The week has been devoted to understanding flexible learning. I was curious to look into my own practice to see if there were elements of flexible learning and wether these were beneficial, detrimental, or didn’t matter. I’ll take a closer look on previous semester. I’m responsible for the education of eye diseases at the medical programme in Malmö. The clinical rotation involving theory and work place practice is 6 weeks together with ear nose throat education so about half time for six weeks. I’m using a flipped classroom model since several years based on a complete replacement of all my lecture hall lectures into 48 short home made video screencasts partitioned into 6 discrete topics. Students are encouraged to view the appropriate movies before class. At our face to face group meetings (3 hours per week) we start out with a short quiz to be completed individually and then in small teams. After that we work together with a number of clinical case scenarios which have been available to the students beforehand including interactive real time patient simulations. Students have been asked to prepare solutions to the cases in their teams before class.
Resources for learning are structured in Moodle-books and are avilable free in swedish at our Moodle site. Flexibility comes into play with the availability of online lectures – an inflexible part of this is that the lectures are tailored but alternative resources may, on the other hand, well be found. This allows students to go back and forth in the lecture and to repeat it. Team work around case solutions also include a great deal of flexibility in that student groups are free to plan their activities timewise even though times decided to meet by team members may not always fit well for everyone. No restrictions are set for how teams work with their cases.
Suggested readings is another area where my teaching offers flexibility. Two text books are indicated as “course litterature” and students are generally supposed to buy one of them. My way of dealing with this issues is having several different text books on display and available for students to read at their leisure in a combined skills lab/study room at the department. Litterature is then viewed as sources of information needed to discuss and understand clinical management of our patients. The source can thus be any combination of books, journal articles, web pages, lecture notes, etc.
Parallell to learning theoretical parts students have their own patients under supervision of a mentor in small groups. This part is fairly inflexible just like working hours for professionals, i.e. you need to be there or else you have to call in sick or provide acceptable excuse in advance.
Skills training also occur without tutor but with the help of peers in the skills lab. Students have to learn a few moderately complicated motor skills and they have digital tools to aid this training. Flexibility is offered in that students arrange their training at their own pace by collaborating and using the numerous blank areas in the time schedule. They are also encouraged to ask for help when needed and either myself or the clinical mentor are usually available for coaching as needed. I’ve summarized flexible learning in my own practice in the table
Part, Flexibility, Inflexibility, Pros, Cons
Lectures, Online 24/365, My content, Always available, Production ‘cost’
Group acitivities, Students plan timing, Cases predefined, Collaboration training, –
Litterature, Student’s choice, -, Fits the individual needs, Can be difficult to choose
Skills training, Students plan timing, skills predefined, Collaboration training + Time abundance, Students may plan inefficiently
Real patient work, -, Need to show up and work, Professional training for all + Immediate professional formative feedback, –
So, my impression is that my practice offer a fair amount of flexibility which is very uncommon at our programme which usually falls back on heavily packed time schedules with lectures and full time teacher planned activities. I’m also quite happy with the amount of flexibility but I can easily imagine and understand the fear that many teachers would have that content might not be covered appropriately by many students. Adequate assessment is one way to ensure quality.
What I would like to try, based on the experiences from this ONL course so far, is to implement digital environments for that group or team work that is now face-to-face with me. An introduction for this might be using hangouts, or Adobe Connect to include students that for some reason couldn’t attend, and also to possibly record the group sessions for the sake of those.