The buzzword flexible learning has so many definitions that it can be used in almost any e-learning scenario. Nevertheless, to present the learner with additional tools and arenas to complement traditional on-campus teaching has obvious benefits. A modern approach to facilitating learning in our students requires us to re-think the way we approach the classroom. With the technologies at our fingertips it is no longer necessary to come together in large lecture theatres for the sole purpose of knowledge transmission and then send the students home to reason through it and make sense of it all.
A flexible learning approach opens the door to using the time together in class to a much higher yield: the application of knowledge and the discussion of concepts for a deep understanding of the subject. As born into a digital world, our students are no longer restrained by the formal physical and temporal requirements of a traditional course, their education has become more interactive and more flexible as students and faculty collaborate on educational outcomes. This allows for the students to take an active role in the formation of their studies and to become co-producers of their own education (Kotzé & du Plessis, 2003; Pearce & Evans, 2012).
Flexible learning enables pedagogical and logistical flexibility so that students have more choice in their learning opportunities, including when, where, and what they want to learn. As defined by University of British Colombia, Canada, flexible or blended learning as it is sometimes referred to “is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and techniques” (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). Blended learning involves “rethinking and redesigning the teaching and learning relationship” (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004), to both reposition how learners engage with materials and content in the course, but also how they interact with their peers and their instructors.
Mobile technology opens up even more freedom in the learning process – as a teacher you can reach the students everywhere and as a student you have immediate and near enough unlimited access to course material and learning tools. From a student perspective accessibility is one of the most important parameters for facilitating learning, according to surveys we have performed on the preclinical parts of the medical program. As mentioned in my previous blog post, we have developed an in-house mobile application where we are collecting multimedia resources to create a comprehensive digital repository available 24-7 at the tip of your fingers. I believe this will greatly facilitate our students learning as well as increase visibility for the faculty.
I foresee an interesting development for the future. Outdated pedagogical approaches disengage students. Instead the in-class experience must be transformed: it is imperative that we move away from didactic sessions and towards meaningful exchanges of ideas and importantly, application of knowledge to real life situations. This will result in new demands for the faculty. Meeting this challenge as a teacher is encouraging.
Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105.
Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education : framework, principles, and guidelines (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kotzé, T. G., & du Plessis, P. J. (2003). Students as “co‐producers” of education: a proposed model of student socialisation and participation at tertiary institutions. Quality Assurance in Education, 11(4), 186-201. doi: doi:10.1108/09684880310501377
Pearce, M., & Evans, D. (2012). Students developing resources for students. Clin Teach, 9(3), 178-182. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-498X.2012.00529.x