Image: 'Some of my fans'
I have recently started the Flexible Learning Course which is being run by Otago Polytechnic - at the moment I am an informal student accessing the course online. You can see the whole course set out in Wikieducator.
The activity for this week is think about flexible learning, what it is and how it can be facilitated to meet individual needs. And then we have to write story about a student and how flexible learning would meet that person's needs.
Australian Flexible Learning Framework
In the past I have been guilty of getting flexible learning muddled up with eLearning. I have tended to think that any educational courses delivered online is 'flexible'. But flexible learning is more than that - it involves delivering education in modes that suit individual learning needs, as well as in a form that suits different learning styles.
The Australian Flexible Learning Framework talks about flexible learning being focused on the learner as the center of the learning experience. The learning experience should encompass a range of learning activities and resources that totally engage the learner, and makes the learner an active participant as opposed to a passive listener.
My experience of flexible learning
Over the last 18 months I have taken part in three courses - Facilitating Online Communities, Connectivism and Constructing Courses. The flexible elements of the courses that particularly appealed to me as a learner were:
- I was able to enroll as an informal learner, in other words I was able to access the course without paying - to get the formal qualification I had the option of enrolling and paying the fee to have my work assessed and processed.
- Able to do the courses in my own time at my own pace - one course I took ages to complete, another course I finished before the end of the course.
- The courses had a range of activities and options for communicating with lecturers and fellow students including blogs, wikis, web conference, Twitter, video, Skype etc.
- I was able to 'manipulate' the assessments to meet my own personal learning needs ie integrate the assessments into my work so that one complemented the other, and visa versa - the assessments has relevancy instead of being an academic exercise.
- I learned from fellow students, not just the lecturers - what we as students had to say was valued by lecturers.
As an educator I have a specific scenario in mind for the development of a flexible course. I am currently carrying out a project for Aged Care Queensland which involves developing an eMentoring program. I am recruiting aged care staff to be mentors. The mentors will be required to attend a 2-day workshop about mentoring, and then they 'mentor' their mentee. At the moment this is a voluntary activity with no outcome other than a certificate of participation and the feeling of satisfaction. My aim is to develop a course about mentoring. The key will be to integrate the learning from the workshops and the experience of being a mentor, and turn this into a formal qualification.
Image: 'Vintage Photo...free to use!'
A day in the life of one of my potential students
My potential student is a middle-aged woman called Deidre. Deidre is a nurse by profession, and has been working in the aged care sector for 15 years. For the last five years she has been the manager of a residential aged care facility in a rural town, three hours drive from a major urban center, in Queensland. She is very experienced and knowledgeable about the aged care industry.
Deidre is committed to supporting her staff, professional development and education. She likes to mentor junior staff and she is very cognizant of the problems of recruitment and retention. Deidre did her nurse training when it was hospital-based, and would like to take some management papers at degree level. However, she is very busy on a day-to-day basis with running of the nursing home, writing funding applications and preparing for audit.
There is little funding to support her to take time off to study or pay course fees. And there is no one available with her experience to back-fill when she goes on study leave - she finds it difficult enough as it is to take annual leave. Deidre has some computer skills - she uses databases and financial programs at work. Her daughter is doing her OE in the UK and has been nagging her about using Skype for communication, but Deidre just hasn't got around to finding out about it yet.
The challenges for education design