Flexible Delivery/Flexible Learning
We talk about both flexible delivery and flexible learning. Is flexible delivery flexible for the institution doing the delivery or flexible for the learner? And is flexible learning flexible for the learner and perhaps not so flexible for the institution. As Casey and Wilson (2005) say “who is the learning flexible for?” An institution must operate under certain constraints imposed by the Government’s funding body TEC and have deadlines for qualification completions etc, so to be truly flexible for the learner (eg with rolling start and finish dates, negotiated content etc) is not possible for the institution.
Flexible learning could be viewed by both the institution and the learner as a total freedom of constraints of time, paperwork, passwords, pedagogy, materials, resources, departmental partitioning, staffing, services….. Most learners want their teachers to make decisions about content, learning activities and structure, however the more experienced the learner is at ‘learning’ perhaps the less they need their teacher to guide or direct them.
The rationale behind the design for the new module in the GCTLT is very much shaped around the possibility for “organisational” or institutional flexibility. Literacy and numeracy are cross curricular skills and link programmes across the institution. They have the potential to bring people together into a community of learning because they are common to all courses. “Organisational aspects of flexibility such as team teaching, sharing of learning materials and joint ownership of courses and new working relations” (Casey and Wilson) are very real possibilities.
The module is for staff largely in full time employment, so flexible learning opportunities need to be provided in an efficient and sustainable way that will enable all involved to keep workloads under control. Ideally, course completion would become something that happens naturally within the job description of an academic staffer.
If we consider the five dimensions of flexibility; time, content, instructional approaches and resources, delivery and logistics and entry requirements where would this course sit on the continuum of each dimension?
Time : Can enrol at any time during the year and can achieve the module when ready. Submitting assignments and tempo of the course to suit workloads, however, there will managerial expectations and performance appraisal implications for the learner.
Content: Key Learning materials of the course sit within the framework of the Adult Learning Progressions for literacy and numeracy, but content is contextualised by the vocational content of the participants speciality. Some aspects of the content will be more relevant to some participants than others so there will be flexibility around the emphasis towards various strands of the Learning Progressions. Assessment requirements need a suggested minimum for course completion, however a teaching portfolio which develops over time would be encouraged.
Entry requirements: Open. However, as this is a practical course, it is important that you are able to work with adult learners. The assessment requirements ask you to apply your learning to authentic programme demands.
Instructional Approaches and Resources: A variety of instructional approaches and resources to cater to a diverse range of learning styles is preferable (see section below:Delivery of the course).
Delivery and logistics: (see section below: Delivery of the course)
Ideally it should be possible for the participants of this course to take control of their own learning. Unfortunately experience has shown me that unless there is some degree of external direction, structure and energy, other priortities come before PD. Also the learners are a diverse group at different points in their academic careers and their capacity to work independently varies. There is a range of digital literacy skills within the group as well as a range of literacy and numeracy skills. So as Casey and Wilson state “‘Designing for diversity might be a good catchphrase” rather than designing for flexibility. So with this in mind here are the ideas for the learner model for the prospective participants.
Delivery of the Course (planning)
What doesn’t appear to work well:
- Day time f2f workshops (difficult for staff to attend)
- Staff often too busy to browse online materials and resources or do not know they are available, or do not see the relevance of them – this could change with a culture shift happening within the institution
- Using the Learning Progressions (framework) as a starting point for the course (material is too dense).
- Approaching the material from an academic perspective (using edu-speak and jargon)
What does work well:
- Sharing teaching practice between tutors
- Highlighting the literacy and numeracy embedding that is naturally occurring already and building from this
- Inviting literacy and numeracy experts from NCLANA to facilitate workshops (they bring a national perspective and experience)
What might work:
- online delivery supported by meetings with course facilitator and community of practice either f2f or through Elluminate.
- Sharing of teaching practice at lunchtime seminars and compulsory staff PD days
- Embedding L&N workshops during compulsory staff PD days.
- Encourage staff to become part of the national community of practice through online websites: www.literacyandnumeracyforadults.com. This website hosts portals for NCLANA, Writing Modules, events calendar
- Working with a literacy and/or numeracy mentor
- Action enquiry projects (This form of action research adopts a methodical, iterative approach involving identification of problems, action planning, implementation, evaluation and reflection.
- Or Action enquiry or Action research (defined by Ferrance (2000) as:
‘ a quest for knowledge about how to improve. Action research is not about doing research on or about people, or finding all available information on a topic looking for the correct answers. It involves people working to improve their skills, techniques and strategies. Action research is not about learning why we do certain things, but rather how we can do things better. It is about how we can change our instruction to impact students.’
Action research puts educators in the dual role of producer of educational theory and user of that theory. This is both a way of producing knowledge about higher education and further education learning and teaching, and a powerful means of improving learning and teaching practice (cited in casey and Wilson).
The printed page: The Tertiary Education Commission has printed a series of books on the Learning Progressions which are free to ITP’s. They are also available on the website and can be downloaded as PDF. The course will be structured around these books which outline the Learning Progression Framework (Learning Progression books).
Wikieducator: A platform for course instructions and content with links to Moodle and the net. (wikieducator site)
Moodle: A collaborative repository for literacy and numeracy resources (Moodle site)
Elluminate: An opportunity for group facilitation and demonstration of resources. Training in the use of the ALNAT for distant staff will be trialled with Elluminate very soon.
Videos: Used to demonstrate what “embedded” literacy and numeracy looks like in different vocational contexts. Also videos of short teaching activities which develop a specific literacy or numeracy skill (e.g, percentages).
Powerpoint with Ispring : Embedding Reading Comprehension
Discussion fora – Fora on Moodle is probably the preferred option (as opposed to say Google groups) because it is linked to the resource repository and is one less ‘place to go’.
There is a cautionary message in Casey and Wilson’s (2005) article about the need for ‘blended’ learning rather than the ill fated e-learning model that was popular about 6 years ago. The really important focus is the teaching and learning itself, not the technology used. Getting the content out to the Learner is one thing, but knowing they are engaged with it and comprehend the meaning is another. For this course some teaching observations and team teaching experiences would be useful.
Assessment Criteria are clearly stated on the course wiki and (Assessment Criteria) The assessment strategy for this course has been designed to recognise the learning of professional and mature participants and is based around the preparation of a teaching portfolio. In order to pass a module, participants will be required to demonstrate that the work submitted has met the stated learning outcomes of the module
Weekly or Topic Chunks?
The course has been divided into chunks: ‘Knowing the Learner’, ‘Knowing the Demands’ , ‘Knowing What to Do’ and ‘Assessment’. As we hope to have participants joining the course at any time during the year it would still be feasible to have a weekly division of the course, but with no dates.
- Determine the numeracy and literacy demands on learners in the context of the learners’ course of study and workplace (‘Knowing the Demands’).
- Develop and/or use a range of assessment tools and strategies to assess a learner’s literacy and numeracy skills in relation to the Learning Progressions ( ‘Knowing the Learner’).
- Plan and deliver activities that will enhance literacy and/or numeracy skill development, based on current theories of adult teaching and learning (‘Knowing What to Do’).
- Demonstrate the use of appropriate methods for assessing literacy progress within a programme (‘Knowing the Learner’)
- Demonstrate the use of appropriate methods for evaluating the effectiveness of planning, delivery and assessment of a programme for developing adult literacy and numeracy skills (Knowing What to Do)
It is important that a learning environment is created for participants where they are encouraged to:
- reflect systematically on their own practice
- critically analyse and challenge the assumptions underlying their professional practice
- contextualise their understanding by enquiring how the potential for change is constrained or enhanced by the organisation in which they work.
- the creation of a continuing professional development culture and lifelong learning within participants
Sustainability of Course
- Can the module be run repeatedly without major alteration (for efficiency), for several years? – probably
- Is there going to be enough continuing student demand to cover the costs? – Depends on the costs
- Will the fees/income cover the costs of operation? – Depends on the numbers of participants
- Do you know the real costs of operation? – Mainly the facilitators time (quantity still unknown)
- Is the teacher workload realistic? Does it rely on enthusiasm and commitment? If so, what happens when that runs out or people move on? (There should be a number of qualified literacy and numeracy specialists in the institution to take over the role.)
- Can the module be taught without the original author? (Probably if there is a good platform for content)
- It is important to think about continued access to any linked learning resources and whether they are copyright cleared for the period. Is a continuing institutional subscription needed for any linked electronic materials? (Most national content is freely available and should be around for many years)
- How self-contained is your course? Is it connected to other courses that might change? Can you design your course so that it has no dependencies? (Very self contained)
- Where are the materials and supporting notes going to be stored? (Wikieducator, Moodle, national education websites)
- What arrangements do you have for course evaluation, and how does it feed back into the operation? (System of evaluation already in place for institution)
- What arrangements do you have for course maintenance and redesign? – (Part of a programme of study)
Three key considerations for the course:
- the design, delivery and organisation of information and content
- the design, organisation and management of student activities
- the interaction with students and adaptation of teaching activities to make learning possible.
Learners (participants) will be learning through experience based on the principles of adult learning.