Thursday, 12 December 2013

Activity Five

Student Driven Exploration of Anesthetic Monitoring Using Gamification

By Denise Forbes


A significant number of students in the course, 5158 Anesthesia and Analgesia, have difficulty interpreting the factual information taught during this course, which limits their ability to evaluate the actual condition and well-being of their anaesthetized patient when performing their assessment of anesthetic monitoring, the culmination of their coursework at the end of the year.  This is demonstrated by students submitting anesthetic records and videos in which they failed to identify or explain patient abnormalities, or did not modify their anesthetic protocol in response to anesthetic complications.  As this is a key component of performing well as a qualified veterinary nurse anesthetist, failing to develop this ability to think critically and analyze the patient’s situation indicates that a core portion of the learning outcome desired of this course is being missed.

To facilitate a greater degree of student critical thought and better practical application of the principles of anesthesia, which in turn would reduce patient risk and improve the probability for favorable outcomes with anesthesia, the desirable goal would be to get the students thinking at a much earlier date about the meaning and interpretation of anesthetic monitoring information. This may be accomplished by introducing case studies, based off of real life anesthesia cases, for the students to work through in the classroom over a period of time.  Incorporation of these case studies into a game format online, or gamification of this learning process would improve student engagement and use of these case studies. The need to interpret data within the game to achieve high scores or win, would in turn improve the interpretive anesthesia monitoring skills of the student.

The Horizon Report (2013) identifies games and gamification as a mid-term horizon, with an expected increasing use within the next 2-3 years.   Games may be full immersion in nature where the student creates an avatar to represent them in a fully developed virtual environment.  Gamification is defined as using or adding game-like components to a learning experience or educational delivery format.  Both ideas have the potential to increase student engagement with the course material and participation in the learning process, provided that they are well designed.  Poorly designed games would also have the risk of alienating students and discouraging further participation.  It would therefore be critically important to devise well thought out and developed games before initiating them.  Gamification, however, could be instituted in an incremental fashion by first introducing elements of a game in the classroom, even before transferring it to a computer or internet platform.  In fact, implementing portions of the game in the classroom might serve to weed out poorly designed ideas, or those which were ineffective in stimulating the students’ interest. Effective game ideas could then be expanded upon or digitally enhanced and pieced together to develop an in depth and extensive learning game.


A small group of students could be given an online access to a set of anesthesia record documents from a real case seen in practice and the objective would be to be able to fully interpret every detail of this record by the end of the working time frame.  Smaller groups would be best, in fact it might be ideal to involve only 2 students per case study so that both students would feel some responsibility to contribute to the work, and students would be less likely to opt out of participation as they might if they were part of a larger group.

Various copies of anesthetic records of a real patients could be modified to look like a kind of treasure map.  .At first glance, the document would seem to contain a lot of foreign looking material because students are not familiar with most of the terminology or abbreviations used in anesthesia, or with how the graphs work.  Students would have to decipher (interpret) different portions of this record during their progress in the course.  Teams could be awarded a gold doubloon for each item that they correctly deciphered (interpreted), with a scoreboard for all of the participating teams being posted in the online classroom. Each time a team completes a task of analyzing a graph or chart of monitoring information, they will receive a gold doubloon and move forward on the results tally.  When all graphs or charts are correctly interpreted, the first team to complete the task could be given a special award of winning the treasure chest.   During their participation in the game, students would have to source information to correctly analyze the data.  For example, one area on the document would delineate a graph of SpO2 recordings during the anesthetic period.  Students would have to research, what is SpO2, what is considered a normal SpO2 during anesthesia, and what does it mean if SpO2 becomes abnormal as well as what should be done about an abnormal SpO2.  Picture representations of associated items, such as a pulse-ox monitor which measures SpO2 could be located nearby for the students to click on, and access information about this machine, what it records and why. Links to additional sources of information about related topics would also be located nearby each chart or graph.  The treasure map design would encourage students to progress along a “path” of learning encountering each of the important topics of monitoring along the way.  Completion of each task would be required before the team is allowed to progress to the next station so that the learning would progress in a logical fashion to encourage a sequence of actions on the part of the learning to be performed in real life when they are monitoring a live patient.

Gamification of analyzing the anesthetic record would increase the participation of the students because of competition to complete the tasks and a desire to win the game.  Students would need to interpret the information correctly to choose the correct answer, or give the correct response as to what action should be taken. The format of a competitive game, in which the students can proceed at their own pace, but are encouraged to move forward by following the path by obtain smaller rewards progressing towards a goal of treasure at the end would enhance the student’s desire to participate, and to complete the program. Working in groups of two would encourage collaborative learning and participation. 

An second phase, or alternative game format might be a more real life (SIM) game where students have to actually monitor a patient, and react to programmed changes in the patient’s status, in order to keep them anesthetized and alive through a surgical procedure, in the face of real time difficulties.  The reward for this game might be a scoring of the students’ anesthetic death rates and a ranking based on this figure.


Initially, if only the smaller portions of the game were presented in the classroom, only a few props and some real anesthetic patient records would be required.

The requirements for progressing to a computer game technology would be that the students would need to have access to computers which they could use in a shared participation fashion. This could be achieved by allowing students to bring their own computers to class and by having WiFi internet access for students in the classroom.  As a large percentage of our students already own laptop computers, it is anticipated that over fifty percent of students would be able to bring a laptop to class, so teams of two students sharing would be feasible. The other requirement would be for development of an attractive game format that functions well, which would require some technological expertise.


The use of games or gamification of course material offers several advantages over the standard lecture format of delivery.  One of the most significant advantages is that there is a high potential for encouraging increased student participation in the learning process at a much earlier time frame in the course.  Games have demonstrated the ability to increase participation by the use of rewards and recognition for achievement. As discussed in the Horizon Report (2013), games and gamification changes the chore of studying into the challenge of solving a problem. They encourage exploration of the subject material to learn how to make something work, or solve the puzzle.  They encourage progression along a learning pathway by awarding points or achievement levels, and by offering a goal or prize to be won. The popularity and effectiveness of self-directed study in an on-line learning environment is now being demonstrated by the use of reward systems such as Mozilla’s Open Badge Project as discussed in Oblinger (2012), which allows participants to collect badges for obtaining levels in any registered organization’s game or incentive program. Participants can even build a portfolio of their awards, which might be useful tool for an educational program with many courses or topics of knowledge.

Gamification also encourages and rewards self-directed study because the student is positively rewarded by choosing which direction to progress, and by exploring down various pathways which lead to additional challenges and the rewards of achieving success with each challenge.  Students with difficulty in a subject have the opportunity to continue exploring or attempting the challenge until success is achieved.  They are not penalized for unsuccessful attempts, but redirected towards new paths of additional learning.


A poorly designed game could produce quick rejection by today’s students, particularly those with experience in sophisticated, elaborate virtual worlds such as those in high tech, well developed games that are available today, such as World of Warcraft. 

The initial cost of developing a game, especially a well-designed, elaborate SIM environment could easily be prohibitively expensive.

It might be difficult to be sure that all course requirements are included and achieved unless the game was one facet of a multidimensional learning approach.

References:  NMC Horizon Report 2013 Higher Education Edition


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Task 4:
Describe an example of teaching and learning in your context where you believe that access to learning may be compromised or inequitable.
         Many of our students in the School of Veterinary Nursing have limited literary and numeracy skills.  These students are not utilizing a large proportion of the course materials provided because they either cannot read them at all, or the materials are too difficult for the student’s level of literary proficiency, or they are not receptive to this format of information delivery.  Quite a few of the students with known literacy limitations either never access these resources at all, or only briefly glance through them.  In fact, some students have expressed frustration after examining one set of course notes, finding them too difficult or unappealing, and subsequently never use the course notes as a resource for learning again.  A recent review of the full time CVN students’ activities revealed that over on third of the students had never opened their course notes on Moodle for 5200 Fluid Therapy, and an additional one third has only looked at the notes briefly. A majority of students did access the demonstration videos on Moodle, however.  This implies that a significant percentage of our students are relying mainly on attendance at lectures and practical demonstration, in real life or on videos.  An evaluation of course assessments also revealed that the vast majority of students are capable of performing the practical tasks associated with Fluid Therapy, but about two thirds did not fully understand the underlying deeper principals of fluid therapy.  This was exemplified by a Not Yet Competent scoring of nearly two thirds of the students on an assessment which required the students to perform full fluid monitoring of a hospitalized patient over a period of at least two consecutive days.  The students were successful at recording the factual data well, such as physical parameters of the patient, but were unable to interpret their results adequately to recognize dangerous warning signs of fluid overload, or severe dehydration.  These results exemplify the difficulty of trying to ensure deeper understanding of complex advanced scientific material to incoming students with limited background preparation, limited reading comprehension, and a variety of learning styles.
Reflect on factors of diversity associated with your students that impact on equitable access to the environment and their success. This may relate to the subject, resources, technologies, learning culture, socio-economics, ethnicity, assessments, learner motivation, engagement and abilities etc.
          Students with limited literacy skills may come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Although cultural differences may be one factor in the incidence of illiteracy rates, there may be many other factors such as socio-economic, regional educational opportunity variances, immediate family values, or even gender issues which contribute to the student’s previous education and learning, or its limitations. In addition to the actually level of literacy, students may have impediments to learning by reading the written word, due to their inherent learning styles.  For some students, reading the material in a text or the course notes has a very limited effect on their grasp or retention of that material.
          Veterinary Nursing has a tendency to attract young students, often with limited scientific or mathematical background, because the image of a veterinary nurse is often unrealistically that of a person who loves to work with and care for soft furry small creatures rather that someone who needs to possess a significant amount of medical knowledge and training. The students often enter the program naively believing that the veterinarian will be responsible for all the medical decisions, and the nurse will only need to perform simple tasks to care for the animal such as give an injection, or dress a wound. The sudden realization about the amount and level of scientific and medical knowledge required and used daily by a veterinary nurse comes as a shock especially to those students with a limited prior education.
          Learning styles described by Honey and Mumford (2000) may have an important degree of influence on the overall development of a learner by affecting or interfering with their individual progress on the learning cycle, and therefore may be an important factor in the lower starting performance levels in reading comprehension of some students.  Are the students with poorer literary skills simply students with learning styles which did not promote their use of written material from an early age? Perhaps students with poor reading comprehension are displaying the result of an inherent natural tendency to avoid unpleasant or inappropriate learning experiences that did not match their learning style. Students displaying limited reading comprehension may be, in reality, students whose learning style is more of an Activist or Pragmatist described by Honey and Mumford (2000), who learn by doing, or by interaction or role playing with others.
          Even the different personality types described by Carl Jung, as cited by Donald Clark (2004) might be influential in forming a student’s preference for certain types of learning experiences, which therefore would affect their relative performance, based on how well their personality fit with the teaching formats offered to them. 
Discuss what your learners might need to access the learning environment more fully, and what you can provide.
          We have clearly identified that some type of barrier or resistance exists between a large portion of our students and utilization of the resources, especially those in written form.  Therefore, by extension, we need to ask, how can we reduce that barrier to our students, or provide an alternate route around the written material that will encourage our students to learn the theory behind the tasks which they will be performing in practice.
What are the barriers?
          Some current barriers to accessing the course materials include illiteracy, poor reading comprehension, lack of previous scientific education, limited computer skills, and limited computer access, or that the presentation format of the written material is not attractive, or interesting to the student because it does not match well with their learning style.
What support is needed?
          To improve the student’s opportunity to learn, several approaches might be taken simultaneously.  To address the barrier of limited computer access, student computers might be made available in the classroom, or in a separate open access study room.  It might even be possible to rent or loan an I-pad or laptop to a student for the duration of their program with a refundable deposit.  Computer skills might be improved by offering optional computer skills training sessions, and Moodle utilization training sessions might be offered in person or via Adobe Connect or similar on-line interactive community access programs.
          To improve student literacy, especially with regard to reading comprehension of scientific material, we might offer optional terminology classes. Additionally, we might challenge the students with a medical reading comprehension assessment early in the program to identify which students might require more assistance to understand this terminology.  It might be advantageous to offer a pre-requisite reading comprehension course(s) for students with significant limitations. Identifying students with specific needs or difficulties would offer an opportunity to address those needs at an earlier time, but controversially, it might have some negative effect by labeling students as less likely to succeed. These course improvements are directed primarily at addressing the areas in which the student has shown previous difficulty, but are approaching it from the same perspective as traditional teaching methods.
          We might also improve delivery of the course material by offering a wider variety of formats of the material, such as listening texts (read aloud), or a podcast of lecture sessions, or interactive game formats, which could be used by students with alternative learning styles.  Alternative learning formats might be designed such as interactive oral sessions of some kind or cooperative problem solving sessions. These options may offer new approaches which may be better suited to the diversity of learning styles of our students, and potentially may open new pathways to learning which the student may not have been afforded access previously.

Honey, P. & Mumford, A. (2000). The learning styles helper's guide. Maidenhead: Peter Honey Publications Ltd

Clark, D. (2004). Concepts of leadership. Retrieved from

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Task 3: Analysis of Two Courses with Respect to Flexibiltiy
     In this task, I have taken two different courses available at Otago Polytechnic and will discuss their degree of flexibilty.  I also produced 2 charts, one for each course, based on the detailed chart from Casey and Moonen (2004) describing all the specific areas of flexibility, but I have been unable to copy them intact into this blog.  The format changes when copied.  I will attempt to find another route to provide access to these charts delineating each specific degree of flexibility.

Course One: VA704001 Otago Polytechnic School of Art, BVA Professional Practices
This is a course that I do not teach but my daughter is enrolled in.  The personal perspective in the reflective portion of the analysis are based on her perceptions of the course and her thoughts on how other students in the course percieve the degree of flexibility of the course.

Description of the Learning:

            In the Bachelor of Visual Arts program at Otago Polytechnic, the course BVA Professional Practices is a course required for completion of the BVA program.  It is taught to students on-site, in the classroom at a set time of one term, Thursday mornings from 9:30am until 12 noon.  In addition to class attendance, students are expected to read a number of articles from a selection of articles provided on the course Moodle web page.  This analysis is presented based from the viewpoint of an enrolled student and data available on Moodle.

            The students in the class consist of a wide range of ages from age 20 to age 70, but the majority of students average in their mid-twenties.  There are 66 students enrolled in the course with approximately 5-10% international students from a wide variety of countries, and a small percentage of Maori or Pacific Island students.  The remainder of students are primarily New Zealanders of European descent.

            Attendance in the class is not mandatory except for international students, but role is taken.  Grading is on a letter grade basis requiring a C grade or better to pass.  Assessments consist of four 25 point assignments during the term.  There are two writing assignments.  The first is a 300 word short essay about the students own work, but relating it to an article they read from the Moodle course site.  The second writing assignment consists of two parts: a 150 work artist description, and a 150 word project description about their end of the year art display project they are making.  The third assignment is to photograph their own art work and provide labels for the art yearbook. And the final assignment is to put together a proposal for an exhibit of their work that they would be able to submit to a real art gallery of their choosing.  This proposal would include a CV, writings about their work, photos of their work, a display plan including floor plans.  The due dates for each of these projects are set at the beginning of the course and extensions are only granted for short periods of time for extenuating circumstances. My analysis of this course is largely related to descriptions and viewpoints expressed by my daughter who is currently enrolled in the course.

Analysis of the Learning:

            Using the Collis and Moonen (2004) table of flexibility to assess this course, one can see that it scores very low on degree of flexibility that is offers.  Most of the flexibility lies with the tutor’s ability to choose the material presented, or the orientation of the course.  There is almost no flexibility for the students because the course class time is set and specific, there are a limited number of articles from which they must choose to read or apply to their assignments, and they only have real flexibility in which gallery they select to use as the basis for their final assignment. Accordingly, relative to the range of Five Dimensions of Flexibility discussed by Casey and Wilson (2005), the course is currently flexible only in the areas of Content and Instructional Approaches and Resources, which are centred side of tutorial flexibility.

Reflection of the Learning:

This limited degree of flexibility is problematic for many students because they may have personal concerns (illness, family matters, or other issues) which interfere with their ability to attend the class lecture.  Once the lecture is missed, there is no opportunity for them to make it up or obtain the information that was provided at the lecture.  The limited number of articles from which to choose for reading to relate to their own work makes it difficult for some students whose own work may be of a type or nature that it does not relate well to the material provided.  This can be frustrating to the art student is very innovative in their work.  My daughter relates that there is very little information on how or where to obtain any additional resources on the course topics.  The lectures often involve guest lecturers whose styles of delivery and topics of discussion vary greatly, so that some lectures may be dull and seem unrelated to information relevant to the students’ needs for the future, of presenting or selling their works, or they may be very interesting and stimulating and encourage the students to go forward in perhaps a new direction.  Some students in the class have stated that they have had difficulty obtaining appointment time with the tutor to discuss their individual work and that their appointment times are sometimes cancelled when they arrive due to the tutor being too busy to see them.  This limits the degree of flexibility even further to contact primarily through interaction during class time.

It would be helpful to profile the students to determine what their needs and preferences were to devise strategies to adapt the course to best fitting those needs and to potentially expand their interest, engagement and depth of learning from the course.

            Apply the principle of the four main building blocks of flexibility discussed in Casey and Wilson (2005) the course could be improved by utilizing technology ( videotaping, Adobe online, podcasts, etc.) would allow the students flexibility in the time which they engage in the learning, as well as the sequence of the learning.  Another example of changing a building block, Strategy, could be adapted to allow students to be the developers of their learning progression by being partners with the tutor, in the planning of their course assignments and assessments to achieve the objective learning outcome.

Taking Action:         

The degree of flexibility could be improved for this course by offering a number of different alternatives to class attendance at a fixed time.  To improve the course in line with Casey and Wilson’s recommendations for change, the course could be altered to allow the student to have more autonomy in developing their own resources for learning. The resources and materials could be expanded to be open-ended allowing students to choose readings from any source to relate to their own work.  Perhaps the classes could be videotaped so that students who were unable to attend, who have an opportunity to watch the class at another time.  Alternatively, the class could be offered with an online component as an alternative such as Adobe Connect, or Skype meeting. Other forms of assessment could be included to allow more variety to the ways in which the students present their own artwork.  Art is by its very nature diverse as it is a form of self- expression.  As the artists themselves will represent a wide variety of people, experiences, and inner ideas, the learning and presentation of art should also be diverse to match.        

Collis B and Moonen J (2004) Flexible Learning in a Digital World (2nd edition), London: Routledge and Falmer
Casey, J. and Wilson, P (2005) A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education

Course Two: CVN5158 Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing, Analgesia and Anaesthesia

Description of the Learning:

            The students of 5158 Anaesthesia for the Certificate of Veterinary Nursing program represent a wide variety of students studying by distance, who live in all different regions throughout New Zealand.

They are students of all ages ranging from teenagers to seniors and the vast majority of them are female.  They are working in veterinary practices as this work experience is a mandatory component of the program. They come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Many are married or have family obligations which prevent them from attending full time, on-site educational programs.


            With regard to the five dimensions of flexibility discussed in Casey and Wilson (2005), the course currently offers a level of flexibility I have scored at just below moderate. The primary focus of flexibility has been in making modifications to the course to suit teaching students from a distance.  The course materials (course notes, media presentations, Power points, and assessments) have all been formatted to be delivered via the internet.  The primary mode of delivery is via Moodle. Educational materials offered to students include free book lending from the library (including free delivery) and e-books, as well as a required text. Practical training is provided by offering 2 short Block Courses, which consist of a 3-4 day session, offered at 4 different venue locations around the country, and by their own work experience. In addition, we have offered regularly scheduled, on-line tutorial sessions via Adobe Connect where students have an opportunity to communicate live with a lecturer.  The students’ assessments are submitted electronically and consist of open book assessments, timed on-line multiple choice tests, and self-filmed videos submitted via links to You Tube.

Analysis of the Learning:

            During the delivery of this course to students this year, I was aware of many shortcomings of the course presentation, as well as some significant advantages the course offered to students.

The course notes provided to students via Moodle seemed wordy and deficient in diagrams and photographs so that they seemed confusing and somewhat daunting to many students.  The number of students who regularly accessed the course notes could easily be followed on Moodle and this showed that that student usage of them was significantly lower than would be expected for a course of this level of difficulty.  In addition, the course notes (which were written within the school) sometimes contained outdated information which added to student confusion.  The advantage of the course notes being a free resource available to students throughout the course was offset by these disadvantages.

            The Moodle page for the course was a little overwhelming for some students due to the number of different resources listed on the page.  Some students had difficulty understanding how to use the Moodle upload tools to submit their assessments.  The Moodle forum site, however, did offer students a way to communicate with other students and enhanced their learning by being able to discuss or get assistance to solve problems that they had.  The forum also helped the student obtain clarification or assistance from the tutors. The Moodle multiple choice tests for assessment were well received by students, although a few of them admitted that the time limits and ticking clock were stressful.

            Most students were very happiest with the practical course sessions taught in two block courses, and said they learned the most relevant material at these sessions, and that they would like to have more of them.  These sessions let them have hand-on experience handling the machinery, and immediate feedback from the tutor as to their techniques.

            Very few students attended the Adobe on-line tutorial sessions (less than 2% of the students) and then they were very reluctant to communicate or participate (which made the sessions much less valuable as interactive sessions).  But quite a few students said that they listened to recordings of the Adobe sessions at a later date and found them helpful.

Reflection of the Learning:

            I found teaching this distance course very challenging in terms of trying to deliver a large volume of difficult subject matter in such an extremely condensed and shortened time frame.  I was very frustrated by the poor attendance at the Adobe Sessions, which were often scheduled in early evening to accommodate those who worked.  The teaching sessions felt very rushed trying to get through a mountain of information in a very short amount of time, and I felt I only had time to teach the bare minimum, rather than being able to fully explain a topic.  I enjoyed meeting the students at the block courses, but the limited contact with them (and large number of them) made it almost impossible to get to know them.  The distance students needed much more pastoral care than full time students because they often had more difficulty understanding the material or the assessment criteria based on primarily reading written material.  This led to my having some resentment of how much time on my part was directed toward these needs, rather than on teaching them.  The students didn’t like making the videos for assessments and repeatedly ask that we decrease the number of videos required, but from a marker’s perspective, the videos show very clearly whether the student has mastered the material by their performance on the video.  I find the amount of marking to be excessive and dislike marking the open book assessments, which I feel do not accurately reflect the student’s knowledge, but really only show whether they can locate the answer in a book.


            I feel that the distance 5158 Anaesthesia course for our veterinary nursing students offers the students some great advantages in the opportunity to study from any location in New Zealand, with a minimal requirement for attending formal classes.  These advantages allow students in all sorts of living situations and job positions to learn and earn a qualification.  They may juggle their jobs, families, childcare and other obligations with studying at the same time.  However, I feel that the quality of the study program that they receive is inferior to a full time program because the very severely limited direct contact time with the tutors, and the significantly decreased opportunity for hands on training.  Their work places often do not take the time to show them hands on techniques for the topic they are studying, and they often lack the quality of equipment or level of practice to demonstrate things to best practice standards.  Students often learn a substandard method of doing something which then must be corrected. The personal stress of trying to teach this distance course if far higher than for teaching the full course.  I disliked teaching an Adobe session to just three or four students who were reluctant to communicate, and I found it extremely difficult to make a connection with individual students with so little contact time.

Taking Action:

            For this next year, I am proposing to make some changes to the course to hopefully improve some of the negative aspects.  I think that a podcast type of presentation should replace the Adobe sessions, because the students seem to prefer to view it on their own time, rather than a set time.  A podcast might also reduce the level of frustration I feel at the students’ reluctance to engage in the Adobe sessions. I would like to be able to offer students an option to attend hands on training session here in Dunedin at their option, but it will probably be prohibitively expensive for both most students and for Otago Polytechnic. It would be nice if we had on on-site facility here at the main campus, where the students could come and participate for a few days practicing what they are learning in a real life setting with tutor supervision.

I would like to eliminate the written course notes provided on Moodle and replace them with a free access text that they may download or refer to at any time during the course plus access to several other veterinary nursing texts, and a number of veterinary journal articles posted to Moodle.  The advantages of using a text is that the texts are regularly updated to reflect changes in the industry, they are more detailed and provide opportunity for greater learning, and they contain more diagrams, images and photos. I am also trying to devise some other types of learning which will encourage the students to be more actively involved in the course material throughout the duration of the course, rather than their tendency to leave studying to the last minute before an assessment is due.  I would also like to develop other forms of assessment which stimulate critical thinking more than just hunt for the information in the text, and write down what is the answer from a book for an OBA. Apply an idea suggest in Casey and Wilson (2005) for teachers to have more of a role in organising student activity rather than simply imparting the knowledge, I am considering ways of having students interact to develop their learning and skills related to anaesthesia rather than just standing in front of them and delivering the information.  Hopefully this will allow students to become more active participants in the learning process and not just passive learners.


Collis B and Moonen J (2004) Flexible Learning in a Digital World (2nd edition), London: Routledge and Falmer

Monday, 21 October 2013

·         What does the term Flexible Learning mean to you?

After discussing the term Flexible Learning with associates at work, it seems immediately apparent that each person has a different perspective on the meaning of Flexible Learning and places varying degrees of emphasis on specific aspects of learning that they feel are most important to be flexible about.  For example, a majority of staff members that I questioned think that flexibility in the location where the learning takes place is most important aspect, whether a student can be a distance student, or whether they must come to a specific location. In all likelihood, this emphasis is highlighted in amongst staff in our school because we have a large population of distance students enrolled. The second most common answer expressed was flexibility in relation to time, that students could enroll full time, or part-time, or the possibility of enrolling at any time and completing the course according to their own schedule, rather than in a school year framework. Another type of flexibility discussed was allowing students to enroll in as many or few papers as they liked, of their own choosing, rather than having to be enrolled in a full qualification program. We also talked about allowing more recognition for prior learning, testing for credit programs, open source internet education, short courses and continuing professional development courses. There was some discussion of recognizing and adapting teaching methods to assist the various different learning abilities and learning styles of different students.  I think that the term Flexible Learning should really be changed to Flexible Teaching as it is the teaching staff who must work towards adapting and expanding their teaching tools and methods to reach the greatest number of students.  They must become flexible and open-minded in their approach to teaching in order to meet the goals of high student enrollments and success rates in today’s competitive international education market. The entire realm of how we attain knowledge has changed drastically, even exponentially with the expansion of the internet, newer communication technologies, and social networking.  The roll of teacher, tutor, or lecturer is shifting to that of education facilitator who utilizes these venues as their tools of facilitation to guide the learner towards learning rather than simply imparting knowledge to them directly. Flexible Learning may mean an opportunity to students to acquire education in a wide variety of places, times, or formats but its primary significance is transforming the way we educate, the way we teach, to encompass a much wider variety of methods than ever before.

·         Why is it necessary to use a more flexible approach in your work?

The principle driving forces behind using a more flexible approach in my work are to keep up with information technology today and to utilize the great potential of newer technologies like internet videos (You Tube), video games, and social networking to capture more student interest, and thereby improving the student’s own desire to learn and success at learning. I believe that there is huge potential to improve student learning by gaining the ability to use the technological tools at our disposal.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand sentences (or paragraphs). Traditional approaches, such as printed material, still have some benefits such as being able to provide numerous details which may not be as apparent in a video presentation, or lectures where the face to face contact offers the student more ability to ask direct questions with immediate response. But today’s students are very different than students from even the recent past.  They have grown up in the fast paced interconnected internet and telecommunication world.  They respond differently to the world because they interaction with each other has been extremely technologically enhanced. Their expectations are different because they are familiar with technology, it is wholly a part of their lives and they are used to receiving information almost instantaneously, courtesy of internet access. Students also have the ability to obtain their education from many more sources today than in the past and educational institutions are finding they need to compete to deep their enrollments up. With the student in a more savvy and demanding consumer position, there are new pressures on educators to deliver programs that attract and retain students and educators are more accountable for their student’s success.  Teachers who cling to the past will most likely be left behind in the education of the future.

·         What do you need to explore to help this happen?

In recognition of the vast potential of the internet and its associated social and information networks, I need to explore the current varieties of communication sites and think about how they might either affect a student’s learning, or be used as my tools to offer newer or different types of learning opportunities to students.  Students seldom rely on books directly in today’s world.  When they want information on a topic, what do they do?  They Google it. If they want to see what something looks like, they search images on the net.  If they want to see how something is done, they check out You Tube. I think the student of today has a much shorter attention span and then it is harder to get their attention, and even harder to keep it.  I need to find ways to capture a student’s interest and ways to stimulate their interest to learn more.  Standing in front of the class telling a story is good, but showing them an exciting video clip or the real thing is even better. I need to understand the students’ world of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Skype and Adobe Connect better, so that I can understand the student better, what makes them tick and what makes them keen, what makes them want to participate.

·         What goals do you have for using Flexible Learning in your work?

My goals for using Flexible Learning are to be open to try a new communication media (that I would not have even considered before) like blogging, to see if it has an applicable use for engaging students in my courses, and to explore other methods of facilitation which might be types of teaching that I am not familiar with.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Happy Dog by Scott Felstein
Hi, I am Denise Forbes.  I teach veterinary nursing to both fulltime students and distance students.  My courses include Anaesthesia and Diagnostics.

My goals in Flexible Learning are to critically examine my own ideas and perspectives on the flexibility or rigidity of my teaching and to explore some new approaches to teaching that I am unfamiliar with.

I completed my own education in a very rigid education system (in a much earlier era), which was very different from today’s newer approaches to education, and different style of students. I find that I need a fair bit of assistance to up skill my computer and technology skills just to keep pace or be a part of this educational shift forward.  In addition, it is a relatively difficult adjustment to make for me to go from a private world of self-study, to the public platforms of social media.  I will definitely be outside my comfort zone, but I am experimentally willing to make a leap of faith.