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.
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)