Saturday, October 1, 2011

A summary of kinds of flexibility and some technologies to support them

Flexibility is the ability to change or be changed easily to suit a different situation (Longman English dictionary).When applied in education; it refers to the freedom of choices that the learner is allowed to make in different aspects of the learning experiences (Collis,&Moonen 2001). This is a major shift from the traditional approach where the instructor and the institution dominated the decisions regarding the learning process. In addition, It is worth noting that flexibility is more than just distance learning but cuts across a variety of aspects in the learning process. For example, flexibility in content, technology, time, instructional materials, pedagogy, entry requirements, location just to mention a few. A brief description of five kinds of flexibility and a web based technology that can be used to support them are outlined in the table below.
Supporting Web technology
This involves being flexible on the study location where the learner will carry out the learning activities. It can be outside the campus. For instance, the learning takes place from a student room, workstation or home.
-Video conferencing whereby the participants in different sites sit in a virtual conference room and communicate as if they are sitting next to each other. They use internet connected computer networks to transmit audio and video data
-Emails can also be used to send and receive messages from the participants in the course.(
-Skyping that allows two participant to receive audio and images of each other on network computers.
-Others are the use of Yahoo Messenger and MSN.
This is about allowing the learner or both the learner and the instructor make a consensus on the choice of the topics to cover, their sequencing, the learning materials and assessment standards
-Wikis where participants freely create and edit a web page content using any browser. This allows a collaborative contribution from all participants.
-Web logs can also be instrumental in sharing information on a given topic content.(
-Online libraries and e-books where students read materials online
iii)Instructional materials
This is about freedom to access various learning materials of preferable choice on a given topic in addition to those given by the instructor or institution.

-Provision of links with some materials like pdf files
-Use of You-tube sites like
-Websites whereby the learner uses the internet browsers to find information on a given content.(
-Online libraries are also valuable
-Use of online recorded video

This is flexibility on when the course starts and ends, deadlines to submit assignments, the speed at which the course progresses and the when to assess.
Learning management systems such as
-Blackboard for online announcements ,submission and feedback is used
-Emails can also be used to send and receive information in time 
Its flexibility related to the mode of content delivery/teaching approaches For instance, the use of lecture, group work or discussion individualized instruction
-Wikis where participants freely create and edit a webpage content using any browser. This allows a collaborative contribution from all participants.
-For collaborative learning,video conferencing may be used.
-Face book and blogs can  help facilitate discussions
-e-portfolios can provide reflection approach where the teacher can easily make a follow up on student progress.
-elgg can also be used as an opportunity to provide feedback

In conclusion,there are many flexibility kinds in the learning process and for each kind of flexibility there, exists a matching web based technology that can be used to successfully implement it. However, it is crystal clear that identifying that correct technology to apply in a given case is quite a challenging task.(Anil ,2000) implies that one must do a deeper evaluation from a wide range of existing technologies so as to determine which of them will meet the goals of a given flexibility. Finally ,may i point out that the use of web based technology can greatly develop the mind of inquiry in the student and enhance feedback as well.
1. Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001, second printing 2002). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations. London: Kogan Page.
2.Anil Aggarwal (2000):Web-based learning and teaching technologies; opportunities and challenges.Idea group publishing, USA.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this overview! Very nice that you gave a description of the flexibility types and included technology examples that can support flexibility.

    I also like your link to TechSmit (which is not a link that works at the moment, so maybe you can change that?). Using tools like Camtasia and Snagit can really help in supporting your education. The other link to La Trobe University is not working (you mean, but the links on the actual page are very interesting!

    A small remark: the link to Collis & Moonen refers to our Blackboard environment which is password protected. This means that your audience might not be able to see the document!