Flexibility, bending over backwards to be accessible

When considering issues of flexibility in learning we have been considering the different ways in which courses we teach can be flexible. Some types of flexibility might be:

Fexibility of time [start and end dates of courses]

Flexibility of place [where the course is delivered]

Flexibility style [incorporating a variety of learning styles]

Flexibility and adaptability [to meet changing needs of learners and industry]

A good demonstration of flexibility in learning has been this course, Design for flexible learning practice. Through this course I have been exploring the topic of flexibility in education and have not always followed the format set out in the course structure. Non the less I believe I am fulfilling the basic requirements of the course. As i explore this topic and find things which interest me I have considered these and blogged about them. I am definitely learning as i explore and expanding my thinking on teaching and learning as I go. I hope that this might also be of some use to others but principally it is for my own growth. Although it is always good to know that others find some aspects of my writing of interest this is not my primary goal.

Ultimately I have to come up with a plan for a flexible learning opportunity in my context as the assessment in this course. Flexibility is something that I feel we are very familiar with in the School of Midwifery at Otago Polytechnic. We cannot be flexible with start and end dates, as we are constrained by the requirement for students to complete the program within 4 years, however since I started work there, five of six years ago, there have been quite dramatic changes in the way that the whole program is delivered. Next year our program is to change again as we start to deliver the program predominantly at a distance, with three two week blocks of face to face attendance during the year. This will allow students who could not have considered undertaking this course of study to do so. Much of our content will be delivered online using a variety of resources. Most of this will be delivered through a learning management system, probably moodle. Although our material and course work will be online it will only be available to those who have enrolled and paid for the course. This seems to be a logical choice, after all we do not allow just anyone to sit in on our classes and course work at present. However it is a great pity that the time and energy for developing the resources that we will be using will not be utilised to their fullest by reaching the widest possible audience. I accept that to put this material openly on the internet is a very large step that many of us feel uncomfortable with. We cannot know how or whom might find our material useful and valuable and how they might adapt it to meet their own needs. Is this a bad thing? I wonder if we will use resources that have been developed by others in our new course. It would make sense to do so as there is a lot of material out there which has been developed by other Universities and is freely available, why reinvent the wheel. For example the University of California have several courses freely available online. One of these is this Biology course. This contains material which is relevant to our students to which they could be directed. There will be components of our new course which will be suitable and useful to others also, to keep it all within a learning management system such as Moodle means that it will not be available to others. Perhaps we can consider having some components available through the world wide web.

I teach in a paper which has been developed principally to support midwives who were educated outside of New Zealand to gain skills and knowledge of prescribing for midwifery practice, per the New Zealand legislation. I would like to work towards developing this as course along a similar line to the DFLP course to be freely available on the world wide web. I have already prepared an argument for why this should be so and Sarah Stewart prepared a proposal for this and other courses within the school of Midwifery to be available openly on the world wide web. I would like to now take this a stage further and start to develop a plan for how this might be able to happen. I am aware that this might take a significant amount of my time and energy and I am away on leave from the 23rd May until the 10th July. As well as this I have to be working towards the new first year clinical papers, am I being too ambitious?

Image: Bending over backwards. From Tennessee wanderers photos, on Flickr.com

Leave a comment


  1. Carolyn, I think you have to be pragmatic about this and not choose something too big and that you will use next year. Or concentrate on a small chunk of the pharmacology course – making the whole course may be too time consuming for this particular project.


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