Flexible learning stretched to its limits

Cornelius and Gordon shared a study on “Providing a Flexible, Learner-Centred Programme: Challenges for Educators” in The Internet and Higher Education (2008 ), 11, pp 33-41. From my experience and reading literature, this was one of the most flexible course designs I have seen. Per usual, there was flexibility in course access, time and space for learning, and course resources. However, quite uniquely students could pick and choose their content and assessment requirements from an array of study modes; thus, they could plot their own learning journey “through activities based on initial evaluation of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests” against the program standards (p.35). In the end, they were assessed on their learning transformations as evidenced through their collaborative investigation with other students and submitted materials.

As suspected, there were challenges such as missed opportunities by students for transformation, concerns about the assessment strategies, and barriers to activities and technology. As well, tutors felt some students did not engage well with activities and showed reluctance to engage.

Recommendations for future flexible learning included establishing ground rules for group work, expect increased time for instructional development, create a good infrastructure and keep current, be willing to communicate frequently with participants, build a strong programme team with shared values and good leadership, encourage risk taking and innovative ideas, and provide clear course explanations and processes.

I like the premise of this program: considering the restrictions placed on programs and students by institutional requirements, flexibility can be provided through content and instructional methods. This particular program seemed to embrace Web 2.0 ideals: constructivist-based and personal learning, collaborative activities, choice, and of course, flexibility.

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