A sustainable future with Flexible learning

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The education system is in need of a complete face-lift. We really have to start believing that there are students with different learning styles just as we know today in our every day lives that people have different cultures, religions and backgrounds.

Much of the heavy lifting will need to be done by governments reinvesting more money in higher education, as universities and colleges have already done much of what they can do to become cost-effective. In the view of many colleges and university presidents, the three main factors in higher education—cost, quality, and access—exist in what is called an iron triangle.

To improve the student success and throughput rates = flexible learning.

Dr Martha Cleveland Innes, Professor and Chair of Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University and a guest professor at our university KTH (Royal Institute of technology) held a webinar on Flexible learning. Here are some of her reflections and experiences on how to move forward.

What does flexible learning look like?
“There is no commonly accepted meaning globally; rather flexibility is a wide range of responses to different situations, to different needs, underpinned by different discourses. Therefore, “flexibility” needs to be clearly defined and articulated institutionally, or it can lead to division, multiple contesting discourse and the duplication of efforts and resources…” (Jones & Walters, 2015: 65)

Flexible Learning in a Flexible Society
Boland H. G. (2005) “Whatever happened to postmodernism in higher education? No requiem in the new millennium” The Journal of Higher Education 76 (2): 121-150.

  1. The learner is empowered and can assist in the customisation of learning.
  2. Flexible learning needs to be wrapped around the students’ needs
  3. Flexible learning that can fit around students’ complex lives
  4. Flexible curriculum design with flexible assessment (offered through choice)
  5. Flexible admission criteria
  6. Flexible delivery options (on-line/on-campus; accelerating and decelerating)

At Athabasca University they are already one of the forerunners in using flexible learning in the classroom and have an open course called Learning to learn online
to help their teachers through this process, they even have instructional designers to help them with the course design to including flexible ideas, how fabulous is that? Something I believe all Universities need to invest in so the teachers can get up and running into flexible learning.

Some of the challenges she mentions in flexible learning were:

  • Getting faculty on board to Identify these new ways of teaching,
  • Lack of time to redesign courses
  • Leadership investment, we need to know about leadership so we are ready for the changes that are coming.
  • The need for Instructional designers

I like the way Jones, B., & Walters, S. (2015)  describe the delivery of learning in their article:

  • Pace, includes accelerated and decelerated programmes and degrees; learning part-time; arrangements that allow learners to ‘roll on/roll off’ (‘stop in/stop out’);
    Place, can relate to work-based learning with employer engagement; learning at home, on campus, while travelling or in any other place, often aided by technology which can enable the flexibility of learning across geographical boundaries and at convenient times.
  • Mode’ includes the use of learning technologies to enhance flexibility and enrich the quality of learning experiences, in blended or distance learning and in synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning (Tallantyne, 2012: 4; Gordon, 2014).

In a previous blog post on  Designing courses to facilitate meaningful learning I wrote here on how we need to think about what the Intended learning outcomes are and which teaching and learning activities we could use with technology enhanced learning. It was written last year but now after this ONL course I can see many more new ways of being flexible with IL’s & TLA’s.

References:

8 thoughts on “A sustainable future with Flexible learning

  1. Thank you for a really terrific, thought provoking post! Here in Australia there is a lot of debate going on about University and school funding…and the Government doesn’t want to put any more money towards education if they can help it! I totally agree that education needs a re-think; and more than Uni, also school education. Both have been impacted by technology, and our students need different skills and preparation, but there is so much value placed on ‘good old days’ where students focused on reading, writing and arithmetic, that it is a fine line for governments to walk. If they put radical changes into place they would probably not get elected again. We are in a time of change and it is only through our continued learning and pushing for flexibility and new ways that any real transformation will occur.

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    • Thank you Kay for your feedback yes the same here in Sweden and UK where I am originally from, where as you said the ‘good old days’ is still very respected by all, more so in UK….Let’s keep pushing 🙂

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  2. Thank you Maddy for this post! You raise several interesting points, but at the moment I’m thinking a lot about funding for universities. I think you are right and governments need to step up and reward those universities that successfully implement flexible learning. From what I’ve seen from digitalisation in schools, it will take a lot of time, money and effort to change teaching and learning, I assume the same goes for flexible learning.

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