Sunday, October 2, 2011

What should be flexible in learning?

The nature of what is meant by flexibility could mean different things to different people, and the term used for it suggests that there is no universal agreement among theoreticians and scholars about its definition. However, a nice definition given by Khan (2007, p. 1) could better serve flexibility in learning:
Flexible learning can be defined as an innovative approach for delivering well-designed, learner-centered, and interactive learning environments to anyone, anyplace, anytime by utilizing the attributes and resources of the Internet, digital technologies, and other modes of learning in concert with instructional design principles. Can we do what learners want?
With regard to this flexibility, Khan further maintains that a well-designed flexible learning course allows learners to become actively involved in their learning processes (p. 4). Furthermore, as flexible learning is not only necessarily related to distance education, several flexibilities could be offered in the light of learners (Collis & Moonen, 2001):
  1. Learning modes: Offering learners with options such as on-campus or off-campus learning modes characterizes flexibility in learning. These alternatives are provided for learners to fit their needs in order that they can learn more flexibly. Rapidly evolving information technology dramatically influences the way educational institutions (e.g., universities) serve their students; distance learning becomes possible for those who want to learn at distance. Learners can learn from any places with this kind of learning mode through Learning Management Systems (LMS).
  2. Social organization of learning:  Understanding learners’ learning styles is important for it is basic information for learning organization. Some learners prefer working individually and some others collaboratively. Offering inappropriate learning organization would hinder learning. This social learning organization could be in the forms of individual, group, or the combination of both types.
  3. Content: Flexibility in learning content might be offering choices to learners what they want to learn. In this case, learners are involved in selecting course contents.
  4. Learning materials: Learning materials are not only limited on textbooks. Learners are provided with various learning sources, such as journal articles, web-based materials, videos or audios, and other authentic materials.
  5. Interactivity: As learning is an active process, interactivity becomes a basis to engage learners. Providing learners with several methods of acquiring information, knowledge and skill would make learning more flexible, for examples, human-to-human interaction, human-to-computer-interaction, and so on.
  6. Media to support learning (technology): A variety of media can be offered to learners with which learning is supported and flexibly done, such as computers, PDAs, smart phones, etc.
  7. Language: Some learners are better at certain language, and the others prefer another certain language to use for their learning effectively; therefore language is also another component that can make learning more flexible by offering some language choices for learning (e.g., English, Indonesian, and Dutch).
An example of a website supporting flexibility in learning related to learning modes is Nicenet Internet Classroom Assistant. This is a non-profit organization. The website allows teachers around the world to create a virtual classroom for free.

Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectation. London: Kogan Page
Khan, B. H. (2007). Flexible learning in an open and distributed environment. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Flexible learning in an information society (pp. 1-17). Hershey: Idea Group Inc.

1 comment:

Petra Fisser said...

Thank you for this post! It gives a nice overview of flexibility options. Very good that you added other references than the ones we used in the course, I appreciate that.

What would be nice for future posts is that you reflect a little bit more on what you have been writing. What do you think about these flexibility options? Should we (teachers) implement them? All of them? How?

The link to Nicenet seems interesting. I haven't had the time yet to make an account, but I will look into it in more detail soon!