Flexible learning and Flexible delivery

RSC London was invited to give a brief input on the theme of flexible learning and flexible delivery at the Flexibilities workshop at the Linking London conference on May 24th.

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So first of all we thought what does flexibility mean? For curriculum designers and practitioners it can mean increased choice, convenience in terms of anywhere, anytime as well as personalisation to suit individual needs. For the institution, this means making savings, improving agility through good business processes, integrating systems and effective management as well as sharing of data and services. But what brings the two together? For instance, in the Linking London flexibilities workshop, we looked at the APLS and CATS systems. Both of which can be seen as examples of ‘tools’ that enable flexibility, as they validate different experiences and pathways that go beyond the standard linear route of qualifications and progress. What they do is put the learner in the center and work around them by recognizing that they come in many varieties with different learning and work experiences. In the same way, it could be argued,that an institution,in its drive to improve overall institutional agility, should also try to fit around the learner rather than the learner fitting into its pre-set structure. But is one of the biggest challenges in achieving this fluidity the relationship between the infrastructure and curriculum? Are rigid structures and systems impeding an effective response to flexible delivery?

Anecdotal experiences as well as reports have frequently stated that this might be the case. For instance ‘The use of e-resources’ (Karina Berzins and Anthony Hudson UoE) is a report based on a survey carried out among Linking London partners in 2011.One of their main findings was that despite the fact that there was a lot of good practice and innovation going on in all areas, from administration through to teaching and learning, it was often found that the most innovative uses and users were not supported centrally.This was mostly because there was a lack of communication between IT services and the staff who were developing e-learning.

So what can Jisc do to support this, and other challenges, in delivering flexibility?We wanted to present a snapshot by looking at some examples,which by no means cover all that Jisc has to offer.The first examples were these Jisc reports on organisational infrastructure’Efficiency and Flexibility; Getting fit for a changing funding environment as well as Flexible service delivery;both briefing papers look at different ways, including case studies, that work on a flexible model that is agile and able to respond quickly to meet changing needs.Equally importantly there is curriculum design and delivery;this also needs to develop in a consistent way to deliver flexibility.The Design studio kit is a tool that can help with this, as it is thorough planning and communication, across all sections (and within them!) that is key.Then, we come to the learner who needs a clearly signposted learning journey yet at the same time expect it to be flexible enough for them to be able to choose what they want to use and how they want to use it. So going beyond the standard VLE by bringing in different tools and creating a personalised experience is something that is looked at in Extending the learning environment.Finally, for a truly inclusive learning experience Techdis is an advisory service that develops and advises on best practices in the use of technology for accessibility. Furthermore, it also advises the learners themselves to expect their learning providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments‘ in terms of  the technology related support provided.