This ends week 5 for those who are pacing themselves with the course schedule. Through this week we should have been considering the terms block training, blended learning, and part time learning. It is difficult to avoid online learning throughout all these forms, but that's the challenge - to consider this forms in their own right.

Terry Marler joined us through the week for a 10 minute lecture about the 20 years development of the Veterinary Nurses course. Terry talked us through the development of correspondence learning options for the course in the 80s and how they used to cut n paste handouts for the mail. Later they developed audio cassettes to compliment the print resources. Terry said these correspondence resources were very effective, and that the audio cassettes received very positive feedback. In the mid 90s, Terry and the team started digitising the resources and sending them on CDs. I'd imagine this would have created a bit of inconvenience for the participants as now they had to get access to a computer, printer and media player, where as before the materials were already printed, and the audio was on cassettes that could be easily played in the car etc. But Terry didn't mention anything about this, and obviously the CDs would have been making the preparation and distribution easier from the teachers point of view. Naturally, with everything digital, it was easy to go online and that is what they did - using the Polytech's Learning Management System (LMS) called Blackboard. I can't help thinking that the correspondence learning being offered provided more flexibility than the CDs and then the online. Someone asked about the sense of connection and learning community in those old days, Terry explained the use of teleconference and block training get togethers. I wonder what Terry would say? Were the good old days of cut n paste, audio cassettes, postal service and telephone conferencing more flexible for people? Surely more convenient at least? You can listen to Terry's presentation and subsequent discussion here. I've added that link to week 4 on the course wiki by the way, as Terry was talking mostly about distance, correspondence and online. (DARN IT! I just now checked the recording and it is incomplete. If you did manage to listen to what was there you can probably tell that the whole thing was a technical mine field. I will see if I can recover a full recording when I'm in at work this week and will update the wiki when that's done. Sorry about this, next time will be better as this time we had some real life issues impacting on our preparation).

So, lets see what the course participants have been up to this week. This is the exciting bit for me :) I open my RSS news reader, and check the folder called DFLP... wow! 26 new posts to read - some have been busy, some have 4 new posts! I was sad to see no new posts from the voyaging Odyssey.. could they have sunk off the coast of some distant island called Correspondence and Online? Lets hope not.

First up is Midwife Carolyn and her blog FLED. As always Carolyn is directing her own learning path and is exploring topics that she finds interesting and relevant. This is great to see, and certainly the quality of her posts are strong with links out to good information. Carolyn has put out two excellent posts this past week. One on connected learning, another on learning communities. While I have personally found a lot in Carolyn's posts, I would like to see her delve into the weekly topics more - not so much because we said so, but because I think they will help us remain in the focus of the course and give us common themes to potentially discuss. It may be that Carolyn is still getting ready to post on week 5's theme of part time, block and blended however. Even though Carolyn's interest in connected and networked learning is offering us some very exciting possibilities (which we will be looking at in more detail next week), this week's focus is on methods and designs that can help us get to were Carolyn wants to be :) Good work though Carolyn, I hope you are not feeling held back?

Alli B (not to be confused with AliG.. I think) has stuck very close to the week 5 topic questions with her post Wk5 DFLP. Curiously, Alli has left off any mention of the reading for this week. and response for week 5 I hope it wasn't lost in the post as can sometimes happen when doing fancy cut n paste work in your blog. Alli has chosen to focus her historical investigation on the University of Worcester. With some heavy lifting from Wikipedia and the University's website, Alli is showing us just how much this institution has expanded. Alli then reflects on her own experiences studying there, with an interesting account of how the qualifications she obtained there were not recognised by NZ immigration and she was forced into further study. That there touches on another very important issue for flexible learning design - especially for courses that are relevant to international occupations and so immigration (that's just about everything these days isn't it?) What can we do as flexible learning designers to help ensure recognition across boarders? In earlier posts Alli poses some equally important questions relating to distance learning, and as we can see in her post DFLP Wk4, she is itching to start designing her course :) Some great issues and considerations there Alli. I hope we can challenge and stretch your thinking on all this in your time with us here.

Megan over at Nutrition Matters is also talking from an interesting personal perspective with experiences that prove valuable for framing a self directed study i this course. Megan rightly points out that the Polytechnic is more explicitly developing flexible learning opportunities than it has perhaps in the past, but I would have noted the fact that night classes were the original conception of training in the early times of the Polytechnnic. I reckon that's pretty flexible for many still! But you're right Megan, we have come a long way since. Megan has also posted the beginnings of some ideas for teaching Nutrition and thinks that distance nd correspondence via online would be just as effective as face to face. It isn't often I hear a lecturer say this, so its great to see Megan ready to at least consider ideas. Megan has clearly had some valuable experiences with Christchurch and Massey. I was particularly interested in the Christchurch model. It would be great to see some hyper linking out to references and other things that might be informing your thinking and inquiries Megan. Just something to give us a bigger picture of where you are at. Keep it up, good to see you're with us.

I've noticed that comments from other participants on each others blogs has dropped off this week. This is unfortunate. In past courses, many gained a ot from the dialog following on from each others posts. It could be that the assigned readings and tasks are not stimulating enough, or are pacing us too slowly. If you have any feedback, ideas or requests on the course at any time, please feel free to write it to your blog and we will endeavor to immediately accommodate if possible.

continues to ask important questions. This time it is whether or not students and the general public are ready for flexible learning. As Alli B says, there is clearly a demand for flexible learning, but as Michelle points out, there is also not a demand. Michelle is talking about people who are used to the transaction model of learning.. people who have come to rely on teachers setting tasks and deadlines. In Michelle's experience these sorts of people are rejecting the forms of flexible learning being offered so far (such as online). Michelle even goes so far as to suggest that students take something like this DFLP course! or any general learning how to learn course might do, so as to prepare them for the responsibilities of flexible learning. I think this problem is age old and the diversity of peoples needs would no doubt be the reason why we have had the industrial strength model of teaching and learning to work with ll through the 20th C. Catering for people diversity, within industrial education will continue to be a frustrating challenge, and I think we have to be very careful with things like online learning and single methods for more than a single person. We need to be careful that by servicing one person (or 10) that we are not alienating another (or 10) by introducing unnecessary stresses and requirements such as learning computers and Internet-ing. This is not suggesting that we don't use online learning methods, just that we be careful and critical of what form that takes and how we use it. So far I'd say, not good. Looking forward to more good questions and investigation from Michelle.

Chef over at Flexible Frying is also having a veteran style rant ;) about kids these days and is considering a noticeable decline in fundamental skills and literacies in the student intake. It is hard to say if this is correct or not, and a disciplined investigation of what ever available stats and research would reveal only half truths (but might be worth doing for your area Chef). You wouldn't have to look far throughout the history of teaching discourse to see a long line of similar claims about kids these days. This is not to say what Chef is saying isn't important, but it is to ask what should be done about it? We could impose an idea of self discipline as Chef suggests (Bad Lad's Army style perhaps?), or we could continue to experiment with creative ways of working with what we have. To be contraversial, perhaps industry standards will have to adjust - or Polytech training look to other niches, if NZ society and basic education has been let slip. We might look to the creative educational pursuits in developing nations for new ides on what and how we train people. Either that or we start importing labor to the standard we expect.

Speaking of imported labor, Cromwell chef Chris Smith has mentioned an increase in international course inquiries from people looking to fulfill immigration requirements. Is this an untapped and sure to increase flexible learning market? Internationalisation is another one of those strategic directions that Otago Polytechnic has nodded to, but only a few departments have taken it on.. Perhaps Chris will think of a way his courses could service the international interest. Chris' blog is another Chef bog and as so far demonstrated good use of a learning journal. It is self reflecting, open to ideas and thinking things through one step at a time, making for a coherent read. Good to have you on board Chirs and we're looking forward to a week 5 post.

So now, onto week 6. The next post to this blog will be details about week 6, but firstly I noticed that some of the participant blogs are not using hyperlinks or images in their posts - so I thought I'd leave a link to 2 videos that demonstrate how to do just that. Have a go, and be careful of copyright. Use the images that are free to reuse, its better for you in the long run, and always reference those you talk about or quote (images included) with a hyperlink.

  1. Making hyperlinks
  2. Finding photos licensed Creative Commons


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