topic 3: flexible learning in the digital age

Rationale:  This unit explores some of the drivers behind flexible, distance and online learning. The 21st century has seen a change in student demographic. The student body is increasingly diverse, for example, many students are older learners who may have work and family schedules as well as study commitments, attending traditional face-to-face classes in a college or university may not always be possible. Ubiquitous networked computer technology, the growth of the Internet and the widely use of personalised technologies as well as social media provide multiple-platforms for cooperation and co-learning has given increased opportunity to both students and educators, in a time of increasing uncertainty in the educational  landscape. Participants will be encouraged to explore some of the drivers behind these changes from a personal, institutional and international perspective and challenged to explore a variety of learning and teaching approaches that support aspects of FDOL.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this topic, you will have had the opportunity to

  1. explore drivers for flexible, distance and online learning
  2. discuss benefits and challenges of FDOL in your professional context
  3. review in PBL groups flexible, distance and online learning features of the chosen activity/resource 

Activities/tasks for all learners

  1. Google + FDOL community (new link): Discuss aspects of flexible learning in participants’ professional context with peers and comment on each others’ contributions.
  2. Twitter: During this second topic you are encouraged to continue to use your Twitter account. Remember to use the hashtag #fdol141 when tweeting. Why not share a resource you have found useful.
  3. Reflection:  Reflect on your digital teaching practice and opportunities for change. Focus in on flexible learning and flexible pedagogies and how these relate to your practice. Invite others to comment and comment on others work too.

Additional activities/tasks for learners within PBL groups


“I have signed up for this online course to do an undergraduate course that is not available near to where I live. I am also busy professional and have a family. I don’t really have time to waste. I have to say, the course is really challenging. I have no idea who my ‘classmates’ are, I seem to be working in isolation and my tutor seems to be a ghost. I have to wait days to hear from him to get any answer and it makes it extremely challenging to plan my time. I have only time on the weekends to do the assignments. Is this how it should be? There is some written guidance online but none of it is relevant to my situation… and some of it seems out of date too. Is anybody actually checking what I am doing? Not sure at all how I am doing and if I should continue to course. Very close to give up but I really need the qualification for my work!”

  1. Use the above scenario or contribute your own.
  2. Investigate the chosen scenario: Consider using the COOL FISh framework and adapt as it suits the group.
  3. Share you findings: At the end of this topic share your main findings in a creative way in the FDOL  community.
  4. Reflection: Reflect individually and in your PBL group on your learning.


suggested readings
1. History and heritage in distance education by Bill Anderson and Mary Simpson, available here
2. Motives for lifelong learners to choose web-based courses by Ron Mahieu and Simon Wolming, available here
3. Collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning) by QAA, available here
4. Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control – according to the research, by Marion Coomey and John Stephenson, available here
5. Flexible pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas by Alex Ryan and Daniella Tilbury, available here

additional resources
FDOL diigo group at check this learners’ generated collection and add further resources you find useful and link well with this unit. Remember to use tags and comment on resources shared by others.

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