Flexible learning

Todhunter’s article uses the context of the university sector. How does his summary of the definitions and criteria relate to your sector of education? What will be your definition of flexible learning?

Todhunter (2013) quotes the Australian National Training Authority’s definition of flexible learning: “anticipating and responding to [students’] ever-changing needs and expectations, thus expanding their choice in what, when, where, and how they learn” (Backroad Connections Pty Ltd, 2005, p. 3).

It is described as a philosophy, not a technology, although online/e-learning technologies are important in flexible learning.

He finds that in reality it mostly refers to how students interact with staff, resources, and other students and found little flexibility in terms of when and how they study; their choice of courses; length of study, or modes of assessment.

Flexible learning most closely resembles individualised or personalised learning in primary and secondary education although this is more about the teacher tailoring the curriculum to her specific students than choice. This sector continues to group students by age, and the curriculum, although offering some flexibility in delivery, is increasingly standardised across the country. At the culminating point, VCE here in Victoria, it is highly regulated by VCAA, particularly in regard to assessment. An interesting exception to the general rule is Templestowe College in Melbourne which has introduced radical changes to create flexibility for students. There are no year levels and no compulsory subjects instead personalised programs are tailored to each student. Enrolments have doubled in five years and student satisfaction and engagement are very high.

Approaches such as project-based learning, challenged-based learning and inquiry-based learning all offer students flexibility in what and how they learn and are most successful when well supported and scaffolded by teachers. I believe all curriculum requirements could be met in a well-supported inquiry/challenge/project program but most schools, my own included, continue to separate English and mathematics in the primary levels and teach all subjects as separate entities in the secondary sector.


Todhunter, B (2013) LOL — limitations of online learning — are we selling the open and distance education message short? Distance Education, 34(2), p.232-252


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