At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Discuss principles and processes of flexible teaching and learning to facilitate culture sensitive adult learning;
- Critique the design and application of existing flexible teaching and learning options in relation to the literature;
- Analyse and evaluate challenges that arise in the design of flexible learning environments;
- Explore and justify the strategies for the development of flexible learning environments;
- Create and evaluate a plan for the implementation of a flexible learning experience.
1. Flexible teaching
Flexibility values change and adaptability. Flexible teaching and learning is about providing educational programmes in ways that meet the changing needs of learners. It is responsive to student needs.
Flexible teaching and learning provides students with:
- Greater access to learning
- Opportunities to combine work and education
- Control over how they learn as well as what they learn
- Greater choice in the content as well as the organisation of the learning programme
In Deschooling Society Ivan Illich argues for the concept that a good education system should have three purposes: to provide all that want to learn with access to resources at any time in their lives; make it possible for all who want to share knowledge etc. to find those who want to learn it from them; and to create opportunities for those who want to present an issue to the public to make their arguments known (1973a: 78). He suggests that four learning exchanges could facilitate this. These he calls educational or learning webs.
While these principles look fine there are some disparities with the goals and the actuality.
1. There is not greater access to learning unless you possess the technology that allows you to pursue this form of learning and you are competent in its application. Much evidence exists to suggest that this is not so and in New Zealand we have the classic example of the basic broadband technology being unavailable or available in only a very basic form to some sectors of the population.
There is also the problem of the content of such Deschooling how useful and valid it is in a true learning environment. For instance, a student could learn how to rewire my house by looking at information available on the Internet but not have the 'basic background learning' to understand that the wiring she has used will overheat and malfunction in a year (because no expert had oversight of what the student did and did not study ).
I remember I had the same problem with Illich when I read his medical stuff but then I found myself with an open gushing wound that needed stitching and containment if I wasn't to bleed to death. Suddenly all his philosophical bleatings disappeared.
2. Although students do have control over their learning there are the practical aspects of training a person in a profession or trade in that certain things must be taught. I am involved in the training of Occupational Therapists and skills such as groupwork and communication skills cannot be taught in a flexible manner. This has to be done face to face and to suggest otherwise is naive.
There is a ground swell of opinion that suggests that learning needs to change because we are moving from an era of learning for life (technological rationality) to Continuous learning (Schon , 1983). Coupled with this is the need to learn to learn rather than passively soaking up information. But does Web 2.0 technology teach us this or does it dumb down learning itself. I agree our institutions need to change. But our institutions need to change because of the increasing complexity of society and globalization. Schools and universities play a dual role: accommodating learner’s method and mode of learning and transforming learners and preparing them to function in the world that is unfolding.
There are a number of issues surrounding the new learner to flexible learning.
There is an excellent discussion of these in one of the project Wiki's attached to this course.
See also here -
and here -
Though I concede there are some very creative uses of Blogs to express ideas and stimulate discussion see here (unfortunately in Spanish but the music is universal)
There is also a good discussion here on the use of Blogs.
Principles of Online communities
1. Establishing a community - We explored a number of options in establishing an online community.
a) the use of warm-ups - gulp, I remember those dreadful groups where we all turned to the right and introduced ourselves to the poor misfortunates, or those terrible songs we had to sing- out of key - words half remembered. They really only served to increase your mortification at being stuck here with 10 perfect strangers you wouldn't normally even bother to speak too. Enough said.
b) social networking such as Beebo & Face book. Here is what Andrew Keen says about where Facebook is going .
I wrote about Beebo in a previous post.
They are all fun, but is it meeting new people?
2. Maintaining a community - I have not much to say about this but the principles of good communication seem to apply equally as well to online as offline communities.
3. The mix of teacher / facilitator - This has been discussed to death in our online discussion groups and my position is that there is a time for both roles but we must remember that we are ultimately delivering material to an essentially naive audience and must have a teaching role until sufficient expertise is developed in students and then facilitation comes to the fore.
2. I can demonstrate my understanding of these principles but note that I am (at this stage of my learning) more critical than embracing of the medium.
My thinking has been greatly influenced by Andrew Keen, John Gray's "Straw Dogs", and George Siemens.
I am grateful that I have been exposed to Web 2.0 technology but am left with some grave areas of disquiet.
I will continue to keep a watching brief but cast a critical eye over new developments and apply some basic criteria to the information I peruse. Much like the Cochrane database or simple rules that are used to evaluate academic articles I will look at the source, the evidence, the likely use, and (double gulp and chuckle) my gut feeling.
When I started this course that is what guided me and I sat night after Monday night and left our sessions with a feeling of disquiet which has served me to seek out different points of view to the messianic adoption of this technology in some sectors.
3. The main challenges for me I have outlines in my Blogs. I have highlighted these as follows.
In summary, they have been
a) frustration with the medium i.e. technological glitches. Although there have been sensible and practical suggests on how to guard against these glitches (i.e. having a plan A, B,C, D thru Z) it is still an annoying and all to often occurrence. A comment on an earlier Blog indicated that I may have not learnt how to use the medium and I think this is a fair comment. I found that once I was able to set of Google Reader and manage the large amount of information that I was required to attend to, I became more proficient at managing. This was akin to problems I had with email at one stage where I was receiving up to 300 emails a day, most of which were spam. When my provider installed an efficient anti-spam gateway this overcame that problem.
b) not sufficient intellectual rigour - I am not being snobbish here but rather the notion that everyone is an expert is not an entirely convincing argument for everyone having something worthwhile to say. Some opinions are ill founded, not based on any credible evidence, yet may be uncritically accepted by an online community.There has been excellent blog based arguments on this featuring members of our own learning community, summarised here.
c) query the development of any real community - While the community has developed into what I would call the performing stage , this has only happened in the last month of the course. The community was slow in evolving (mainly through a large number of members lurking) and a large amount of time was taken up establishing points of contact , etc.
Some members just disappeared and the community was joined on an irregular basis by 'guests' who had seemingly only been invited by the facilitators. If I was having a party and a whole bunch of strangers turned up I would be miffed and I am sure I was not the only one who withdrew at some sessions because I had no idea who I was talking to. If I am to facilitate any online community I will establish some ground rules that address these features.
d) unsure about the right mix of directed learning vs self direction and how to monitor this
It is the failure of many of those who love computers to develop an equivalent argument and the failure of Schools to hear the equivalent argument when it has been developed, which explains why IT teachers are now losing their subject.
e) appropriateness of some Web 2.0 technology to properly engage adult learners.
-Facebook, Beebo , Ecto etc - mainly for a younger audience with a high degree of fun attached to them. There is an ability to utilise special interest groups but I see other online mediums do this more successfully i.e. mailing groups, journal and specialist magazine forums (see Fly Life as an example and British Medical Journal), although these sometimes deteriorate into the babble pf Web 2.0 examples.
-Second Life - For all the hype of Second Life, it is still a fringe element (contrast a few million people in 2L with many billion in the real world. If it were a religion, it wouldn't register on many scales).
Here is a link to what second life is all about.
It is a difficult medium to engage with and has some ominous undertones (see Leighs excellent video demo). or
I also concede that there are some exciting developments that could take place eloquently outlines in Carolyn's blog. For a fuller discussion of the moral and ethical aspects see David Cronenberg's excellent film eXisTenz or read the Wiki summary.
David Cronenberg's film work is tied up with identity and includes such work as Dead Ringers, History of Violence, Scanners, and the recent Eastern Promises.
4. As above I am still making my mind up over this matter. I can see some advantages but I principally feel that
a) current delivery options are at odds with the mission statement of the Polytechnic which are -
To provide excellent life long learning opportunities relevant to our communities.
People from all backgrounds and prior educational achievements have opportunities to further develop at Otago Polytechnic.
· Continuing education and enhanced professional education.
People who need to retrain and upskill choose Otago Polytechnic for education which meets their current and future needs.
We serve our communities:
· By engaging actively with trades, professions, business and industry stakeholders, understanding their needs and responding through education and training, consultancy and applied research.
Our communities influence what we do and how we do it, benefiting from our joint endeavours.
b) current delivery options discriminate against a section of the population - those who cannot afford the appropriate technology or cannot obtain broadband of sufficient quality are effectively excluded from participating in online learning c) current delivery options are not feasible with some course content. While designing the course "Psychology for Occupational Therapy , my colleagues and I were struck at the large proportion of our course which needed face-to-face involvement.
The principles that are applicable to flexible program design are -
Open or flexible learning packages have many advantages, including enabling students to work through selected parts of the curriculum at their own pace, in their own way, and where and when they want to work on them. The following suggestions, aimed towards tutors and lecturers, may help you to design flexible learning resource materials of your own, or make good use of existing ones with your students.
- Work out what students can do by themselves. Identify the parts of the curriculum which may lend themselves best to students using learning materials rather than taught sessions. It's worth thinking about any or all of the following kinds of material, each of which can be the basis for a useful flexible learning package depending on the nature of your courses and students:
- Introductory or background material: flexible learning can help get all of your students to a prescribed level, prior to starting class coverage for example.
- 'Remedial' material which may be needed by groups of students lacking particular skills or experience.
- 'Crucial' material - for example core material where you wish to ensure that all students have a good set of learning materials.
- Make the objectives or intended learning outcomes clear. Work out precise statements of the things you intend students to be able to do after working with flexible learning materials. Make sure that students will understand exactly what they are aiming to learn to do as a result of their work with the materials.
- Design packages around things for students to do - and not just to read. Ensure that flexible learning materials contain plenty of activity for students. Make sure that the tasks and activities in the materials are clearly spelled out, and that students will understand exactly what they are intended to do, and why.
- Package your feedback as well as the activity. Make sure that each time students have a go at a task or activity, there is readily available feedback, so that they can self-assess their progress. The feedback may be provided in print in the packages if they're paper-based, or on- screen in computer-based materials. Make sure that the feedback is not 'in sight' when students are trying the questions! Sometimes, you may choose to save giving feedback on particular tasks until you have the opportunity of face-to-face interaction with students.
- 'Why did I get this wrong?' Remember that students need to know not only whether they approached a task correctly or not, but also they need guidance about what may have gone wrong. Check that the feedback provided to them covers this.
- Flexible learning materials aren't textbooks. Make it clear to students that learning packages are things for them to interact with, and not just to read. Explain to them that they will learn much more from having a go at all the tasks and activities, rather than just assuming that they can do them successfully.
- Test out the bits of your packages. Experiment with components of your flexible learning materials in class sessions, where you can monitor how students handle them. Take particular note of students' problems, and add extra guidance to the packages on the basis of these.
- Measure and monitor what is happening. Include in your materials (or add to existing materials) an end-test of one kind or another, which students will hand in for marking when they finish working through a package (or which a computer-based learning system will administer for you, keeping scores of student performance on each question). Use this monitoring to identify trouble-spots in the learning materials.
- Give students guidance. When using existing learning packages, it can be well worth adding a brief set of guidance notes on 'how to approach using these materials', highlighting the most important parts of the package, and indicating the best ways of tackling them.
- Show students where the flexible learning components fit into their overall course. Remember to make sure that students know how much the things they learn using flexible learning materials count for in the context of their overall courses.
Adapted from 500 Tips for Teachers (Sally Brown, Carolyn Earlam and Phil Race, Kogan Page, 1995) and from 500 Tips for Tutors (Phil Race and Sally Brown, Kogan Page, 1993))."
5. My main contribution in this area is best viewed through the Wiki I have constructed for a course in Psychology in Occupational Therapy.
The main principles are - • Context
• Student characteristics (prior experience, skills, interest)
• Overall big idea/theme/philosophy for the course
• Course structure
• Activities, tools, resources/content
• Pedagogical approaches and characteristics for the course
- the Introductions, course requirements, rules of engagement, lines of communication, assessments, etc and guidelines for resource for online learning are given in full detail and would be reinforced with some other form or forms of interaction.
The course itself requires course participants to complete sections of the Wiki on a weekly basis (along the lines of allocated groups being responsible for certain sections) which would be overseen by the course facilitator.
At the end of the course there would be a resource which would be able to be accessed by course members and would form a point of comparison with other course conducted in the future.
I am yet unsure how some of this course would be delivered to ensure that a graduate was competent in the understanding and practice of psychology but I would assume that a face to face assessment in the form of a viva would need to supplement a written assignment. Currently, candidates are required to analyze a pre-prepared DVD and I would assume that I would continue with this practice to supplement the face to face interaction.