A person who knows and is aware that he knows, is wise, follow him; A person who knows but is not aware that he knows, remind him; A person who doesn't know and is aware that he doesn't know, teach him; A person who doesn't know and pretends to know, is fool, leave him

Bless me in my undertakings Dear God, grant me victory and I shall shout your blessings for all to hear of your power!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kinds of learning flexibilty

Flexible learning is the movement away from a situation in which key decision about learning dimensions are made in advance by the instructor or institution, toward a situation where the learner has a range of options from which to choose with respect to these key dimensions (Collis & Moonen, 2001). It is concerned with providing learners with increased choice, convenience, and personalization to suit the learner interests. In particular, flexible learning provides learners with choices about where, when, and how learning occurs. In learning flexibility, learners are given the opportunity of choice in different aspects of the learning experience. It can be an option in course resources, types of learning activities, media to support learning etc.

According to Collis & Moonen (2001), institutions and learners are in need for flexibility in order to cope with the market force and the demand from the knowledge economy. However, there is no simple flexibility option to carry in practice. Thus, if institutions are to commit themselves to flexible learning, they have to make explicit choices of the flexibility dimensions that will be available to students. Currently five key dimensions/kinds of flexibility are identified; flexibility related to time, flexibility related to content, flexibility related to entry requirement, flexibility related to instructional approach and resources as well as the flexibility related to delivery and logistics.

1.1 Flexibility related to time

This refers to the movement from a fixed time to flexible time. It’s a situation where learners are able to choose the time for starting and finishing a program or a course. It’s also the freedom for learners to choose the time for submitting an assignment and interacting within the course. In this flexibility, learners can also determine the pace of studying and moments of assessment. Learners can assess their availability for the course or convenience of time in the course and make a choice of the right time they would like to perform a given learning activity.


From the perspectives of the instructor
The instructor is no longer bound to the university or school timetable instead; he can alter his time of working, responding to students late in the evening, at his home, with a cup of tea at hand. The instructor will not having a fixed time in a day, rather works freely through out the day (no fixed time for being in the office or in the classroom)
In general, if there is more flexible time for the learners, the instructor will also have more options on the time use.

From the perspectives for the learners
Students who perhaps have family and work commitments can benefit more from the freedom to organize their own times and way of studying.
The flexibility can lead to better learning outcomes, as learners get the instructor’s assistance any time they need it. A learner encountering any problem during the course of learning can just contact the instructor for details.

From the perspective of institution
The institution can free itself from the control of the students learning. Issues pertaining classroom learning may remain the responsibility of the students and the course instructors. Teachers and students organize their own learning schedules.


From the perspective of the instructor
There will be a time burden to the instructor, as he will be required to respond to students’ problem through out the day. The instructor maybe supposed to answer students’ questions from early in the morning to late in the evening.

From the perspective of the learner

Learners own choice of time, content, method, media, route, and pace will mean less chance of group interaction and peer-to-peer communication

From the perspectives of the institution
If students are to be promised time flexibility, it will be difficult for the institution to set a schedule for lecture and time-tabling of rooms. It will also be difficult for the institution to plan for the extra sittings of final examinations (when to be held, where and who to supervise)

2.2 Flexibility related to content

This refers to the movement from a fixed content to a flexible content. In this kind of flexibility learners are free to choose topics of the course, sequence of different parts of a course, orientation of the course (theoretical or practical), key learning materials of the course, assessment standards and completion requirements.

Learners have different interests and experiences; thus, in this flexibility learners can choose a topic in a course according to their interests. Learners can also make a choice of the sequence of the topics in the course (which topic to begin with and which should follow after). Also some of the learners are more interested in the practical works than theoretical works and vice versa; both can have a choice of what to do. Learners can also have a wider choice of the materials and modalities for assessment or completion standards of the course than a teacher making choice for them.

Advantages of flexibility related to content

From the perspectives of the instructor
The instructor will no longer be required to plan for the content or materials to deliver to the students, instead he will be required to respond and individualize. This may reduce the instructors’ burden of planning the learning program.

From the perspectives of the learner
Instead of being told by the institution or the teacher what to do, the learner becomes free to choose the variety of available options according to his interests and prior experience. The learner becomes more like a client in the supermarket, having all the choices available for him. Such a change can empower the learner.

From the perspectives of the institution
The institution may get more customers who are interested in part of the course or just some of the courses. Not all learners are interested to accomplish the whole thing provided in the course content. Thus those who are interested in parts of the content will be easily accommodated in the institution.


From the perspectives of the instructor
The more choices the learner has, the more demands and thus challenges there are for the instructor. Some combinations of options may not be compatible with each other by their nature. This will make the instructor to treat each case as individual case which will be a more burden to him. Also learners’ flexibility may require an imaginative and creative approach to course re-design, which is outside the scope of many instructors (relatively few people are innovators)

From the perspective of the learner
The availability of more options for a learner may sometimes confuse him rather than empowering him. Thus, may find that he don’t get the right course to opt especially if all courses are of interest to the learner.
The culture of which the learner is a part is not oriented toward the idea of learner choice, but instead expects the course provider to be responsible for pre-specified decisions about the course offering.

From the perspectives of the institution
With this kind of flexibility, it may be very difficult for the institutions in accrediting the learners. It may also be very difficult for the institution in planning for the students’ assessment in relation to what the students have covered.

2.3 Flexibility related to entry requirement

This refers to the movement from fixed entry requirements to the more flexible requirements. It may include the flexibility of the condition to participate in a certain course or program. Instead of the institution fixing the entry qualifications, learners themselves can do a self assessment and decide if they have a qualification for a given course. For example in the CIMA program there are variety of course in which learners have to choose by considering their own ability to pursue the course they choose.

Advantage of flexibility related to entry requirement

From the perspective of the instructor
It can simplify instructors’ work of grading or administering a placement examination for assessing the best requirement for the course as students themselves will be self-assessed for their qualifications in the course.

From the perspectives of the learner
Learners will have more independence or freedom to join any course on the basis of their interests and self determined requirements rather than institution’s decided-requirements. Thus all learners will have equal opportunity of attending courses that were previously considered for people of certain qualifications.

From the perspective of the institution

If the institution will not have a fixed entry requirement, and learner have a freedom to choose their entry requirements, many students will have opportunity of getting enrolled in the courses they feel to be competent with. In that way the institution may increase the enrolment number.


From the perspective of the instructor
The class may comprise of students with different academic abilities. And the more the variability of the learners, the more the burden to the instructor. Collis & Moonen (2001) argue that, instructors cannot handle what can amounts to individualized instruction because of time and also cognitive constraints if the number of learners increases.

From the perspectives of the learner
Not all learners want to make their own choices or be responsible for the quality of their choices. In this regard, some learners will experience some difficulties when trying to think of the best requirement to enable them to join a certain course.

From perspective of the institution
Students of low qualifications may choose to join some courses which they are not competent on them. This may cause complaints from instructors who feel change is being forced upon them or is coming too fast or not occurring as they feel it should. For example, if the instructors are experiencing difficulties in teaching some of the under-qualified students they might complain the institution.

2.4 Flexibility related to instructional approach and resources

This refers to the movement from the fixed pedagogy and resources to the more flexible pedagogy. In this kind of flexibility, learners are able to choose the kind of social organizations (whether face-to-face, group works or individual works). They can also choose the language to be used during the course (English or Dutch). In additional students determines the learning resources they would like to use in the course. They can propose for the modality of the resources, origin (instructor, learners, library or WWW). Further more, learners determines the instructional organization of learning. They can choose the type and time for assignment and also the monitoring process.

Advantages of the flexibility related to instructional approach and resources

From the perspective of the instructor
The instructor will be required to respond to the learners rather than planning and delivering. Since learners have already decided about the instructional approaches and materials, the instructor is almost liberated from planning for instructional process or searching for the teaching materials. The instructor can also have a wider choice of approaches, materials and learning settings for making all options available in response to the wishes of different students.

From the perspective of students
Presence of more flexibility gives students more independence in the learning. It enables learners to work on their pre-determined choices as well as making own decisions. This may act as motivation to the learners as they will be using materials, learning approaches etc, of their interest.

From the perspective of the institution
Better quality of results could be potentially achieved especially if the students will choose the most up-to-date learning resources and choose the best learning approaches. In addition, students will increasingly require educational programmes from the institution thus marketing it.


From the perspective of the teacher
Instructors cannot handle what can amounts to individualized instruction because of time and also cognitive constraints if the number of learners increases.

From the perspective of the learners
Many learners, who need to appreciate expert making choices for them, will not be able to make the right choices.
Also, giving learners their own choices of time content, methods, media, route, and pace will mean less chance of group interaction and peer-to-peer communications.
If a learner chooses to work in her own language and it is a language that others in her course do not speak, she cannot insist or stress on human-human interactivity, either real-time or asynchronous

From the perspective of institution
The institution maybe required to deal with complaints from students who may feel they are being forced to incur new expenditures for searching materials or learning resources. Also it may be costly to the institution in ensuring that all resources or materials needed by the students are available in the institution

2.5 Flexibility related to delivery and logistics

This refers to the movement from fixed place and procedures to more flexible location and procedures. Learners may have a choice of time and place where contacts with the instructor and other students, can occur. They also decide about the methods, technology for obtaining support and making contacts. Learners also choose the type of help they would like to get, communication available and technology required, as well as the location, technology for participating in various aspects of the course. In additional there will be a learners’ choice of the channels for course information, content, and communication.

In this type of flexibility, learners and instructors have a wider variety of ways of communication. It goes beyond the face to face interaction between students and instructor in the classroom. A learner has a freedom to choose the time and method of communicating with the instructor (ask questions) from his own location; home, Library, laboratory etc.


From the perspective of the instructor
As learners will be having more flexibility, the instructor may as well have more options. This means that the instructor will as well become more flexible, than having a tight schedule through which a given piece of work is supposed to be done. But the flexibility of the instructor will be limited by the students’ choices.

From the perspective of the learner
This provides a self-directed learning to students. A student can learn anything of his interest, from anywhere, at anytime. This brings a more responsibility to the learner as he will be supposed to learn anytime and anywhere.

From the perspective of the institution
Issues of time schedule and organization of learning will be left on the hands of the instructors and students. The institution’s responsibility can be that of supplying the learners and instructors with technical supports such as computers and internet.
Also the institution is likely to get complains from the students concerning the cost for technology. Especially those students learning from outside the campus may require an internet connected computer which maybe expensive to them. Also it can be expensive to the institution to fulfill all the learners’ needs in terms of facilities and learning equipment.


From the perspective of the teacher

Each combination of options may require some re-engineering of the course; economy of scale is not likely to occur. Personal and technical implications of many learner choices are much more costly than any course provider could support.
Also instructors do not have the time or resources to anticipate the permutations of options that a learner may choose and produce cohesive, good quality variations of courses available to reflect those options.

From the perspectives of the learners
Learning from ones choice of location may hinder learning to students who can learn better in a group setting.
It can be a learning barriers for students with limited knowledge in the use of technology especially information and communication technology (ICT).
The new choices that students may have in the process of learning, may also have new responsibilities
More flexibility brings with it more independence but also the need for more self-direction and more self-motivation, the traits which are not automatic in many learners.

From institutional perspectives
It can be difficult for the institution to plan a time schedule for the learning activities.
Also some logistical aspects can quickly become unmanageable. As such, planning for examination, supervision, classrooms, students handling in terms of registration and accreditation of students progress may all become difficult.

3.0 Conclussion

From the discussion above it can be found that the disadvantages of flexibility in learning, outweigh the advantages. What should be done then, do we need to continue with the flexibility in learning or we should abandon it? Collis and Moonen (2001) admit the fact that flexible learning is a complex domain and can be experienced in many different ways. Yet, Collis and Moonen call for increasing learning flexibility in schools. The idea of Collis and Moonen is based on the market demand and learner’s demands. But should we sacrifice the good of education with a fixed rules and regulation for the market demands? Some literature states that a school is a place where a child is natured from childhood to adulthood. If the learner will have all that flexibilities how will the school control his developmental process? There are still several questions concerning the value of flexibility especially when it comes to practical implementation of it.


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

1 comment:

Petra Fisser said...

Hi Ayoub,
Thanks for sharing your ideas about Flexibility! Very good that you have added an introduction and a conclusion/reflection.
You have made an extensive description of different kinds of flexibility options and you describe not only the advantages and the disadvantages in general, but also from different perspectives. I appreciate all the work that you have done and I am sure I'm able to use your information for my own purposes! However, you should consider whether you want to post such a long message on a weblog.. Quality or quantity... a difficult decision! ;-)