Friday, April 25, 2008

Flexible learning today and in the future?

Poolburn dam one of my favourite places to reflect and hang. Big argument going on at present as some Auckland person wants to sudivide and put 2 huge houses on the land. This means quite a few kms of lakefront will be lost...I ask the question...should this be done and change poolburn forever!! Life changes and moves on you may argue...I guess when I think about flexible learning I feel a bit like this...Sommtimes I like to do things exactly the way I always have. It is comfortable, doesn't take a lot of time to prepare when I'm busy...I liked Bronwyns reponse to Susans excellent comments about this weeks reading in relation to DFLP (week5). How easy to just put on a 50 min video and go catch up on admin! For whose benefit? I have just finished reviewing a video on chest drains I was thinking of using in a upcoming lecture...I have been challenged to think how can I incoportate this more into the orveall lecture. (I'll keep you posted on the lecture as it evovles). I feel like Susan that this course been all on line has its challenges but I think it suits the purpose of the course. As Leigh said we must be up on digital technology in education. Some of the things i've been doing I've been thinking about doing for a while but because of time have avoided learning it. Easier to do as I always have. I see tutorials offerred such as Leigh offered last year on e learning but I always say not now later when I have time!

Having just completed my Masters and then having a baby I must admit I kept things pretty much the same in my course. However this year i have had a renewed energy and have been reviewing my lectures and tutorials with great gusto. Partly this evolved because when on clinical with students often i noted they didn't know stuff that I though I had covered so well in the lectures. In my mind I had taught it clearly and it was clear to me..obviously the message is not getting acroos as clearly as I thought in the lecture format! Teacher as teacher!

I had a quick look at the history of Otago Polytechnic. It developed because of the need for vocational training which I imagine had to be quite flexible because it was meeting the needs of the community leaders. Parttime courses were offered in the evening so people could still work , such as in apprenticships. Nursing was orginally an apprenticeship style training model and the education was offerred in blocked courses. The training moved to Polytechnics in the early 1980's to provide an increased quality of nursing education, first as a diploma and then since the 1990's a degree program. We have fought as a profession for the professional of nursing and our education of nurses to move away from the 'Drs handmaiden role'. We need to ask the question if we add more e -leaning and less lecturer contact in our curriculum will this be of benefit to our future nurses. Some nurses who trained in the older apprenticeship model still say this was a better model because they got paid and learnt on the job. With the current nursing shortage, as tertiary nursing edcuators we have to be sure the pitfalls of this style of training are remembered so this style of training doesn't get reintroduced as an answer to the nursing shortage!

I think in the future other professions will also have to think about these issues. As flexible learning is tossed about as an answer to spiralling costs of education and worker shortage we need to be sure of what will actually benefit our professions.

The article by Ellis, Steed, and Applebee(2006). I found quite interesting. Lecturers who see technological media as one way of helping students to achieve the intended learning outcomes of course design can help student develop new ideas and understanding. However they warned that some teachers may use media to deliver information and replace some responsibilities of being a teacher. The example of putting on a video is a good example of this.

Blended learning can be of the most benefit when we use technology to help students explore and make sense of the reality. This is what happens when we are on clinical and have tutorials with our students. This has always occurred as verbal discussions but this is where I am thinking scenarios online for students to work through, could add to this learning. I guess one of the barriers will always be time but I think I need to jump on the bandwagon and move into the technology era as many of my students are used to this! Maybe this is why I found the lecture format is not the most ideal teaching tool.

Thinking back on the history of Otago Polytechnic, nursing edcuation and also reading the case study practical skills for veterinary nurses I think many courses started off flexible in the way they were offerred to meet the demands of the consumer. In Polytechnics in particular this has had to continue as a lot of our educaton is in vocational skills. With the continuing changes today I think the demand for this will continue and probably increase. Otago Polytechnic recognise this need and are encouraging us all to consider how we are organising our courses to be more flexible to meet consumer demands. Technology is not going to go away and will just continue to advance. The younger generation will demand we have the skills to keep up....


R. A., Steed, A. F. and Applebee, A. C. (2006). Teacher conceptions of blended learning, blended teaching and associations with approaches to design. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(3), 312-335.

practising inserting hyperlinks

In my blog this week I am practicing to see if I can make hyperlinks or pictures so firt I will reference to Bronwyns blog and see if it works. I'm also going to see if i can insert a picture from flickr

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How can distance, correspondence and/or online learning create flexible learning opportunities in your context?

I've been doing quite a bit of reading over the last few days and catching up on my class mates blogs. It has helped me to get an idea of what people are thinking but it is not the same as been in class together. I think the advantage of been in class is the ability to dialogue then and there and have a conversation. Blogging appears to be limited in this aspect as I am often commenting after the thoughts or ideas have been presented not during the thinking process. This may be a diasdvantage of online learning, however this could also be the result of me still learning about blogging and also staying on top of the work. Student to student interaction is still occuring but in a different way (not face to face). Anderson (2003) believes as long as one of the 3 forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) is at a high level, deep and meaningful formal learning can still occur. Is this quality of interaction the same online compared to face to face? I am interested in my own learning as this course progresses to see if I do become more enthusiasic about online learning.

I have been reflecting on the course I coordinate in nursing which is medical/surgical nursing practice so see if we are incoporating flexible learning. We have undergone significant changes over the last 6 years in our clinical supervision model for students. Student- teacher contact was a lot higher as we spent a lot of time in clinical with them. As modern day financial constraints have become a part of our reality in nursing, the time spent in one on one contact with the students as been cut right down in an attempt to deliver our nursing programme within these constraints.

I was devastated when this first happened. I guess this was because I strongly believed in the teacher as 'the teacher'. I had less control and had to rely on Registered Nurses preceptoring our students. I wasn't too sure if this was always going to demonstrate best practice! However my belief in the 'teacher been the teacher' has been challenged as I have watched our new model of less clinical supervision evolve. I thought the students learning would suffer but I now don't believe it has. Students are producing excellent portfolio's showing they are engaging in their learning, making the links and reflecting. They reflect on the practice they see from various Registered Nurses and take a huge amount of learning from this. I'm convinced that as they go and find the information themselves, they choose what they want to learn in relation to the nursing care they have been giving. This differs from myself as the teacher giving them the information; this means they have a lot more interest in their learning.

Our tutorials which are a time of high student to student interaction, have also become a major learning opportunity for the students. As they reflect and share on their learning experiences in the clinical setting they have been learning off each other and asking questions related to what they want to know. As the facilitator, I too have increased my knowledge. I have always regarded these times as essential to help our students intergrate the theory with the practical.

Annand, D. (2007) wrote that many academics fear a sense of a loss of their craft, a dislocation for students and faculty, and a loss of control over the educative process. This causes opposition to technological change within the academy. Reading this I was challenged about me own thinking. The last couple of decades have seen huge changes in the world of work and the knowledge, skills and competencies people require in the workplace (Moran & Rumble, 1998). Edcuation facilities have been slow to change but to acommadate the growing need in the workplace for skilled, competent workers we need to change. Flexibilty for many workers is required so they can get the qualification and skills needed (often as quick as possible). This is also why assessment of prior learning as become so important. Listening to Terry Marlers talk was very helpful

Thankyou Carolyn your comments on your blog. I see many similarites between our courses and the challenges.

As my clinical time with the students is reduced I have to consider if I can still meet their needs, particurlary when they are placed out of town, which often they are now due to placement availability. Sometimes phone contact is all we have. Blogging could be immensely helpful as they could make electronic links to their articles and we could follow there progress more closely. The main constraint to this would be availabily of computers.

I am seriously thinking about setting up a course blog so students can continue to reflect and share there learning online. This would be an extension of the turorials (which work well) to include more students. I think our students who are placed in Timaru would appreciate this.

E portfolios are also something I could consider

As portfolio's are an integral part of our course putting them on line could mean less paper and another form of creatively. However I wander if this would make a lot more work for the lecturer (particulary if they are not use to e learning) and they would need to be near a computer when completing assessments. This could be a very good option though again for our out of town students if teacher and student are both sitting by a computer when assessment occurs. Finally I am also considering using a lot more sceanrio based assessments and this is probably where my flexible learning teaching plan will head. However I will investigate this further later as I see Bronwyn has suggested some readings and I've done more than enough this family beckons! (and are pushing me off the computer once again)

Annand, D. (2007). Reorganising Universities for the Information Age
Moran and Rumble (1998) Vocational Education across National Bborders

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have just finished reading some of Leighs writings on flexible learning and the ideas of decentralisation of education. The idea sounds good in theory but would take a lot of motivation on the part of the teacher. I sometimes try to take work home as I can get sidetracked at work by colleagues and other committments. However at home there are other distracting factors such as family committments and trying to get on the computer when I am fighting other members of the family for it. Working for the institution keeps me on task and ensures the work is done.

I am also having the same difficulty with this course. Is it too flexible for me amongst my busyness! There is nobody on my back each week! Now this can be good and bad...It meant I could go on holiday and try and catch up later...self pacing...however this is much more difficult than I thought...I guess if I get flexibility in the handing in of assessments it may help.

So do we need more flexible learning, or is all this choice a bad idea?

I can certainly see the advantages in it mainly for those who can't afford to relocate to an institution or afford to stop work and lose money while they get a qualification. Student debt is becoming horrendous and is off putting for some people. An example in my profession of nursing is Enrolled Nurses (EN's) who cannot afford to stop work and do a three year degree. They are given very little recognition of their learning (RPL) when they upgrade their qualification. Surely with the desperate shortage of nurses an important priority should be upgrading their qualification. Flexible learning is a must for this occupational group but not easily available. I would agree that RPL is a very important aspect of edcuaiton today. I enjoyed hearing Willie Campbell talking about his journey of learning about assessing prior learning.

Our institution is asking us to consider more flexible options so we can compete in the market place and attract people who may not otherwise have enrolled. However I have concerns that more flexibility could result in less completion of courses and costing poeple more in the long run. I also am concerned about the demand its places on teachers. Do they want to be more flexible i.e work from home, evenings or weekends. This may not suit everyone. Work/Life balance is something we all strive for however flexible learning could possibly blur these boundaries for both teachers and learners...

Is flexible learning a new concept?

Collis, Betty, Moonen and Jeff (2001)believe not, saying this is not a new phenomenon. I found this article quite interesting as I must admit I was a little confused as to what I was getting into with this course. Like Carolyn said in her blog and from my readings, flexible learning is often associated with e- learning. I imagined by doing this course I would be learning how to use the internet and software in my teaching. Actually this scared me as been in my 40's, computers were not part of my schooling education. Even now although I have mastered some stuff I still frequently ask my 16 year old for help.

The good thing is I am starting to feel more at ease as I begin to understand flexible learning is a lot broader than this. Collis et al. (2001) explain this quite clearly clarifying it is learner centred and allows students greater flexibility in their learning experience. This makes me more interested in this course because I want my students to learn the best way possible and I'm keen to be more flexible in my approaches, if this helps. Flexible learning could mean more options in the use of resources for my courses, the use of media, e- learning and the type of learning activities I use. It may also mean a looser structure in the timing of assessments and course work.

Considering flexible learning is a lot more than just e-learning, I would argue this is not a new concept although this term has generated a lot of interest. Teaching has for many years required a variety of resources and settings.

In my teaching practice, some things I teach make it quite difficult to be flexible as time is short. Probably the best example of what I am doing in my practice now, is allowing the students freedom in the development of their clinical portfolio to demonstate how they have met the leanring outcomes from the course. I look forward to exploring this topic of flexible learning a lot more over the coming weeks

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Well I'm back after an awesome time doing all the theme-parks. Having a teenage son meant some of the rides I did were pretty hairraising particurly in Knotts Berry farm. But hey I survived and we all had a ball. I am now in the process of catching up on work and of course this course. Will join this afternoon the conference. Hear from you then