Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flexible Learning - Mapping the Territory

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Learning in the new Tasmanian Polytechnic will be "flexible" - but what does that mean?

Principally it's about being 'learner centered'. Learning needs to be responsive to students - most of whom are adult or near-adult learners. Learning must cater for the needs and interests of learners and the differences between learners in areas such as learning styles, culture, gender and current life circumstance.

But learning also needs to be responsive to the needs of business and industry who require learning to be available in appropriate places, times and forms. Learning must adapt to provide the skills required where there are shortfalls - and for new industries. Higher-level skills in thinking, innovation and collaboration are also required.

And there is a bigger picture. Learning needs to be responsive to global change - environmental, economic, technological, cultural... Sustainable, productive and purposeful lifestyles can no longer be lived in isolation from global events.

To achieve the above in the Tasmanian Polytechnic learning needs to be personalised. Learners need choice and control over the time, place, content and products of their learning. Learners need to have their existing knowledge and skills recognised - and any missing essential learning identified and supported.

Learning, teaching and assessment principles need to be based on contemporary educational research and underpinned by 21st century worldviews. Structures to support learning need to be adaptive and fit for purpose.

Hmmm... no problem - we know how to do most of this. Well we can map some of it... and see what others have done...
We just need to coordinate educational provision across a large state-wide organisation in such a way that it can change and grow while setting up structures and processes to support flexible learning :-)

1 comment:

Graeme Kirkwood said...

Hi Roger - you're right about the scale of the task. 'Flexible learning' has a strong pedigree in the VET sector. But now I think it's useful to distinguish between first and second generation flexibility. First generation dates from the mid 90's and emphasised questions of access to learning(when, where, etc), but given the tools available at the time, led us to reliance on self-paced learning largely using print materials. This has created a strong legacy which is challenging to overturn. Second generation has to be more about quality of learning (how, for whom), using the much wider range of tools available today. It's a significant cultural challenge for many teachers, but I find the 'first gen, second gen' idea is useful in communicating the need for change.