Flexible Learning: Equivalent learning opportunities for all students
Leonie Treharne, Unit Coordinator and Lecturer at Edith Cowan College (ECC), has recently completed the Navitas Flexible Learning Design program. Leonie shares her approach to unit design, concurrent teaching and the student experience in her unit: Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism, with particular focus on ensuring equivalent learning opportunities are available for all students across all learning modes.
What was your approach when undertaking the Flexible Learning Design program?
As I worked on redesigning my unit throughout the Flexible Learning Design program, I wanted to ensure that all students have the same opportunities at learning. Some of my in-class tasks had already been redeveloped for the online classroom due to the pandemic. The next step was to ensure that students had an equivalent experience whether they engaged with activities synchronously (in class/online) or asynchronously (via the LMS). The Flexible Learning principles (flexibility, equivalency, versatility, accessibility and connectivity) were important when creating content and tasks that supported student learning and engagement and that helped students achieve equivalent learning outcomes across all learning modes.
How did you go about redesigning your unit for Flexible Learning?
Adding a welcome video on the ‘Welcome’ page added an element of teacher presence to my unit, while providing a succinct overview of the most relevant points. Short explanation videos were particularly useful when clarifying requirements for assessments. Self-checking activities in the ‘Prepare’ and ‘Reflect & Progress’ sections helped to promote active learning. In the Flexible Learning model, students prepare, engage, reflect and progress together as a single cohort, so I regularly encouraged participation, interaction and collaboration through discussion forums, Padlet walls and Google docs.
What educational technologies from the Flexible Learning Design program have you applied in your teaching?
Participating in the Ed-Tech sessions helped me learn more about educational tools I was familiar with or had been wanting to use for years. Padlet is a great tool, but it was good to have the opportunity to discover new options. I now have a repertoire of educational technologies to choose from to select the most suitable tool for different activities and unit learning outcomes. I used FlipGrid in week one as a ‘Get to know you’ activity to create a sense of belonging and bring the students together as one cohort. Moodle quizzes helped to check understanding and assignments were useful to test knowledge and progress across all learning modes. Quizlet and Poll Everywhere are other tools I’ve incorporated to further promote student engagement.
How was your experience with concurrent teaching using Poly Studio?
So far, I have taught small groups of face-to-face students on campus with some students joining concurrently online via Zoom. During groupwork students have interacted well, and when joining discussions through Zoom, in-class students used headphones and muted microphones when needed to avoid echo. Poly Studio is a great tool to connect on-campus and online synchronous students during live sessions as it gives online students a wider view of the classrooms, creating a better sense of belonging. From a teacher’s perspective I enjoy being able to move around monitoring in-class students, knowing that I am still connected with online students. I look forward to learning more about all Poly Studio features to be able to move around the classroom more confidently while operating it, to promote further interaction between in-class and online students.
What was the student experience of Flexible Learning?
Online and on-campus students were highly engaged in activities throughout the trimester, due to Moodle and other interactive educational tools. Students completing quizzes enabled me to check progress. The more competitive students enjoyed Socrative for weekly revision quizzes and all students loved Kahoot. Students found Mentimeter easy to use and effective for quick brainstorming activities as they could easily view results in real time on the screen. As the trimester progressed, I noticed that the more students used a particular tool, the more confidence they gained, which increased participation. It was good to see students getting involved and trying their best as they felt accountable for their input when adding their ideas through Google docs. Through the use of Padlet in Zoom breakout rooms, I could also see which groups needed support. In addition, students appreciated receiving a copy of the shared notes from Padlet. Not only did this help them understand the content more easily through a visual overview of unit content, but it also saved them time while conducting revision and had a positive impact on their improved final assessment performance.
What are the main benefits of Flexible Learning?
Flexible Learning has made the student learning process smoother and easier. Prior to Flexible Learning, at ECC we had been using the pre and post class structure (flipped learning), however, scaffolding the learning to ‘Prepare’, ‘Engage face to face’, ‘Engage online’ and ‘Reflect and progress’ in a consistent weekly order, is now more coherent. One of the biggest benefits of completing the program was to see things from the students’ perspective, including the pre- and post-class work required. It has made me reflect on instructions provided and the type of activities and technology selected.
A lot of hard work has gone into redesigning my unit, and I still need to work on various areas; however, Flexible Learning has made me more conscious of my teacher presence and the student learning experience, helping me improve my unit visual presentation, navigation and accessibility for both online and on-campus students.