Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Activity Two

What does the term Flexible learning mean to you?

The term flexible learning to me is about choice. Choosing where you want to study, when you want to study and how your personal learning will occur. Working within the School of Veterinary Nursing the majority of students are distance learners. A large number of the students hold down full time jobs and have family commitments that all impact on their time. Flexible learning allows them to choose the time and place to study that best suits them.

Reading Collis and Moonen (2001) I find there is a lot more to it. Flexible learning benefits both distance and fulltime students, who attend classes, by making education far more flexible. Instead of walking to the library in the pouring rain to research articles and reference books, now with the availability of Internet search engines we can all search in the comfort of our own home…..what did we ever do without Dr Google or wiki??

Why is it necessary to use a more flexible approach in your work? Hint: Think about what may help the learners and your teaching.

Both programs lean towards the blended learning approach, offering both on-line delivery and also classroom interaction. Block courses for the distance students provide the opportunity for face to face interaction. Adobe sessions give the students the opportunity to chat to their peers and attend learning tutorials with lecturers. There are also forums set up via Moodle that enable students to chat to one another, plus social media sites solely for our veterinary nursing students. Full time have the same forums available to them and all students are required to get experience in veterinary clinics to enhance their learning so that when they complete their certificate they are ready to begin work.

Looking at the Five Dimensions of Flexibility Time, Content, Delivery and Logistics, Entry requirements, and Instructional approaches and resources (Rennie 2007) makes me realize how important flexibility is for all our students. The ability to choose the path of study that best suits individuals can only enhance the learning experience.

What do you need to explore to help this happen?

Because we are encouraging our learners to be flexible we as facilitators need to be flexible as well. We tend to be available 24/7 to answer queries, reply to emails or even texts from our students. This can have an impact on family life. Our role is to encourage our learners to try and search for answers themselves. We must give them the tools that will not only motivate them to lifelong learning but help guide them in the direction they need to go. However all this assumes that the learner is motivated to learn. Being flexible does put a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of the learner. We have to be careful to ensure there is not so much choice that we lose the personal touch that face to face contact can provide.

To use flexible learning successfully, I feel that we must get to know what our students needs are, so that we can encourage and support them on their learning journey. Keeping up regular contact with the students via adobe connect, or even the new Otago Polytechnic Lync phone system, email and feedback on their assessments is important. Flexible learning is an exciting option for higher education but is it for everyone? Will all students remain motivated to succeed working towards their personal goals?

What goals do you have for using Flexible Learning in your work?

My goal for flexible learning is to find ways to keep our students motivated to complete their study in their chosen field. I would like to see them passionate about continuing their education and wanting to carry on a lifelong learning journey. On line courses will allow them the flexibility to do this. The challenge will be keep them motivated even when things get tough. The content of our courses must remain of a high standard and need to be challenging and exciting so that learners want to succeed and be proud of their achievments.
References :
Collis,B Moonan,J (2001) Flexible Learnining in a digital world. Open and Distance Learning Series. London: Kogan Page Ltd
Wikieducator :  Blended Learning (Staker/Horn May 2012)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexible_learning

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous post Cheryl! Yes being flexible is about choice, but how to work within the constraints of NZQA and the organisational directives, for example, as well as the economic restraints of budgets and workload requirements. These will be aspects to consider as you work through the activities.

    Your department is in the unique position of having fully distance students as well as students who attend classes on campus. As you say distance learning can accommodate lifestyles and geographical disparity. Do you see any areas of inflexibility in the design of the programme as it is at present?

    In eLearning two terms are commonly used to describe the interactions that you describe - synchronous - real time interactions using adobe connect or skype, and video conferencing etc., and asynchronous - interactions done at different times using email and discussion forums.

    I like forward to hearing more about the measure of flexibility within the Five Dimensions of Flexibility in the next activity.

    Your goal to keep students motivated so they finish their studies is a reality in online distance courses - where drop out rates can be high. Any initial thoughts about what works so far and what else might be done?