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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Week Two Blog

He whakawhiti korero.

From: Ron Bull
Sent: Monday, 19 March 2012 9:47 a.m.
To: Gina Huakau
Subject: RE: FL course - Activity 2

Kia ora Gina.

I feel the same about the possibilities and the responsibilities of flexible learning.

Having taught in the University context for years I became both used to and wary of the efficacy of the face to face, one to many, I talk and you listen approach to teaching.

The initial premise of flexible learning being focused on outcomes based on student needs (not denying external and associated political issues associated with same) is sound and I believe the right direction that tertiary education should be heading. From my business days I would see this as a move towards a consumer focused model: we are looking now at the needs of the consumer. This bring to mind to other catch words from my old days, 'effective and efficient' management of time and resources.

Time will tell if the move towards flexible learning strategies produces better outcomes, one would suppose this to be the case. Therefore this approach may meet the 'effective' test.

But how 'efficient' is the implementation of these strategies.

Nagging at the back of my mind is what price do lecturing staff have to pay to deliver this type of learning.

I find this analogous to the rise of technology in the workplace specifically the use of cell phones. These were touted as being wonderful new devices that would free us from our desks and allow for flexibility within the workplace. One could argue, and many have, that the workplace has now expanded to include our private space, physical and chronological.

Looking at how I teach now as opposed to within the University context, I would describe myself as being semi flexible, I use a variety of media to make my point: face to face lectures, Moodle including PowerPoint presentations, embedded videos audio recordings of the lectures, audio on top of PowerPoint, adobe connect as well as individual meetings, e-mail correspondence etc. I know that I still have much to learn to make my teaching practice more effective.

My point is that I am now reproducing my face to face lectures in at least two other formats in the quest to become an effective flexible educator. Given other pressures of expectation within the institution and the sector generally (e.g. PBRF), along with external obligations, where would my break-even point be? At what point would the balance between effective and efficient tip one way or the other?

The need to be more flexible in the way we teach how we conduct learning experiences is important if we are want to meet the needs of those consuming our product (students), but this must be balanced with efficiency measures to ensure educators and associated staff are not overburdened with the weight of expectation that would cause negative impact on other tasks within either the academy, our private space or both.

Just some thoughts.


-----Original Message-----
From: Gina Huakau
Sent: Saturday, 17 March 2012 4:16 p.m.
To: Ron Bull
Subject: FL course - Activity 2
Importance: High

Kia ora Ron.

Here are the 4 questions re: FL- I've posted some thinking below... G

What does the term Flexible Learning mean to you?

Lots of work! Lol. Flexible learning means to me greater choices for both how students learn and how I facilitate a course.
Helping students achieve a learning outcome/skill is no longer confined to one mode of delivery.

Why is it necessary to use a more flexible approach in your work?

Because we have to, there is now so much literature (not to mention education statistics) that show if we don't get to grips with offering viable and multiple pathways to learning- we again have another generation who miss out on an opportunity.
Having a more flexible approach in our mahi is way more interesting too.

What do you need to explore to help this happen?

I need some IT gurus to help me get a fat ethernet cable between Waikato and Otago so the class can interact more with each other!
Be great to work more with OT colleagues to look at cross-overs so we can have a better flexible approach between courses (we've started this)

What goals do you have for using Flexible Learning in your work?

Better engagement with students- especially North Island cohort.
Increased opportunities for students to interact with the course and get more from it.


  1. Thanks for your questions, Ron. I believe they are very valid, and I hope the group will explore this further as the course progresses. I wonder if there is a line between flexibility and making money? When does it become too expensive to be fexible...and as you say, what about the cost to the teacher. I do not have an answer to this...I'd be interested to hear what Bronwyn says?

  2. A great post Ron with some astute observations about flexible learning. Meeting the learners' needs should not be at the cost of the teacher's time and work-life balance. I guess this is where sound learning design comes in, and making choices about the most effective strategies to use not only for your particular teaching context, but also so you can 'reach and engage' the majority of your students. If you figure out how much time a teacher spends in the preparation of lectures - could this be better spent in other ways? For example, finding resources and designing activities to get students to engage with them.

    I have to ask whether recording your lectures is the best way to offer your knowledge, or would it be better to record conversations with the class around the topics you teach or get them to reflect on the topics and provide feedback to each other? Perhaps they could do some preparation exploring the materials you provide them with before coming to class - then they could really tap into your knowledge through exploring it deeply under your guidance. Also, the teacher needs to step back sometimes and acknowledge the power of the peer (not the pear but the peer :)) interactions that can drive learning and motivate students. Can you think up some cunning ways to encourage this?

    In response to Sarah - I don't think flexibility means expensive ways of working (resource or time). Personally I prefer student-generated content and a discovery inquiry-based model of learning. The expense comes from the time needed by the lecturer to broker some of the materials students need to access to ensure that they are relevant, and in the designing of authentic activities to help them engage with the topics. Money could be saved by not creating lots of expensive resources, and by collaborating on some developments, and also by using existing materials or resources created by students. What are your thoughts Ron?