Two-edged sword

This week I´ve decided to write about my own experiences of flexible learning. Since I´m new at work as a lecture at Malmö University most of my preferences are from the students point of view. I guess I am a typical non-traditional student (Jones & Walters, 2015). I work full-time, I´m a daughter, a wife and a mother (even a guinea-pig owner).
I´ve passed 40 and the only option for me to study is if the course is being held “flexible”. In other words it has to be web-based without required lectures on campus (at least not daytime). Full-time studies is often too hard to follow so the course pace have to be more slowly. I took my nursing degree for over 20 years ago and meanwhile my life has been going on I´ve been taking my master degree in nursing care and science. Sometimes it has been a struggle and many time it has been pure joy. Without flexibility I had not been able to finally cross the finish line. The more I learn about flexible learning (in topic 4 at ONL161) I realize that flexible is so much more than – Pace, Place and Mode – but I think that my own experiences is giving me the answer to why I would enable element of flexibility into my learning.

Nisar (2004) concludes that one alternative to reach those large groups (of students) in a flexible, cost and time saving way is through learning in a digital environment. The educational material is easily accessible for those whose participation is limited due to their location, which reduces both cost and time (Nisar, 2004). This thing with flexibility is often described as a two-edged sword. For instant it´s great to have access to course content 24/7 but it requires self-control due to the lack of fixed classes and the need of self-discipline to achieve learning (Atack, 2003). Perceived disadvantages with learning in digital environment is the absence of face-to-face interaction compared to traditional learning in classrooms (Atack, 2003; Nisar, 2004). The references are a bit old so this must have been B.S. (Before Skype).

The majority of students that I meet is 20 years old and a traditional “old school student” BUT not all of them are. I wonder if the spectra of student have been different if we offered a more flexible ways to study. At Malmö University´s site  you can read this:

“Malmö University strives to be a university open to all: a university that is structured to cope with our ever-changing job market through a multidisciplinary approach that crosses traditional faculty boundaries.”

Thinking about it – a more flexible approach could be a strategy to reach the goals and to be a university open for everyone. In my own teaching I will from now on try to be even more flexible when I design the learning activities and assessments.

References
Atack L, (2003) Becoming a web-based learner: registered nurses´ experiences. J Adv Nurs, 44(3), 289-297.

Jones, B., & Walters, S. (2015). Flexible learning and teaching: looking beyond the binary of full-time/part-time provision in South African higher education. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, 3(1), 61-84.

Malmö University (2016) http://www.mah.se/english/About-Malmo-University/

Nisar T, (2004) E-learning in public organizations. Publ Pers Manag, 33, 79-88.

Photo: Christ of the Apocalypse by Nick Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

9 thoughts on “Two-edged sword

  1. Thank you for this post! It is interesting to read about different learners and their journeys. 🙂 What struck me while reading your post was that universities and schools are more inclusive through flexible learning. And considering that distance work is also increasing in many sectors it is important that students learn to self-regulate their learning otherwise they will hardly be ready for working unsupervised.

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  2. Hi Annica! It was interesting to read about your experiences as an adult student- I could easily identify even myself with your description of multiple roles of and experiences as an adult student- even though by now it is a while ago I did it;) When it comes to who is non-traditional or traditional student I think, and in my experience, that it is something which is changing rapidly. As a matter of fact most of our students who are taking their masters degree are already working full time and often have families of their own. This of course is something to take in to consideration when planning the curricula and courses, since it is no longer any ideal option to have too much mandatory “class room teaching”. And it is here this course and more experience and knowledge of web- based teaching and learning comes useful!

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    1. Hi and thank you for your comment. Everything is changing – all the time – that why we need to be flexible 😉 We have the same “problem” at my University with master degrees. At first my institution thought that the problem was the master students… but now I think they are starting to realize that maybe the problem is the flexibility and course design.

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  3. Thank you for your post; I love the image you have chosen – gorgeous! It is definitely a two edged sword. Flexibility definitely requires intrinsic motivation and an ability to be a self-directed learner. As a former primary school teacher, I have to ask do we prepare kids for this flexibility in our schools? At the moment I would have to say we don’t. School seems to be still very rigid, traditional, industrial model based. The kids have little choice in many cases of what they learn or how. Then they enter University and have all of this freedom and flexibility and don’t always cope. I know it has always been this way to a certain extent (at least in my Australian experience) but now with the choice of viewing lectures online, accessing resources via the internet etc, there is even less structure in University. This (I think) is great, but I don’t think schools are aligning to prepare students for this.

    I think it all needs an overhaul to reflect the way that technology has changed society; but when or if that happens is yet to be seen!! Thanks again for a great, thought provoking post!

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  4. Hi Annica! Thank you for a nice blogpost. Totally agree that flexible learning is much more than pace, place and mode. Still try to define this concept for myself, but not successfully yet ). I liked the comparison with a two-edged sword. Indeed, self-control and self-discipline are the necessary prerequisites for learning flexibly.

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