Phil Ker started out by asking why flexible learning should be practiced at Otago Polytechnic?
Phil's primary reason is to enable us at Otago Polytechnic to engage with more learners, as Flexible learning uses strategies to enhance the process of teaching and learning.
Phil had three key topics:-Access, Learner Autonomy and Cost Efficiencies.
Access:-If access is made easy for students, it will encourage them to start and then continue to study. Phil would like Otago Polytechnic to be a regional provider of education as well as serving Dunedin. Central has a full suite of programmes run on flexible times and locations, with even the most remote student being only 30mins away from a study centre. Vet nursing have over the last three years changed from a traditional paper based, distance course to online. There are also the Community Learning Centres offering very flexible study times and flexible pace. The Hospitality staff in Tennyson street have worked hard on transferring video's onto Ipods for their student to use as reference. An amazing resource for the students and anyone else who wished to go to their site on you tube. Absolutely no excuses from the catering students as to why they haven't practised their techniques as access is 24/7 for them.
These examples show that flexibility in access to education will create learner centred learning environments. It also shows that an easy way to make access flexible is to go online with courses.
This brings us to the topic of technology.
Does flexible learning mean online learning? I think not. Phil also mentions it is a misunderstanding he encounters. For the computer natives amongst us (I am not) it is easy to access the multitude of educational organizations offering online courses and negotiate the new technology, however as Bronwyn points out, a blended delivery can have many teaching strategies and learning qualities.
This is a hot topic, raised at the Elluminate sessions aswel. For flexible learning to be successful, students need access to course content/resources and the motivation to learn. A blended delivery may involve paper based and online course content, social networking sites, Elluminate sessions, workshops and lectures. Phil suggests the teacher would become a facilitator or curator helping students with content and resources but with regular, formative feedback. I think quality and regular feedback enhances the learning process for most students allowing them to build on their experiences. Phil would like to move away from summitive assessment. However in the cases of Industry Standard or Health and Safety Standards being met a formative assessment or exam is sometimes necessary for building a scaffold on which to deepen knowledge. I do believe that prior learning is significant in offering flexible or distance courses and CAPL are a needed resource in recognizing experiences and qualifications. The student needs to keep motivated with clear expectations from their learning, which can be tricky in our modern world with all it's responsibilities of families, jobs and life in general.
Michelle questioned whether students would still get value for the money they were spending on learning, if the deliveries were blended towards the on-line variety and not so much face to face. Phil pointed out that most flexible courses are front loaded with much time spent in the design and loading of a course but if this makes the delivery more efficient then the students are still getting value for money. Phil would like to move towards courses where the student has flexible options about how course content and assessments are delivered and received, making the facilitation of a course efficient.
Flexible Learning is a good move for the future and I'm sure the students will vote with their enrolments whether the teachers/facilitators are doing a good job.