Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Week Three - Why we need flexible learning

Now I apologise for the lack of activity on my blog space. With being enrolled in three different GCTLT courses as well as my Masters and teaching I have had to prioritise and hence the delay. I think I'm back on track and will be catching up over the coming days.

Do we need more flexible learning? Is all this choice a bad idea?

What are you already doing in your practice that you believe enables flexible learning?

Now I think this is a loaded question, because the cynical side of me agrees with Backall's article in "Flexible Learning in New Zealand Part 3", that its all about money, less outlay and more intake! But of course that is a narrow view, especially if we are to believe flexible learning is more than online learning.

I would like to answer both these questions together, as I am finding my thoughts racing around my head and they don't seem to clearly go into one question.

Do we need more? Yes and No - hows that for covering my bases! I think recognition of students learning styles and adapting the way we teach to those styles are very important. If we don't then we run the risk of missing those students from our courses and all that they can contribute. For example the majority of OT students would be kinesthetic - learning through doing, while I am a reader/writer and quite frankly would bore them silly if thats all I did. Gone are the days (thank goodness) when it was ok to just stand in front of a class and read notes. The other flexible components available are the use of reader/writers both in classes and assessments. It allows students to be involved and succeed who otherwise might not.

However I do firmly believe we need to ensure the students are ready for the real world. In OT the therapist has to work to a timetable, they are under pressure and are expected to complete their work and documentation in a timely manner. We need students to understand that. Its interesting in Backall's article he identifies the stresses students undergo when studying. The fact that many need to work while they are studying to top up their meagre allowances. This then puts pressure on students coming to class. Its something we see here, it is interesting though when speaking to students who have had classes organised so they have a day free from being required to attend the school a number of them work, or take a break rather than completing the work for their studies. This then puts pressure back on them to find time else where to complete school work. A number have said to me they dont like the "flexibility".

On the other hand flexibility is required for our postgraduate courses. I was speaking with our Programme Manager and saying how great it would be to use elluminate instead of teleconferences. Then we thought about the impact this may have on some of the students. When completing work at their place of work they often have to share a computer between six, this makes it incredibly difficult. We send out CD's of readings so students don't have to try and down load large amounts, especially if their internet connections aren't good - no its not that we are putting the photocopying costs onto them either!!!

What I thought was good about this task was that I got to sit and think about how flexible our courses already are and to a certain extent what we could be doing for the future too.


some tech peeps said...

you may be on to something with the webconferencing versus just the teleconferencing. more interaction between students and teachers.

have you heard of Yugma? i have been a fan of this for webconferencing. they're also integrated with skype, but depending on connection your students have or the number of people in your group, that may not be the best option

Leigh Blackall said...

Good to see you coming back into the picture OTPenK :) BTW its fine to call me Leigh. Could you try hyperlinking though? Try creating a link from yur post to the things you are referencing. The course schedule, my post, and anything alse yuo mention that would be useful having a link to. It'll help those who are not aware of where you are coming from get a picture of what's happening..

The thing I really like about you post is the readiness to think about the whole picture. The fact that your students in workplaces share computers, the fact that others might prefer regular timetables that include the time they need for self directed study.. some of those young'ns need a lot of guidance don't they! so its great to see that you are not blinkered by an idea that flexible learning is all about getting stuff online.

I wonder though, if your workplace learners all share computers, then what applies for them with regard to webconferencing also applies with CDs in some way.. are you sure your not just cutting out photocopying expenses :) in saying that though, it is great to have digital copies of resources for easy copy pasting and saving. Perhaps doing both - sending the CD AND the printed out readings would be helpful.

Something I would like to try some day is to take all the readings that are used in a course, and to lay them out in a design like a newspaper and print them out that way and send. I despise the A4, spiral bound, reading brick we in education all seem to default to.

Looking forward to more notes by you :) We're up to week 6 btw. Are you set up with an RSS news reader? I think Fiona said she was.. its a useful tool for keeping up with what everyone else in the course is doing, not to mention the course blog itself.

OTPenK said...

Thanks Leigh for the comment, I will try and link my future references. I'm still reasonably new to some of the technology and will do my best.

To be honest I think one of the main reasons we send CD's is the fact that we pass on the photocoping expenses. We'd do that too if we were sending the reading via email too!