About Pisa

I attended theEdTech4E (Education Technology for Export) conference in Wellinton on the 12th April. At this conference mention was made of the Pisa study which I had not heard of.
Although this is more to do with secondary school education none the less it sparked my interest and I found this talk by Andreas Schleicher very interesting. One of the points he makes about class size not necessarily being important sparked my interest as this was proposed recently in NZ and squarely rejected by the population. I have to say I was one of those opposed. Our government should have done a better job of explaining what it was they wanted to achieve through this and where these ideas had originated. had they done this they may have experienced less resistance to the idea. I can now see the rationale for this but still wonder if there is some cultural component to class size. Although larger classes work in some parts of the world does that mean they would work here? I agree that a great teacher who is aware of good teaching practice and is able to use up to date and relevant tools to support learning should be able to overcome many of these issues.

Anyway here is a link to the TED talk from Andreas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this in the comments below
Use of Data to Build Better Schools

EdTech for Export conference Wellington 12th April 2013

On the 12th April I was fortunate to be able to attend the first EdTech4Export conference in Wellington New Zealand. This post is my reflection on the conference, thank to Otago Polytechnic for sending me.

To get me in the mood the taxi driver from the airport had national radio on and they were discussing 3D printers. This whole concept is happening now and is so revolutionary. It seems that we are not in the middle of a technological revolution at all but we are just at the start of it. There is so much more just around the corner and we, in New Zealand, need to be prepared and ready to take advantage of this.

Following are the key points I took from speakers I heard at the conference. Note that the best quote is in my own words and may not be the actual words that were said at the time, but were what I had scribbled down.


Karen Billings, Vice President, Education Division, Software and Information Industry Association (SIIS) U.S.

Key message for me

There is growing interest in personalised learning. However there is also interest in mass media, mobile, global blended and MOOCs (massive open online courses)

Best quote

“Learning is mobile and global.”

What I learned

Innovative Ed Tech solution could help to address the issues of; Disengaged students; Unrealistic expectations; Diversity; Unemployment.

We need to lessen dropout rate; Improve communication and collaboration (with mobile devices) More out of class learning (virtual tours etc);  support education reform; Technology however will never replace instructors. Real human interaction will always be needed.


Ed Tech opportunities in the U.S. exist in: Multiplatform aggregation/ Professional development/ Data analysis and integration (identifying students with problems)


Carl Engkvist, Senior Vice President of Business Development Asia Pacific, Pearson (involved in the development of Blackboard)

Best quote

“Think global- Act local”

“China wants to modernise, not westernise.”  It has a long proud history in education, predating our own

What I learned

Asia needs more education than can be provided locally.

75% use mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to go online, not desktop or laptop.

One week every year Singapore has an Elearning week, all schools, colleges and universities close and all learning is at home. This is pandemic planning.

When entering the Asian market need t long term view and work to that vision, adapt product to local needs.


Mobile learning is the way to go.


Tim Brooke-Hunt, Controller of Children’s programming, ABC TV

Key message for me

Linear television will not be around in the future. Television needs to be aware of what is happening with print media, it needs to adapt as it is going in the same direction.

What I learned

Very young children are using touch screen technology to learn, as young as 2 years of age. ABC is doing incredible things for education in Australia. They have developed wonderful resources to support teaching and engage children.

 Breakout sessions

Breakout 1

Stephen Knightly; Chair, New Zealand Game Developers Association

Key message for me

Games engage learners and provide great learning experiences if the pedagogy is aligned.

Best quote

Analyse everything and develop content accordingly.

What I learned

Games are effective pedagogically. They need to be enjoyable and challenging, they provide experiential learning experiences.

Identify Clear goals – use the right tools – provide challenges – give feedback

Do not let students stay stuck on a level. If they do not achieve, offer hints or tips.

The learning needs to be made apparent. Students need to know what they are looking for in the game. Play game, stop, reflect, learn.


Maru Nihoniho (Metia Interactive) http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/allevents/Pages/13AprilMoveoverBoys.aspx

Maru developed a game Sparx which has been found to help teenagers deal with depression as effectively as having counselling sessions. This has been published in the British Medical Journal http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e2598

Breakout 2 first speaker

Rachel Bolstad; New Zealand Council for Education Research. http://www.nzcer.org.nz/research/rachel-bolstad

Key message for me

Lifelong learning changes the way we need to teach

Best quote

Knowledge is not a noun it is a verb. Knowledge is a tool to help us learn how to learn.

What I learned

Personalise learning – built around the learner

Work with diversity – diversity is strength. Plurality valued and students engaged.

Use Knowledge to develop learning capacity – collaboration and connectedness

Rethinking learner and teacher roles – building learner capacity, building curriculum

Continuous learning for teachers and education leaders

Partnerships between schools and community.

Breakout 2 second speaker

Garry Faloon; University of Waikato

Key message

Researched 5 year olds use of touch screen games for problem solving and learning.

Best quote

The best apps model good teacher practice.

What I learned

Rewards should be appropriate. Smaller achievements should get smaller rewards and completion should gain a larger award. Giving big rewards frequently reduces the effectiveness.

Formative feedback is important. Where students have tried and failed come in and ask “have you tried this?”

Breakout 3

Nick Billowes, Director of Development, Core Education

Best quote

It is not

Key message for me

Technology is a transforming agent in education.

Best quote

It is not about doing old things in new ways but doing new things in new ways.

Andreas Düesner. Senior research scientist. HITLab.(Human Interface Technology.)

Key message for me

Increasing costs of education means we need to be more efficient, effective and ecological.

Best quote

It is not about doing old things in new ways but doing new things in new ways.

What I learned

Asia is our market



Learning in the 21st Century is any time, any place, any pace and with or through any device


Learner controlled, learner choice. Empowerment to act. Personalization. Lifelong learning. Universal design.


High level collaboration. Rethink concepts such as ownership. How knowledge is controlled and how it can be shared


David Copeland, from Learning Media was MC for the day. He was very skilled at keeping things to time and identifying the underlying threads from speakers. He really made the day fun. It was great to get together and have the opportunity to chat with people interested in using technology in education. I was amazed at the number of people who had great ideas and some great products that they were developing and looking for investors to take their ideas further or looking for a market for their products. If I had one criticism of the conference it would be that there were so many there looking for these things but not so many investors or markets represented to take their ideas further.

It was really interesting to hear what these people had been doing and developing. Some wonderful educational gaming activities being developed by many, one I spoke with was Dan Milward from Gamfroot, something I will need to explore. I also spoke with Stephen Clarke and his sister, from pixelBook, who can create wonderful Ebooks with any content.

It was great to catch up with John Enlow from ADINSTRUMENTS. This is a company who already provide software packages to Otago Polytechnic and I will be talking more with them about how there software may be used in our midwifery blended learning programme.

Bringing together some key points in blended, distance and online education

Hazel Owen

I found these videos from Hazel Owen for the DEANZ conference 2008. This is her Bio from you tube. “Hazel Owen is an Academic Advisor (Education Technology Consultant) at Unitec, NZ. She has been involved with implementing ICT enhanced learning for nine years and provides training for faculty, as well as developing blended and online courses. Her research interests include communities of practice/ICT enhanced learning and teaching (ICTELT) underpinned by Sociocultural principles”.

Although the programme she is discussing is far removed from midwifery education none the less aspects of the course are applicable and share common features with our programme.

Facilitating learning communites

Hazel discusses the previous students’ educational experience as being teacher led, content specific and didactic in nature. This may also be the case for our students. The need for student to be supported to move to a learner centered system is described and the tools which facilitate this are demonstrated briefly. In particular is the need for students to develop learning communities which will not only support their current learning but will also prepare them for life long learning. We have discussed this in our programme development but I believe it is integral to the success of the programme and needs to be considered each step of the way. for example in the midwifery practice course we have been working on the preparation of content. We have not yet completed this but we do need to consider how the students will use this content. How will they communicate with each other and share their learning. We have decided to have weekly face to face tutorial groups meetings with the practice facilitator and this will meet this need in part. There needs to be a clear understanding that these tutorial sessions and not for the delivery of content but are to facilitate open discussion and shared learning. We also need to facilitate opportunities for students to connect with each other and we need to make some decisions about how we will encourage them to do this.

Developing a glossary of midwifery terms

Some of the resources that Hazel describes in these videos have been included in our midwifery practice course. For example she discuses the students developing a translation dictionary and, in the CPIT Moodle LMS, Lorna and I have started a Glossary of midwifery words and terminologies which we hope the students will add to and create for their own use. I am a little concerned that perhaps we have been adding too much content already to this, which may make the students feel that they do not own it and discourage them form contributiing.  However it is a useful tool.


Hazel also discusses the development of an e-portfolio as one of the assessment requirements. The requirements for these students to be computer literate for their future work is very clear and may not be seen as a high priority for midwifery students, none the less there are some good ideas which could overlap into our courses. I believe the importance of online communication is a universal requirement. It will be as important for midwives in the future to be able to access information and communicate with each other through online resources as it will for any other professional group. Providing this learning opportunity for out midwifery students is therefore of particular importance to their future learning and professional development. The importance of clear guidelines and instructions and making sure that the links between what is being learned and the applicability to future practice needs to be apparent in everything the students are doing.

I am embedding only the first and third videos which have more generalisability. The second video concentrates on the specific programme for the arabic male students to a greater extent.

I found these videos interesting and they have helped me to consider once again some of the key points which I believe are fundamental to the success of our programme.

Mahara in Moodle

Following is an interesting video I came across about wroking with Mahara in Moode. This is of interest to me as our midwifery students will be working with eportfolios in the future, probably Mahara. As we are also moving into using Moodle as our learning management system, away from Blackboard it is interesting that Mahara can be used through the moodle interface. I have a lot of learning to do in order to become familiar with all of these tools and Youtube How to videos cerainly help. None the less it is a time consuming process as the only way to really learn is to get in and give it a go, make mistakes and try again.

Blended learning in midwifery education.

Do we really understand the potential?

I have been looking at this video. Wouldn’t this have been a great conference to be at? How exciting that we are entering a new era of midwifery education at this time and potential that is there for us and our students, as long as we leave the doors open enough to be able make the most of what the world wide web has to offer. As Myles says the virtual world has a lot to offer but needs to stay connected to the real world. We can do that, we can make the most of both!

Learning managment systems or web based resources for education

Learning management systems (LMS) have developed over the last few years as a way for structuring courses and presenting lecture notes, presenting an array of resources and providing the opportunity for asynchornous discussion. There is also the ability to set online tests and quizzes. The learning management system is tied to the institution and users need a username and password and have to given access rights in order to access the course material. Over the last three or four years we have used Blackboard as our LMS at Otago Polytechnic and have grown the type of resources and made increasing use of this for online course delivery. One or two of our courses are now totally online and delivered through Blackboard. Blackboard in a commercial product and Otago Polytechnic have a contract to use this software. At Christchurch Polytechnic (CPIT) a different LMS is used, it is used in a similar way and students also need to be granted access to the course ‘shell’, which allows the students to access all the course material. CPIT use Moodle as their LMS. Moodle is free to use software but is very similar to Blackboard. Other online educational resources are linking to moodle, creating interest blends of names such as Sloodle, which is second life linked to moodle. The appeal, I think, in the LMS systems, is that they allow one log in, which then contains all, or most of, the information the student needs, to meet the course requirements. I believe that the idea of these LMS is that they present material to students in a consistent way with a similar look and feel to all the resources and with similar navigation tools which allow the student to easily link to material and find their way around.

I have become used to Blackboard.When everything is working well I have found it to be a good way ofNetworking keeping in touch with students and delivering course material. However as I have become more familiar with the world wide web I start to see more and more the limitations in an LMS such as backboard. When I access an online resource which is linked through Blackboard it appears within the blackboard view. I find it difficult to find the actual URL of the resource and therefore it is hard for me to find this again on my own initiative. As a student Blackboard adds another level of complexity to my online experience, and when there are technical problems with Blackboard, which do happen, it adds to my frustration.

The other problem with LMS are that all the work that is done in the LMS stays is the LMS. If I have had access to certain resources as a student, I will not longer have access to these resources when I complete the course of study. It also does not encourage or develop skills in accessing content in the world wide web and it is a very closed environment. Students are only exposed to those who are registered on the same course of study in which they themselves are engaged. There is increasing acceptance that we are life long learners. It is impossible to learn all there is to know on any topic within a particular course of study. As we explore and learn there will always be new understandings and new innovations. So students need to develop skills in finding and assessing information themselves. To do this they need to move outside blackboard. When courses are presented on the world wide web they are then visible to all who may have an interest in the topic. Resources which can be used to guide student learning on the world wide web are course weblogs and wikis. Students can also be guided to online resources which may be of interest to them through social bookmarks such as Del-icio-us. If students post to their own blogs their fellow students, and anyone else, can share in their learning experience. Students can support and challenge each other as their understanding grows. This is a link to a concept map developed for Unitec students demonstrating online learning resources using google, moodle and much much more. This map is worth exploring and is interactive, moving the cursor over an item and clicking on it links into more information on how this is being used in this Unitec trial

I attended a workshop on E-Portfolios at Otago Polytechnic the other day. I had been quite excited about this as portfolios being used for professional development for midwives and I see a place for them within undergraduate midwifery study also. The E-Portfolio format has grown out of Mahara which is free open source software, but the Eprotfolio software will be linked into the institution, or other users of Eportfolio. This is a huge limit on its potential and usefulness I believe. When the course of study is complete, or for staff if they change jobs, they will not be able to take the portfolio with them, of give future employers access to the portfolio unless they too are Eportfolio users. For myself, if I am putting the effort into creating this document I want to know I will always have access to it and I think students will feel the same.

In conclusion, I believe that learning management systems have a place but are only a small part of the learning resources that our students should be using in the future. I find the concept map from Unitec very interesting and I plan to explore this further.

Image: Networking. from !!sahrrizvi!!’s photos on flickr.com

Distance and flexible learning for midwives and midwifery students.

Cathedral of learning

Image: Cathedral of learning. From Macwagen’s photos on Flickr.com.

Week 4 DFLP

How can distance, correspondence and/or online learning create flexible learning opportunities for midwives or midwifery students?

Undergraduate midwifery

As I stated in a previous post we already have a significant workforce shortage in midwifery and we face a looming crisis as the aging midwifery population approach retirement. A creative approach is needed to provide education which is accessible, with the opportunity for women to remain in their own community while gaining a midwifery qualification. Anecdotally women from areas where there is a shortage of midwives identify this shortage and choose to train, planning to return to their area once they qualify. These plans often change when families are uprooted and establish a new home during the three years of the midwifery program. Moran and Rumble (2004) suggest that online delivery provides opportunities for collaboration between education providers and the private sector. They state that conventional education is not providing enough skilled workers and governments, educational providers and employers are looking to distance education as a solution to workforce shortage.

A large component of midwifery education is theory which may be relatively easily adapted to a flexible design which can be delivered at a distance. There are components of midwifery education which has a strong clinical focus and will not be suitable for distance education requiring face to face teaching. Midwifery students require professional supervision of clinical practice until they are qualified and able to care for women on their own authority. The foundation of any course is the pedagogical framework. This may vary from an instructivist model to a constructivist (or behaviourist) model. Siragusa , Dixon and Dixon (2007) suggest that highly technical courses require a more instructivist approach in the first year of the program. which can gradually change over time, as knowledge increases to a more constructivist approach. How these two are blended is dependent on several factors. Some of these are;

  • How focussed or unfocussed is the instructional design
  • How much content is provided or is student constructed
  • Whether students are extrinsically or intrinsically motivated
  • Whether the lecturers role is didactic or facilitative
  • Whether the lecturer has novice or expert online capability
  • Whether the course is structured to be “teacher proofed” or easily modified
  • Whether collaborative learning is teacher or student guided

Information technology is rapidly changing the way that information is shared and how knowledge is generated. Learning is a life long activity and workers need skills to locate and critically appraise information on which to base their practice decisions and continual professional learning development (Moran & Rumble, 2004). Annand (2007) suggests that universities have been slow to realise the potential of information technology and continue to deliver courses in a preindustrial revolution structure. Annand challenges the assertion that a community of learning is an essential component of learning. He states that there are three types of interaction, student–teacher, student-student and student-content. He states that, if one of these is delivered at a high level, the other two are of lesser importance. Annand suggests this may be an important consideration when considering the financial costs of a course but could these perhaps also be related to learning style and might one or other be more or less important to individuals?

Postgraduate midwifery

Postgraduate study lends itself more readily to a fully constructivist approach (Moran & Rumble, 2004). Options for a fully student led, integrated and less formal learning process may be easier to achieve (Siragusa, 2007).

At Otago Polytechnic our postgraduate midwifery program has been delivered largely at a distance for several years now. In acknowledgment of our workforce shortage and in and attempt to reach more students we are embarking on a flexible model for our first year students in 2009. We are mindful and aware that we need to balance distance education with a face to face component for students in our new program. Having done the background work and developed the new curriculum document in collaboration with Christchurch Polytechnic we are now turning our attention to the process for delivery of the individual components for the program through individual courses which will be either totally online or blended online and face to face.

Annand, D., (2007). Reorganizing universities for the information age. The international review of research in open and distance learning. 8, (3) downloaded from the world wide web on the 3rd April 2008 from ; http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/372/952

Moran, L., Rumble, G (2004). Vocational education and training through open and distance learning. Kentucky: Routledge

Siragusa, L., Dixon, K. C., Dixon, L. (2007) Designing quality e-learning environments in higher education. Conference presentation, Ascilite 2007 Singapore

Second life and flexibility in learning

Those who have looked at my midwifery blog will know that I have had an interest in second life and have been considering the educational potential of this virtual world for students. When we have students who are at a distance from one another I think second life could be useful for collaboration and establishing a sense of community. It does require a good internet connection however and also a good quality computer. I was perusing the internet today and found a conference presentation delivered by Sarah Robbins “Intellagirl”. this presentation gives a great overview of second life as an educational tool. She also describes the characteristics of the average student population and how this is evolving. It is a worthwhile view when considering flexible course delivery and presents some excellent arguments about why learners need flexibility in courses. Click on the view presentation on the page linked to conference presentation. When I played this video it stalled half way through, I managed to fix this by fast forwarding a couple of times and it started to play again. It is wise to stop the video from playing and allowing the whole thing to load before trying to play it. This will allow it to play without stopping and starting, which can be annoying.

Another very interesting aspect of this presentation is the Medialandscape player which is the software application through which it is delivered. This plays the video and also presents the slide show alongside. I am hugely impressed with this tool and would love to learn more about it.

Techno-savy or Techno-challenged

For week three of the DFLP course we are asked to comment on a post from Leigh Blackall’s blog on the topic of flexible learning, providing supporting or counter arguments and supporting evidence. I have decided to comment on his posting Revisiting content is not king. Connectivity is priority KAREN . In this post Leigh suggests that, for learners, connecting with one another and establishing professional networks has primary importance over the delivery of course content. He suggests that a lot of content is ignored, and that learning occurs primarily through social interaction between course participants. Leigh goes on to present data which suggests that only 33% of New Zealand households have a broadband internet connection. Most people therefore do not have high speed internet access which may impact on their ability to connect through this medium.

Vgotsky theorised (thanks to Bronwyn for this link) that social interaction plays a fundamental role in cognitive development. He focussed on the connections between people and their socio-cultural context. When considering continuing professional development for health professionals, research has consistently found a preference for keeping up to date with current practice, through practice communities and professional networks. Communities of practice may be used for problem solving, sharing information, sharing resources, discussing developments as well as establishing where there is existing knowledge or gaps in knowledge and highlighting areas worthy of further investigation (Fahey & Monaghan, 2005; Gabbay & Le May, 2004; Lee, 2006; Tolson McAloon, Hotchkiss & Schofield, 2005; Wenger, 2006). I recently completed a course [Facilitating online learning communities ] where I explored the use of online tools to support the development of learning communities.

I agree that practice communities, and group interaction, play a large role in learning. I also believe that learning is life long. We need our students to learn the skills, and access resources, that will support their continuing learning and development after they have completed their course of study, and gained accreditation in their chosen profession. There is also a significant amount of course content that students need to access and interact with. In the traditional classroom setting this would be done through the delivery of lectures, in the new flexible model of course delivery, there is an opportunity to reconsider this, and look at other ways to guide students to this material and support their learning. George Siemens discusses the concept of curatorial teaching. He suggests that lecturers provide access to resources for students to peruse and learn from. Gilly Salmon developed a five stage model for e-moderation, which is an alternative to traditional teaching for the online environment. The e-moderator and the curator seem to share some aspects in common. Both encourage autonomy for the learner, while they also provide direction to resources that will support learning. Salmon’s model provides a framework for scaffolding learning, as students learn and develop more knowledge of their topic.

As the time is fast approaching when we will be delivering our midwifery course through a more flexible model, with much of the course delivered at a distance, these issues are taking on greater urgency for me. If community is an important component of learning, how can we support students, who are geographically distant from each other, to develop connections and a sense of community? I provide a rural midwifery locum service, and I am aware of the slow internet connections in places that I work. These locations and other similar locations, are where our students will be located. Kildea et al (2006) identified technical difficulties and communication problems amongst rural and remote rural midwives in Australia in relation to the provision of education resources. How can we overcome technical difficulties to support student communities and facilitate learning? I am not sure that these issues have been addressed. I am interested to see the KAREN project, which Leigh referred to, and which promises high speed internet access for universities and education institutions, but will this help midwifery students located in rural areas?

During the previous course I learned a great deal about web 2.0 and social networking tools. I am now familiar with tools such as RSS, blogs, wikis igoogle, del-ici-ous, YouTube, Flickr, Creative commons etc. These things have very quickly, over the last 6 months, become part of my life and make my online existence much easier and more satisfying. It has been a huge journey and has taken a lot of time to become reasonably comfortable and familiar with these tools. I am aware however that I am in a minority in the midwifery, and perhaps even the education, community. Just accessing email is enough for many. I do believe that it is of considerable importance that staff involved in flexible delivery are familiar and comfortable with the use of at least some of these tools, but I see no real commitment from individuals or programme managers to promote acquisition of these skills. When we embark on the flexible delivery of our midwifery course we will have enough to think about just getting to grips with the course without also having to gain new skills with web 2.0 tools. I have started a blog with a group of students I am working with this year. It is early yet but is not being used much at the moment.

How can we support the techno-challenged to become the techno-savy? Do we need to? Can a course of study be delivered in a flexible mode, with a proportion of distance learning and online components without familiarity with these tools? Only time will tell I think.


Image: Hip Hop Connected. Jayes fluid step1: From Scott Eric William’s photos at flickr.com


Gabbay, J., & Le-May, A. (2004). Evidence based guidelines or collectively constructed “mindlines”? Ethnographic study of knowledge management in primary care. British Medical Journal, 329, 1013-1017.

Gosling, A. S., Westbrook, J. L., & Spencer, R. (2004). Nurses use of online clinical evidence. Journal of Advanced Nursing,

Kildea, S., Barclay, L., & Brodie, P. (2006). Maternity care in the bush: using internet to provide educational resources to isolated practitioners [Electronic Version]. Rural and Remote Health. Retrieved 10th September 2006 fromhttp://rrh.deakin.edu.au.47(2), 201-211.

Lee, S. W.-Y. (2006). The interplay between self directed learning and social interactions: Collaborative knowledge building in online problem-based discussion. Paper presented at the 7th International conference on learning sciences. ICLS’06., Bloomington IN.

Tolson, D., McAloon, M., Hotchkiss, R., & Schofield, I. (2005). Progressing evidence-based practice: an effective nursing model? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 50(2), 124-133.

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice, a brief introduction. Retrieved 29th December 2006, from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm


Flexible learning: it is not just about distance (Collins, Moonen, 2001)

This is a review and critique of readings (Collins & Moodie, 2001) for week one of the Designing for flexible learning practice course .

Learning to learn

Image from: Miffdesigners photos at flickr.com

This reading outlines what is meant by the term “flexible learning” . This term is often confused with online learning or e-learning (Khan, 2005), although delivery may be a component of some courses delivered in a flexible manner it is only one of many ways in which flexibility can be achieved. Flexible learning is learner centred and allows students greater flexibility in their learning experience. Flexibility can be achieved in a variety of ways. Consideration can be given to flexibility of time for course work and timing of assessments. There may be flexibility in the content where a loose structure allows students to explore. There may be flexibility around the entry requirements for a course or how and when a course is delivered. Course material may also be delivered in a variety of flexible ways. The degree of flexibility that can be achieved in any course will be individual to the particular course and the expectations of outcomes for the students. Flexibility can provide increased opportunities for those who would otherwise find study difficult to achieve, those with young families who would find full time study difficult, those who are employed full or part time and are unable to attend regular classes or those who live at a distance from the place of learning (Collins, 2001). People with a particular disability may also find this type of study more do-able. Collins et al. suggest that the underlying factor governing the success of a flexibly delivered course is the culture and support of the institution. Various ways of making the content and processes of a course more flexible are discussed and also the restraints that may influence the degree of flexibility that can be achieved. A formula for is presented in chart form with x and y axes. X is the degree of flexibility and Y is the goal of the activities. The tighter the angle the less flexibility can be achieved, more of the course content is material delivered to and acquired by the student. The looser the angle the more flexibility can be achieved. In this instance learning occurs through participation and contribution to group learning and less is through material which is delivered. Acquisition therefore leads to less flexibility and participation leads to more flexibility. Knowles (1991) suggests that adult learners learn best by participating as opposed to passively acquiring information. Learners need a higher level of self motivation when participating in flexible learning. Some students may find the degree of self direction particularly challenging and may require individual strategies to help them achieve. Instructors in this type of course need to be responsive to the individual needs of students. Flexibility for the student also means flexibility for the instructor who may be able to also be more flexible in their working hours Collins et al suggest that the instructor could respond to students at any time, even at home with a cup of tea in hand. Greater flexibility for students is a challenge for institutions not only in the complexity of providing resources to enable greater flexibility but also in the challenge of supporting students and staff who feel that change is being forced on them and resist change. Staff may not be willing to be so flexible in their hours of work.

I am already familiar with many of the aspects of flexible delivery as our institution Otago Polytechnic have been moving towards greater flexibility in delivery of courses for several years now. Since I have been employed here, over the last 5 years, the School of Midwifery have made significant changes to the way the course is delivered and further major change is due to occur next year. We will be merging with Christchurch Polytechnic school of midwifery and working in an entirely new curriculum which has been developed over the last couple of years in consultation with Christchurch. This course will involve students living at a distance from the institution and a larger component of online delivery. We will retain face to face delivery of essential components of the course. A small core of staff from both schools have been working on the new curriculum but the hard work of putting this into action is just beginning now. In preparation for this I enrolled in Facilitating online learning communities and now this current course Designing for flexible learning practice. I am motivated, interested and keen to learn about technology and its use in supporting flexible learning for our students. I am not sure that this is so for all staff and I foresee many challenges ahead. As components of the course are being delivered online, currently through blackboard, some students have expressed concern and anxiety about the level of self directed learning involved. With support students have managed to cope and usually change their thinking about the online component. Students enrolling in a course where they understand a large proportion is delivered at a distance may have a different perspective and expectation. The added value to the student needs to be identified. At the moment I feel that the success or failure of this venture will rest heavily on the willingness of the staff to go the extra mile. I am concerned that there may be a presumption of cost saving in an exercise such as this, where in fact the evidence, including this reading, suggest it may actually cost more in financial terms (Collins et al, 2001)

I am also interested in making courses that we currently run for registered midwives more widely available through open access to the course material. I would like to see us offer greater support to midwifery in the developing world through access to open course material. To this end I have made contact with a midwife overseas and hope to be able to work on a joint venture in time which would see courses for continuing professional development for midwives being made available in open access format that will benefit midwives locally and internationally. I have established two midwifery wikis. One is more general information on midwifery and the profession and practice of the midwife and the other is a wiki supporting midwives collaborating in second life.


Collins, B., Moonen, J. (2001) Flexible learning in a digital world. Open and distance learning series. London: Kegan Page Ltd.

Khan, B.H. (2005). Learning features in an open, flexible, and distributed environment. AACE Journal, 13(2), 137-153.

Knowles, M. S. (1990). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.