Evaluating the university-wide adoption of flexible learning practices
The majority of Australian universities have sought to use flexible delivery or flexible learning as a vehicle to achieve their teaching and learning goals. Flexible learning, at Griffith University, is an educational approach using a variety of student-centred teaching and learning methods, resources and flexible administrative practices that responds to the needs of a diverse student population, enabling them to achieve vocational and professional qualifications and the goals of a university education. This definition is necessarily broad because the implementation of flexible learning in specific teaching and learning environments necessarily adjusts to disciplinary requirements and the unique nature of that environment, e.g. access to resources and information technology infrastructure and the nature of the student cohort. The many ways in which flexible learning can be implemented provide a challenge for universities to quantify the extent to which flexible teaching and learning practices have been adopted in their subjects and degree programs. The process we have used is to survey all subject convenors to rate flexible practices in their subject according to defined dimensions. The dimensions of flexible learning (such as access and participation, progression and assessment) are derived from descriptions and examples provided in university policy and documentation. Levels (or degrees) of flexibility for each of these dimensions are described with concrete examples as illustrations to clarify distinctions between each level. Each dimension is described in terms of three levels. The descriptions and examples for each dimension are developed using a Delphi method involving groups of education designers and academic staff across all disciplines. The web-based survey instrument that we used enabled all subject convenors to rate their subject according to the defined dimensions of flexible learning and provide free text responses to justify their rating, to elaborate on their practices and to describe barriers or constraints (e.g. professional registration requirements). The outcome is a database that can be used to provide a school, faculty and university-wide snapshot of flexible practices in both quantitative and qualitative terms and can also inform future directions for wider implementation of flexible teaching and learning practices.
ASET and HERDSA (2000). Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society