Thursday, April 02, 2009

Flexible learning

We are so fortunate to be living in the Internet Era. As a lifelong learner, I really appreciate the ability to wander at will and stumble upon world class learning objects - everything from scholarly works, historically significant documents, breath-taking recorded performances, amazing feats of courage, determination and stupidity. That's life and it is all there!

As a college educator, community volunteer and parent, I want to participate in the development and acceptance of flexible learning. Too often, the academic requirements for "credit" and accountability get in the way of many learners reaching their fullest potential. So we in Flexible Learning have some work to do.

Some of the issues that need to be addressed include but are not limited to structuring flexible learning so that academic rigor is incorporated and "credit" recognition can be granted. Today, we are so hung up with college degrees, school funding, standardized testing, that students are very good at these things, but have no education in the broader, classical sense of scholarship or apprenticeship.

For Flexible Learning to be accepted in "main stream" education, developing appropriate measurements and authorities who will vouch for flexible learning are important next steps.

I am particularly concerned about Science and Engineering education and learning. "Everyone" knows we don't have enough students studying in these disciplines. This is a Catch-22 - the current teaching and learning methods don't encourage or build the skills and talents in these areas, so there aren't any role models or teachers to attract students. The jobs are there and the need for these skills and knowledge are increasing without sufficient numbers of incoming educated practitioners to fill them.

Flexible learning can contribute to resolving the situation. Just getting everyone else to recognize and accept that will take some doing...


  1. HI there
    Just wanted to say that your writing is really enjoyable to read and think about..
    What I find particularly interesting at the moment is the way students adapt so quickly to internet learning styles. I am finding (in the brief time I have been teaching using this medium (Elluminate/ Google docs - I dont know much about this yet and essay Blogging) that as long as there are versatile ways for them (students) to "hand in" their work and equally flexible ways of responding (not just language by the way, but an expansive understanding of levels and capacity)with plenty of attention to detail - some of the academic ways of learning surface - for example I have been trying to support the fiddly nature of referencing (Research Methods at Diploma level)by going through comma by comma and taking the time to explain why.. having face to face if that helps breaks down resistance to becoming good at this skill. It is fiddly and time consuming and blogging is difficult because it doesnt seem to have enough formatting capacity..
    The last of their blogs of one particular assessment task was a reflection on their process so far - I was surprised to see that many of them were enjoying the laborious process and noticing how they were building skills - as researchers and practitioners..
    Its great that you have gotten this far..Thankyou for sharing.
    Felicity Molloy

  2. Thanks Felicity.

    My favorite part of being an instructor is being surprised by students. I am very fortunate to have a subject (Computers and the Internet in Society) and a format (distance learning) that allow me to encourage students to try something new and different. I provide an environment where students push the definition of flexible learning to suit themselves while meeting the learning objectives for the course and the school. Then I don't have to wait long for students to do something surprising and amazing.

    Thank you for passing along your experience, too. There are a lot of great examples of flexible learning successes.