How did you get on this week with the topic around access and equity? So far there are no posts on the topic, and a few on the previous week's topic about sustainability. Some people were not sure what was required - read on further to find out more.

Important notice: Fiona has organised a time for DFLP participants to get together over a coffee - Tuesday at 10 am in the Student Centre in the upstair mezzanine area. I will put a poll on the blog so she can get an idea of how many might show.

Or you can email: fionamainsATtekotagoDOTacDOTnz (words instead of symbols to deter Internet robots picking it up) to let her know if you are coming.

This last week, we had a response from Derek Wenmoth to last week's summary. A great example of how you can bring in perspectives from outside if you are open with your teaching and learning strategies - sustainable.

It looks like a few of you are unsure about what is required to answer the question on this week's topic about sustainability. "What is the equivalent transparent design for teaching and flexible learning?"

There is no right answer, and to answer this question you need to discuss the ideas you have already around sustainability, and also ideas from your reading. Then ask yourself, which aspects apply to your teaching and why? Also how could you apply them and incorporate sustainability into the design of your teaching approaches?

What sustainable design also means is how easy it is to maintain an educational practice or resource. Is it cost-effective (economic) when all factors are taken into account - teacher time, development time and materials, teaching hours, cost of technology etc.

For example, a course with a simple design which uses open and free resources, software and content, and includes well designed activities, content, relevant and accessible communication methods and does not cost "an arm and a leg" to deliver - is sustainable.

In contrast if $$$ are spent on a resource with poor educational value, and a teacher has to pour lots of time into the course - this is not sustainable.

There are lots of examples - perhaps you can think of some from learners' perspectives.

Chef in his post has provided us with a practical guide to sustainability which he has discovered. I like the item about workload. So so true...can the course be taught economically ie the true time allocated to it, when the teachers who originally developed and taught it move on? so much of teaching relies on good will....a bit like a "house of cards" - it will all fall down when the good will vanishes.

There is reference to "John Carey and Pam Wilson" - "A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education".

Susan in this week's post about sustainability has again posted an excellent exploration of a range of ideas from the literature, and has some discussion about the ideas presented in Dr Samuel Mann's presentation. I have to admit, I have not had time to listen as yet. :) She makes a good point about sustainable practitioners and the strategy and how heads of schools are implementing, "triple bottom lines for teaching and learning in their faculty".

I cannot understand how anyone can be a sustainable practitioner if they are not integrating open and networked approaches into their practices as professionals. Here are a couple of examples of unsustainable practices:
1. prepare lecture/learning materials in closed environments and not share them or have them in easily customizable formats.
- When someone leaves, the materials have to be re-created; this adds extra cost through human resourcing and time and development needs.
- everyone "re-invents the wheel" all the time.

2. several courses teach the same topic.
- each lecturer has to spend time preparing materials, whereas if they were developed collaboratively, and shared, the effort and money saved could go into developing more professional and authentic materials.

Fled writes insightfully about Learning Management Systems and her post is an excellent discussion of sustainable versus unsustainable practices in education. "
I have become used to Blackboard. When everything is working well I have found it to be a good way of keeping in touch with students and delivering course material. However as I have become more familiar with the world wide web I start to see more and more the limitations in an LMS such as backboard."

Fled also mentions some reasons for more sustainable practices such as making resources open so students can continue to access them when their course of study has finished. Opportunities to interact with a wider group than just those in the course is also important. All this promotes life long learning.

Any other ideas about unsustainable practices?

Some other posts on previous weeks' topics and they make for interesting reading. For example:

Annalyn in her latest post has brought several ideas to our attention "in answer to the question ‘do we need more flexible learning’ or is all this choice a bad idea, - one needs to consider not only the focus on life long learning in relation to the global economy (for which flexible learning creates innovative learning opportunites) but also the diverse learning needs in relation to age cohorts and their differing approaches to digitally based technology. Only by taking these factors into consideration can flexible learning deliver the optimal learning experience."

See if you agree with Anna's discussion around too much choice, flexibility and learning preferences.

I particularly liked a couple of the characteristics she mentions in a list about mature learners from Bowman & Kearns (2007).
"- taking responsibility for learning and for sourcing learning which meets their needs, constraints and learning-style preferences.
- often independent learners - self directed and with a clear idea of their own purpose for undertaking training."

Remember it is not essential for you to post on your blog each week, and as independent learners, you need to find your style. Posts do help others in class to see how others' ideas are forming and can stimulate blog-to-blog discussion, but this may not be "your thing".

Perhaps some people prefer to do some reading and exploring at allocated times every week or fortnight, and write notes in a book. Or like to think through and synthesise some of the concepts around the weekly topics before making a post. This is fine. :) The schedule is a guide to the topics you need to investigate in order to get a good overall understanding about the principles of flexible learning. Once you have done this, you will be able to start thinking through some ideas for your flexible learning development plan.

Susan has written a very thought-provoking post about networked education on the Internet; you can read an excellent critique about some of Stephen Downe's writings; the idea of pulling people towards you (like a magnet I guess) happens when you communicate as an individual in real ways (the so-called "authentic voice"), which people can identify with and respond to in a connected way. Mark Prensky, George Siemens and Terry Anderson's ideas are interweaved well into a picture illustrating the dilemma of open and networked e-learning and formal education. Susan mentions that she has "more questions than answers about open and networked learning and I believe none of us have ever been the people our education system was designed to teach."

Is she right or is she wrong? What do you think?

A tip to help with your blog posts
In your posts you need to write about what you are reading and link it to your context/situation, ask your self why it is so (analyse) and then piece the chunks together to write about your own and others' ideas on the subject (synthesise).


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