Monday, October 3, 2011

Flexible Learning (in five W's and one H)

“Flexible” is a lovely word for me. When heard that word, some people may refer to a situation without any rule. No, it is not like that way. For me, being flexible means that I have enough space to adjust to any unexpected circumstances I face. Of course, some conditions should be applied for it. Let me say that there should be guidelines for being flexible. Otherwise, chaos and confusion will happen, and then ruin everything.

What is flexible learning? For the first time, I was not quite sure about the meaning. Then, after following Petra’s first lecture I got some insights. First, it is not just about the distance (Collis & Moonen, 2001). Flexible learning offers many opportunities related to the variety of learner needs, learning environment, and other aspects of learning. By doing flexible learning, it is hoped that learners could choose, as they desire, from a range of options determined in advance by the instructor or institution (Collis & Moonen, 2001). It is also reported that it can increase learning satisfaction levels of the learners (Eynde, van den, Newcombe, and Steel, 2007).

Second, there are more aspects of flexible learning. Based on the lecture, readings, and personal understanding, I list and describe some kinds of flexible learning by reflecting them on my own five W’s and one H. Also, I give some examples of web-based technology or application that supports flexibility.

1. When – Flexibility in TIME
This flexibility offers a choice to do learning activities in learners’ convenient time. They may have their learning schedule manageable and get the desirable knowledge.
This flexibility can be supported by:
- Database sites (e-journal) --> Picarta, Scopus, Web of Science, ERIC, UT Catalogue
- Blackboard -->
- Blogs --> http://www.blogger.com
- QR-codes  --> (generator)

2. What – Flexibility in CONTENT of learning materials and assessment
Collis & Moonen (2001) explained that this flexibility allows the learners to choose whether they wish the teacher or instructor to specify the content, content sequencing, content approach (theoretical or practical), and whether they prefer making their own choices, entirely or partially. And also, this flexibility provides the learners a wider choice of learning resources.
This flexibility can be supported by:
- Search engine --> internet explorer,
- Database sites (e-journal) --> Picarta, Scopus, Web of Science, ERIC, UT Catalogue
- Blackboard -->
- Blogs --> http://www.blogger.com
- QR-codes  --> (generator)

3. Where – Flexibility in LOCATION
Many learning activities can be also executed from any location outside of regular classroom or campus building. The learners may study at home without leaving their home activities. And also, for some employee distance learning is the best option because they can stay on their desks and do not have to travel if they have to attend a course.
This flexibility can be supported by:
- Database sites (e-journal)  --> Picarta, Scopus, Web of Science, ERIC, UT Catalogue
- Chat media --> MSN, Skype, Yahoo Messenger!, Google Talk
- Voice call --> Skype, Yahoo Messenger!, Google Talk
- Video call --> Skype, Yahoo Messenger!, Google Talk

4. With – Flexibility in TOOLS (technology)
Nowadays, technology is always referring to electrical advanced tools. If it is said so, then we do not have flexibility in this area. In my opinion, learners should be able to take advantages of any tools around them to support their learning activities.
I may gladly list many tools; both electrical and non-electrical tools that are supporting this flexibility. However, at this time, let me list only the web-based technology which is surely electrical.
- Internet connection
- PC
- Laptop
- IPad
- Smartphone
- QR codes

5. Who – Flexibility in LEARNERS’ prior knowledge
It is said “Education for all”. But, learners’ prior knowledge varies and some entry requirements are provided to ensure learners in the same prior knowledge level. In my opinion, it is only necessary for the higher education, not for basic (primary) education (K-12 grade). In primary education, this area should be flexible then the idea of “Education for all” can be reached.
For adult learning some flexibility can also be applied. For instance, the differences of learners’ prior knowledge in a language course may be handled well by using appropriate materials.
For the case above the flexibility can be supported by:
- Online dictionary -->
- online-translator -->
- Audio web-translator -->

6. How – Flexibility in METHODS (pedagogy)
For some, pedagogy is defined as “the art and science of teaching”. This term was used by Collis & Moonen (2001) to indicate the manner in which learning activities and environment is organised and implemented by the instructor in a course. There are many pedagogical approaches that can be used in a course with an individual responsible instructor.
The way of teaching in higher education is definitely different with the lower education. But, the idea of flexibility in methods, in my opinion, still remains the same. It is about allowing the learners to ‘enjoy’ the learning activities in regard to differences of their personal learning preferences.
Some example of technologies that support this flexibility:
- Video --> YouTube
- Wiki (for group project)
- Blog (for individual project)
- Emails (for giving or/and submitting assignment)
- Blackboard (for giving or/and submitting assignment)
- Online assessment (assessment application, voice or video call )

From the list above, it is revealed that many possibilities from web-based technology can be implemented to support the flexibility in learning. On the other hand, the implementation of flexible learning also brings many problems and challenges along (Collis & Moonen, 2001). Indeed, there is no flexibility option is simple to carry out in practice. The problems and challenges may emerge due to the complex context of flexible learning and also the gap between micro level and policy level.
However, the new direction has emerged by the flexible learning. It is promising not only for pedagogical research. But, it has benefited the current learning options available for students by utilizing new and emerging technologies (van den Eynde, Newcombe, & Steel, 2007).

That is my first discovery! :)


Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001, second printing 2002). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations. London: Kogan Page.

Dorrian, J., & Wache, D. (2009). Introduction of an online approach to flexible learning for on-campus and distance education students: Lessons learned and ways forward. Nurse Education Today, 29, 157–167.

van den Eynde, J., Newcombe, P. A., & Steel, C. H. (2007). Responding to learners’ need for choice: Exploring flexible learning modes with a view to creating an e-learning community In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007.


  1. Thanks for sharing your first discovery! :-)
    I like the way you organized this post: a nice introduction, an integrated way of explaining different flexibility opportunities and examples of technologies that can support flexibility and a reflective note at the end. Also very good that you used more than 1 reference. Thanks!

  2. Finally I got the "click" of how to write a so-called serious topic in my own style :) That's an important discovery of mine, Petra! :)

  3. Hi Bertha,

    I have some suggestions for you to make 5 W's and 1 H into 6 W's if you like.

    My suggestions are: Why, Way(s) (of teaching), wanted, WWW, Whole, which, work and wine (kidding).

    Keep on the good work! :)

  4. Hi, Christel!

    Correct me if I'm wrong, there are 10 W's in your suggestion, hahaha:))

    The 'W' I love most is the last one! :D
    Thanks for all W's, anyway.

    Success to you, as well!