Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Activity Three

Activity Three
Investigate and describe two examples of flexible teaching and learning

To Investigate and compare two examples of flexible teaching and learning I am going to compare Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing with an on-line course on Pet Bereavement Counselling that I am currently enrolled in with The Blackford Institute UK.

Who are the Students?

The majority of veterinary nursing students are female with a small number of male students brave enough to attend a class where they are in the minority. The students come from all walks of life; ages from school leavers through to a spritely retirement age.

The majority of males that have been involved in the full time course in recent years have been using the CVN as a GAP year. Having completed a degree usually with a science background, they want to carry on with study but want a more hands on approach to enhance their degrees, or use it as a stepping- stone for their chosen career path.

The Blackford Centre is advertised as offering Distance Learning Courses. There are a variety of subjects offered. The Pet Bereavement Counselling Course is a self study course and is open to anyone who is prepared to pay the course fees and has an interest in that particular subject. As one of the classes I teach is about Euthanasia and helping clients through the grief process, this subject has particular relevance for me.

How are the five dimensions of flexibility integrated?

This discussion is founded on the Collis and Moonen ‘Dimensions of Flexibility’, cited in Casey, J. and Wilson, P. (2005).


School of Veterinary Nursing:
Small degree of flexibility here. Course start and finish dates are set but late enrolments are accepted in special cases. At the end of the year data must be processed in a timely fashion to get all students finished by a certain date. The success of each course is measured by the number of graduates. Assessments have a due date that the students work towards, but extensions are given when requested. The re-sit dates are also flexible so that students are not put under too much pressure. This can be very frustrating at times as some students take advantage of this flexibility.

Pet Bereavement Course:
High degree of flexibility here. You can enrol and start this course at anytime throughout the year. Once enrolled, Modules are emailed to you every week for 12 weeks and it is up to the learner to complete. If you are unable to finish one module before the next module arrives, the only pressure comes from yourself to get things done.


School of Veterinary Nursing:
We as facilitators have limited flexibility here. Content is delivered to the Unit Standard Outcomes (Elements) and Evidence requirements (Performance criteria) for each module. Topics to be covered are already decided and specific material must be covered with the students. The sequence of these topics is designed to follow in a logical order, to enhance learning. The course notes are available on-line and various text books are suggested but not compulsory. If we as facilitators wish to expand the content, we are able to do so.

Pet Bereavement Self Study Course:
The content of the course is sent to you each week. There is information about the current module, exercises to complete and assignments to write. The modules are very informative and helpful; however no extra readings are suggested so if you wish to research a topic further then it is up to the learner to do so.

Entry Requirement

School of Veterinary Nursing:
Open entry is offered for the Animal Care courses. This enables anyone to enrol and once completed, they may choose to carry on their study towards the Certificate in Veterinary Nursing via distance learning. The fulltime Veterinary Nurse course is less flexible with the minimum entry requirement being Level Two NCEA or equivalent. There is no stipulation for a science background. If a student is struggling with the workload they are given the opportunity to withdraw from some units but carry on with others.

Pet Bereavement Self Study Course:
Complete open entry. Just pay the fees and the twelve weekly modules will be sent to you. Course completion is up to the learner.

Instruction approach and resources

School of Veterinary Nursing:
Our role as facilitators is to encourage and guide our students to want to find out more…..This is where flexibility can begin. The School of Veterinary Nursing encourages flexibility by ensuring their facilitators teach subjects they are passionate about. Everyone is different in the way they approach and teach their subject. Teaching to Unit Standards can be inflexible; however, delivering the content with enthusiasm can ignite subject interest in others.

Pet Bereavement Course:
The only instructions come via the weekly Modules. The resources are online modules. There is no lecturer to contact if you need guidance in any particular area.

Delivery and logistics

School of Veterinary Nursing:
Flexible learning is here to stay with delivery and logistics. Although there is a requirement for distance students to attend Block Courses and for full time students to attend lectures, they are given choices in the way they want to learn. Course notes are available on-line via Moodle; these can be accessed anytime. Adobe sessions are timed to get as many students as possible to attend and are always recorded for the ones that can’t. With Moodle forums and social media, students can chat to their peers and lecturers whenever they are available. The only downside to all of this technology and consequent flexibility is the expectation that all students understand how to use it.

Pet Bereavement Course:
The delivery is completely online. Modules are sent via email. This way they are available to be completed whenever suits the learner.
Summarise your findings

This has been an interesting exercise breaking down the five dimensions of flexibility for both The School of Veterinary Nursing and the online Pet Bereavement Counselling Course. The School of Veterinary Nursing is progressing in the right direction using technology and heading towards more flexible opportunities for student learning. However we are still bound to compulsory Block courses and face to face lectures at prearranged times. Unit Standards dictate the content that must be delivered, but if time allows there is always the opportunity to expand on this. While stating the minimum entry requirement for the full time program is Level Two NCEA, there is no stipulation as to what these subjects are. A more flexible approach begins to be implemented when discussing Instruction Approach and Resources and Delivery and Logistics. This is when we as facilitators can ignite students with the passion to learn more and investigate particular subjects further.

The Pet Bereavement Course would appear to be extremely flexible in every way. Once enrolled a learner can choose to study as soon as a module arrives, or put it to one side and pick it up later when time allows. There are no formal expectations or commitment to complete the course except the personal desire to increase your knowledge.


Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing is moving forward with flexible learning. Reflecting on the way the courses are progressing and acknowledging technology as the way of the future ensures our students are offered many opportunities to complete their studies. Despite this, some students can still find study challenging and a few will not complete their studies as originally intended. Our role as facilitators is to find a way to keep these students motivated towards their goals. If we need to show more flexibility with start and finish dates lets investigate this further. However, with flexible start and finish dates how is success measured? How will this impact on funding from the Government? Should we measure success by individual units rather than full course completion? This may be the way forward but it may mean a complete rethink by tertiary institutions and government alike.

Studying a course that is completely online, with no deadlines to meet is a refreshing way of learning. There would appear to be no measurement of success for The Blackford Institute other than the money coming in that pays for the course to begin. Success is on a personal level. There are no teachers to guide you or peers to talk to. The only motivation comes from within and the completion of the course remains solely a personal achievement.


Casey, J. & Wilson, P. (2005). A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education.

The Blackford Centre

1 comment:

  1. A fabulous critique of two differing courses. The Pet Bereavement course appears very flexible, yes but there it depends on the context. For a student wanting a blended course, that is, some face-to-face, it might be regarded as very inflexible as there are no opportunities to come to campus. For someone wanting a qualification it is inflexible as there is no accreditation. For someone wanting anytime, anywhere, anyhow learning it is very flexible - as it is self-paced and online.

    However, for students without good internet skills or reduced access to a computer and broadband, it is inflexible. Can you see where I am going with this? So it depends on who you are trying to reach and their attributes as learners.

    As you say, in Animal care you have flexibility in the dimension - Instruction Approach and Resources AND Delivery & Logistics. It would be good to hear more about how you design your teaching to enhance flexibility in these areas, and I guess this will unfold as we move through the modules. Great work.