In week 4, there have been a variety of opinions about distance, correspondence and online options for flexible learning, and a wide range of discussion. People have done well with placing the topic in their own contexts and workplaces. It is great to report, that the majority of people are now up and running with their blogs.

Remember you can study this course self-paced and keep an eye on what is going on. So we can get some interaction going, and there is a core group of you doing this already, please do make an effort to read at least two people's posts each week and comment on their ideas. Even if you are not posting to your blogs weekly, the ideal but not critical, you are best to keep your "toes dabbling in the water"by doing some regular reading or exploration and making notes - somewhere.

The postings in week 4 have got me going on scenario-based (also called problem-based) learning and assessment as a solution for practical courses where application of knowledge is so important. Read on and find out why..........

Alli in her post for this week, has provided us with some excellent discussion around options for Crime Scene examination training. There are links to definitions for distance, correspondence and online learning and lots of well considered issues and solutions. I really like the way Alli has organised her discussion under headings such as: Weaknesses / Threats, AND Strengths / Opportunities, with options for success under each of the headings. The discussion also highlights how important it is to consider things such as the relevant context for NZ - even though the UK and Australia are producing training packages in this area - new material does need to be produced for national use. Also the need to provide diverse training options when practitioners are very experienced, but may need to update their knowledge.

It appears that there is a real need for distance packages for learning about "crime scene examination, relevant to the NZ scene, with "on the job" learning opportunities, which require trainees to demonstrate critical thinking. I can see that the need for experiential learning lends itself well to scenario-based learning packages. My suggestion is that this would also cater to the more experienced forensic experts who may need to learn about current techniques and trends.

Chef has made some interesting points in his post around ensuring students are getting proper feedback on their learning. Also he mentions how important not to lose the "craft of teaching" - I wonder is this diminished if students become too autonomous? Also he mentions that self-paced and autonomous learning is a good idea, but it must be well supported to ensure people are using correct and safe techniques, and understand the principles of the topic they are studying. This idea also relates to Carolyn's discussion about the need for face-to-face teaching in midwifery, and the requirement for " professional supervision of clinical practice" to ensure students are safe to practice. You may like to comment on Chef's statement about the dangers of too much digital learning in a practical course - what is ideal and what is dangerous?

I liked Chef's ideas about an "automated practice system" of quizzes and questions which people could try out in their own time rather than having to come in and do them are very relevant. One of the reasons people give for not doing this is trust - are the student's actually doing the work? Where grades are awarded, industry, has to be convinced that strict exam conditions are being met. My suggestion is that perhaps in FL we also need to redesign assessments so that only the people who have done the work and the practice would actually be able to pass.

Michelle asks some very important questions in her blog, around whether students are ready to be self-directed, and while they need flexibility so they can fit in study with life commitments - are they actually ready to do without "rigid timetables"? Also she touches on how distance learners have a high drop-out rate. She also mentions how the expectations of students about full-time courses can be mislead, e.g, the expectation that the hours when they attend classes is all the learning they need to do in a course, and their inability to be self-directed. Michelle's suggestions that students find out how to be a flexible learner is a very important point. Do you agree?

Athena on her Odessey journey sounds like she has been too long at sea and needs an "ahoy how are you going me maties?" call across the waters from some of the local tribes. Her scrolls are very intriguing to read. Also some of her crew members on the DFLP vessel might like to toss her a treat....sharf fin soup perhaps or a meaty tuna steak. Yes the hard copy reading ("scroll from the sages from the Commonwealth of Learning") is on its way - apologies for the delay....the carrier pigeons got side-tracked to South America and is battling storms around the Cape. Keep a lookout in the crows nest, it wont be long. :)

Athena makes an excellent observation about the limitations of restricting the learning of our students by keeping them captive and safe in a protected environment for three years (degree), and then releasing them into the world unprepared and with no professional contacts. "If we shared our crew to be on different ships taking similar journeys they can enrich their experience. How to do so is the challenge."

Perhaps some of you have some ideas about this? How important is it to expose students to professional networks early on during their study?

A good idea in my mind, and it would help people be more confident in their practice knowing they had a place to go and debrief and ask questions. People may be interested in exploring the concept of communities of practice. Etienne Wenger's website is a good starting point.

Susan has some interesting ideas in her latest post about distributed learning and flexible learning options for introducing learning about music to students. I agree it is necessary to know who is likely to participate - know your learners.

in her week 4 post, mentions the necessity for different models of learning depending on the type and stage of learning, i.e., instructivist for technical subjects in first year and constructivist later on when learners have some knowledge, e.g. post-graduate. She provides a great list of factors which may influence the type of educational approach, and also mentions ideas by Annand (2007) about communities of learning. It is also good to see Carolyn's example relating to distance education for midwifery.

I wonder what you all think - is Annand correct in his thinking that all will be okay as long as you enable one type of interaction out of - student-student, student-teacher or student-content?

Think about self-paced learning options and communities of learning - which model would suit your students and can you do both in parallel?

Scenario-based or problem-based learning
In the examples provided by people this week, there is definitely a place for scenario-based or problem-based learning to provide students with a range of integrated and authentic situations - a much more holistic approach and one which could better prepare them for the "real world". What are your thoughts about this?

If anyone is interested, there is a good article on scenario-based learning - Kindley, R. (2002). Scenario-based elearning: a step beyond traditional eLearning. At: Learning Circuits. Some software called SBL (was PBL) Interactive can be used to create learning objects. It used to be free now it looks like you have to purchase it from a dedicated website - SBL Interactive. It is reasonably priced, but it was developed for the tertiary sector with Ministry of Ed, NZ not sure what happened there.

If you are interested in scenario or problem-based assessment, you may be interested in the article: Nowak, J. & Plucker, and Jonathan. (1999). Assessment in problem-based learning. Legobots, Indiana University. At:
The authors make the point that it is no good providing problem-based or hands-on activities during a course if you are still assessing using multiple choice or short answer question exams.

What are your thoughts on scenario or problem-based learning and assessment?


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