in your own contexts.

Personal learning plan

It is important (especially in flexible learning, but also in formal training) that you (or really, all of us) set some clear objectives and reasonable time-targets. This is usually called a personal learning plan and many people have found it useful to try to imagine a perfect day some years into the future. Who would you meet? What would you do? Where would you go? How would you achieve these ends? It may be wise to share and discuss these secret 'life ambitions´ with a mentor or trusted friend. The idea is to set up the big picture and then list all the available resources. Finally make a plan. Remember, if we fail to plan, then probably we are planning to fail! Although our strategic goal needs to consider our enduring strengths and weakness, it will be necessary from time to review learning plans tactically according to opportunities and threats that present themselves (This is sometimes called a SWOT review).

Learning support and accreditation
Garden View - a photo by wayfaring stranger
  • Otago Polytechnic offers formal learning and accreditation services with their Designing for Flexible Learning Practice course.
  • The Flexible Learning Practice weblog is used by Otago Polytechnic to advise learners in this subject. Feel free to follow along and make contact through that blog.
  • The Flexible Learning Practice email list is available for people to ask questions, network and generally discuss this topic. At the moment the list is quiet, and is made up of people engaged in a teacher training course at the Otago Polytecnic. The facilitators aim to grow the list into a more global membership with a wider range of skills and backgrounds.

This topic is also used in:

Below are several topics to look at for this course. In each of the topics are sub topics. Please use these as a starting point for your own investigations into designing for flexible learning, and please feel free to make changes, or offer suggestions in the discussion page for this article.

It would be worth while to jump past these topics briefly and familiarise yourself with the projects listed below. They are designed to help you engage with the topics and make the most of what you find in them. Making a start on them straight away may give you something to focus your learning through.

What is flexible learning?[edit | edit source]

Flexible learning:

  1. places the learner, in primary control.
  2. is a set of educational philosophies and systems, concerned with providing learners with increased choice, convenience, and personalisation to suit their particular learning need. In particular, flexible learning provides learners with choices about where, when, and how learning occurs. Wikipedia Dec 06
  3. expands choice on what, when, where and how people learn. It supports different styles of learning, including elearning. Flexibility means anticipating, and responding to, the ever-changing needs and expectations of learners and society.(Adapted from http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/guides/keyterms.pdf)
  4. is about greater choice for learners. This includes choices in when, where and how learning occurs. Adopting a flexbible learning approach doesn't mean changing everything about your teaching and learning. Many current practices can be part of a flexible approach.[1]
  5. is a recent concept with many varying interpretations. No one interpretation is correct, leaving room for many interesting and useful ideas. This is one reason why the information resources used here are in a wiki format. It makes it easier for others to contribute and for contributors to keep the information up to date.
  6. can be viewed as an incentive to reflect on teaching and learning environments, and develop new ways to engage with students. Flexible learning is not a goal in itself, the goal is to improve the learning experience and the learning outcomes. Flexible learning is a method by which educational goals can be achieved. This means that the decision to implement particular flexible learning strategies should be informed by educational values and goals and by specific educational contexts.
  7. Read more about flexible learning from the perspective of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework's Flexways site.

Why we need flexible learning[edit | edit source]

Greg Whitby speaking at the 2006 Sydney Institute Best Practice Showcase 11th December, The Muse, Ultimo College - Photo by Stephan Ridgway

In adult education and training, flexible learning has always been available. Most vocational education and training organisations have an early history providing after hours workshops and training sessions to work around normal working hours, and to not interrupt industry production schedules.

Today, there are increasing pressures on workers and industry that create demand for similar options for education and training. Many employers are asking for training to take place in the workplace. Others are preferring block training so as to more easily manage interruptions to normal operations. Individuals who wish to further their personal development or skills and qualifications may prefer after hours, part time and/or distance learning options so as not to impact on their current employment and income status. Whatever the need, flexible learning opportunities are something that all education and training providers should keep in mind.

Examples of flexible learning[edit | edit source]

  • Strategies in Designing for eLearning - a guide put out by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework that has tips on a wide range of mostly online learning strategies and ideas.
  • CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion is an online course offered by Harvard Law. They use a course blog in conjunction with a course wiki to deliver notes and video recorded lectures. They also use the 3D virtual world platform Second Life to facilitate communication.
  • MIT Open Courseware offers free access to online learning resources
  • OIL - online information literacy is a self-directed series of online modules.
  • elearning guidelines and case studies in the New Zealand tertiary sector.
  • Videos of teaching staff at Otago Polytechnic talking about their flexible learning opportunities.
  • Part time learning combined with workbased learning activities
  • Block training for apprentices instead of having to come in so many days a week fulltime.
  • A box of learning material given to apprentice builders to take to multiple building sites so each apprentice always has a full range of learning material with them.
  • Please feel free to add additional examples here for review.

Issues with flexible learning[edit | edit source]

Image by Cambodia4kidsorg of people playing the Social Media Game

In this topic you will analyse and evaluate challenges that arise in the design of flexible learning environments.

There are many issues and consideration to do with flexible learning. From privacy and copyright, to access and usability. The range of issues are wide. Following are information resources that refer directly and indirectly to issues that affect flexible learning. You may be aware of others - please feel free to add them to this list. Focus on at least one of these issues and pursue research on it. Make notes to your weblog, add bookmarks to your resource list and finally, develop a teaching resource around your chosen issue. See Projects.

The modern internet[edit | edit source]

Web 2.0 and socially constructed learning is an emergent theme in eLearning circles. Watch this short video that explains Web 2.0. What are the issues that this video highlights? How do they relate to flexible learning? Especially flexible learning that uses the Internet. Further reading related to web 2.0: Wikipedia entry, Networked learning,

Copyright[edit | edit source]

Copyright in the Internet age is a perplexing issue. Watch these series of videos explaining copyright issues in terms of the Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a working solution to digital Copyright issues. What issues to do with Copyright do these videos talk about? How does copyright affect flexible learning? Further reading relating to copyright:

Information formats[edit | edit source]

You are having trouble creating handouts using pictures and diagrams, and the formatting goes haywire, - this is an issue. So you need to find a solution. A short term solution may be to provide the students with hard copies of the handouts - of course this creates other issues or considerations such as the expense and resource sustainability, as well as how you will get the handouts to students studying off-campus. A longer term solution might be to better understand publishing software and formats. You might need to upgrade your skills and use a more advanced image editing programme. Further reading on software and formats:

Teacher and learner workloads[edit | edit source]

Because flexible learning often entails self directed, or self paced learning teachers and learners can often lose sight of what would be a reasonable workload. Time management are important skills to have. Further reading on teacher and learner workloads:

  • ...

Your issues[edit | edit source]

Please add any issue to do with flexible learning that you identify with. It might be the question of the practical nature of your subject area, it might be Internet bandwidth and digital divides, whatever the issue, please give a quick description and links out to further reading.

  • Provide a list of locations with access to high speed internet so that those who do not have access at home, may be able to use a nearby branch campus of the college or a local library.

Flexible learning in educational organisations[edit | edit source]

Let's get flexible...? Photo by Finsec

In this topic you will explore and justify the strategies for the development of flexible learning environments.

Locate your educational organisations strategic plan. It is a document with mission statements, aims and objectives, and performance indicators. Highlight statements that refer to things related to flexible learning. Discuss these statements with your peer group and use them to help you develop your plan.

Examples of flexible learning[edit | edit source]

  • Cookery at Otago Polytechnic - the use of a blog and web videos to enhance a face to face course.
  • MobilEd - Use of low tech mobile phones for just in time learning and multi media projects.
  • CyberOne Law in the Court of Public Opinion - The use of a course blog, video lectures, course wiki and a virtual world to communicate around the course.
  • Designing for flexible learning - Use of a course blog, course wiki, email list and participant blogs to facilitate learning and enhance periodic face to face learning.
  • Pay it forward learning - A concept on the use of learner generated content aligned with assessment.
  • Networked learning - A presentation on the technology and policy needed to use networked communication opportunities to enhance learning
  • [Facilitating Online] - Using a wikieducator collaborative authoring platform to develop learning materials to support a course conducted in a learning management system
  • Avalanche Safety - An example of what used to be a slide presentation but is now a slide show with music video published on YouTube.
  • [2] - An example of 'start now' flexible learning for college credit.

Support for flexible learning[edit | edit source]

Please add any funding opportunities you find that may assist you and others to build capability and resources for offering flexible learning opportunities.

New Zealand[edit | edit source]

Australia[edit | edit source]

United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

United States of America[edit | edit source]

International[edit | edit source]

Planning for flexible teaching and learning[edit | edit source]

In this topic you will create and evaluate a plan for the implementation of a flexible learning experience.

Activity: Identify a course or unit within a course in your educational organisation that you think could develop flexible learning opportunities. Note down the basics to your idea in your blog and seek feedback from your colleagues and facilitators. After gaining this feedback and taking on suggestions, prepare a more complete project plan that includes aims and objectives, timelines and milestones, risks and risk responses, and of course a budget.

You might find it useful to take into account the following considerations:

Design and development models[edit | edit source]

ADDIE - The ADDIE model is the generic process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers. The five phases; Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation;represent a dynamic, flexible guideline for building effective training and performance support tools.

Learner profiles[edit | edit source]

Learner profile diagram

Before you can design materials for flexibility in your courses, not only do you need to know who your learners are (Learner Profile), you also need to be clear about the achievements and characteristics they will leave with when they finish your course/programme (Graduate Profile). The issues and considerations associated with how your students learn will influence how you support them and the resources you will provide.

Projects[edit | edit source]

The following projects are designed for you to start learning about flexible learning for yourself, and contributing what you learn to the general pool of knowledge on the subject. We hope that by doing these 4 projects you will develop skills and understandings that are useful for designing for flexible learning practice.

Weblog[edit | edit source]

20% Start a blog now and use it to keep a record of everything you encounter in the course. If you already have a blog, you're welcome to use it of course, but make sure you can categorise your postings so that everything to do with this course can be grouped together quickly for review and assessment.

  • We recommend http://blogger.com, http://wordpress.com or http://edublogs.org to set up your free blog.
  • The weblog will need to include hypertext references to material you have been reading, watching or listening to.
  • Use the [Hegarty Reflective Framework and Template] as a guide to how you can record your learning.
  • Use your blog to post your other projects in. Use your blog as a record of everything you do in this course.

Reference list[edit | edit source]

20% You will be shown how to use and maintain http://del.ici.ous – a social bookmarking facility on the web – to search for and store online materials you find while researching flexible learning. These bookmarks can be anything actually - they're your bookmarks, but anything directly relating to this course please use the tag DFLP07 so that we can collaboratively build a valuable reading list.

  • Write brief notes in del.ici.ous about the usefulness of each resource.
  • Watch this video on how to use Del.icio.us

Teaching Resource[edit | edit source]

10% For this assignment you will need to develop a digital resource which shows others (students or colleagues) how to use software or technologies or other materials in an educational setting.

  • We suggest you pick an issue to do with flexible learning (a topic covered in this course) and create a digital learning resource that helps the next person to consider that issue.
  • How about using a new wikiversity page to create your resource?
  • You should outline and discuss your ideas on your blog before starting, you might gain valuable feedback and ideas.
  • The resource could be an audio recording with an expert, a slide presentation, a screen recording of a particular piece of computer software, a video on an interesting flexible learning practice, or a text-based handout.
  • Announce and publish the finished resource through your web log.

Develop a flexible learning plan[edit | edit source]

50% All the other assignments lead into this final assignment which is a plan for how you intend to introduce flexibility into a course or programme in your work area. The facilitators will assist you with design ideas and will help you to develop your plan.

Use the [Flexible Learning Scope template] to record your initial design ideas. Your scope will need to include the following:

  • A profile of student characteristics both at enrollment and on completion (learner profile and graduate profile)
  • Issues and considerations and solutions to address these. For example, not all students will have access to broadband, therefore one solution may be to provide material online and on CDROM.
  • Strategies and methods you intend to use to create a flexible learning experience. For example, students will be asked to take digital photos of plants in the Botanic Gardens and prepare an identification chart for an assessment. This will replace a formal lecture.
  • Post your draft plan to your blog and work on gathering feedback from your peers. Modify your scope as necessary.

See also[edit | edit source]

Search for Flexible learning on Wikipedia.

External links[edit | edit source]