When I started to read the questions, flexible learning conjured up thoughts of technology and location- distance learning (how ironic that the Collis and Moonen (2001) article title is 'It's not just about distance')- however, through reading and my 'buddy' discussion with Annette, there are other ways to be flexible within the course I am involved in. Our location makes us flexible in itself with Hamilton being a 'satellite' to Dunedin. Blended learning is such an integral part of the course, and the technology in itself can either be a help or hinder flexibility.
Flexible learning is providing an environment and various mediums in which learners may have choice and access to their learning through different methods, times, location, and styles- that choice or 'fit' may enable students of different backgrounds, learning styles, needs and goals to access materials and courses that may not be otherwise accessible to them.
The statement that resonates with me about flexible learning from Collis & Moonen is that flexible learning is about a shift from decisions and learning methods being made solely by the lecturer or school to where we offer a 'range of options from which to choose' (2001, p. 10) - looking at time, content, entry requirements, approach and resources and delivery and logistics (fig 1.2 p. 10).
Why it is necessary to use a more flexible approach in my work?
The make up of the Occupational therapy cohort has changed since I was a student (predominately, school leavers). Evidence for the changes in student ages has been noted through reading for this topic- Collis & Moonon (2001) discuss changes in characteristics from school and also age, educational background, experience and internationalism. Abell, Gilmore, McLennan, Sedcole (2002) completed research on computer based learning products for mature vs school leavers at Lincoln University and noted that there was a larger proportion of mature students completing higher education. (I would need to do further research to look at statistics).
Noticeably, the majority of students at the Hamilton campus for occupational therapy are mature students. With this, comes the life experience, varying live situations beyond study and goals. We also have school leavers or 'non mature' students (under 20 years old) who have met level 4 in NCEA. Various students and what they bring to the program- diversity- with this comes the need for flexibility to accommodate peoples various needs for successful outcomes and goal achievement.
To be able to provide opportunities to a wide range of students, we need ensure that the methods we use at the school are as flexible as possible while still ensuring that students are able to be meet the competencies on fieldwork as well as ensuring that the students exit the program as competent entry level practitioners at the end of the training as deemed by the Occupational therapy Board of New Zealand. There are students who have varying learning styles and learning needs. By being more flexible in my approach (and the school approach) we can offer methods that may suit students and lecturers who also have varying lifestyles. Also, looking at potential students, we need to ensure that in this competitive market, we are offering flexibility that is inclusive to anyone who wants the opportunity to participate in the training.
I need to ensure that students have the skills to be able to be choice makers in how they would work with the flexibility to ensure that work that is needed is completed. Self directed learning skills would be vital. What are students views on lectures vs. self directed learning packages and then lecturers being available to ask questions? What about night classes? How about 3 options for coming in or calling or emailing to talk with a 'live' lecturer after completing a module? Could the courses be run as modules?
Some students like structure and some like the self directness. Again, this is personal preference. It would be interesting to look at students preferences for learning in-depth.
The debate about group work vs individual work would need to be explored- The interactivity and study options (Collis & Moonen, 2001). I could instantly hear myself thinking 'but we need to work in multi disciplinary teams, so we need students to work in groups to get used of this, work with others that may have different views and justifications for their learning'. So, I would need to reflect myself on some of the (opposition) points raised wouldn't I?!
What do I need to explore for this to happen?
There are some concrete steps that I can take/ explore:
Pedagogical approaches- explore some categories (Collis &Moonen, 2001 p. 20). Adobe connect for undergrad students, Video conferencing for links between students in Dunedin and Hamilton (or do students even need to be based in Dunedin or Hamilton?).
VARK or the survey that Bronwyn mentioned
Assessments- how are we assessing the students and is this achieving what students need to do/ complete in practice?
My goals for using flexible learning:
A goal is to ensure that the courses that I am a part of are as flexible as possible (within the current constraints or by changing some of the constraints). I would like to look at the pedagogical approaches to start with.
Also, another area is to learn about flexible learning methods and how these have impacted on students learning for those that have used these methods (flexible alternatives).
Throughout the course, I would also like to reflect to be able to debunk some of the constraints to learning flexibility (Collis & Moonen, 2001).
Collis, B & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world. Open and distance learning series. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Abell, W., Gilmore, H., McLennan, T., & Sedcole, R. (2002). An investigation of differences in mature and younger students’ use of a computer-based learning package. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10182/992
Next time I work on a blog post, I am going to try recording myself- I write as though I am talking sometimes. By the length of the blog, you can see I talk a lot! So, my goal is a recorded blog...
What does the term flexible learning mean to me?