Mapping flexibilities

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Transforming Knowledge into Wisdom Holistic Approaches to Teaching and Learning Vol. 27

July, 2004, 359 pages
Published by
0 90 8557 58 2

Australian universities, in response to the pressures of massification, globalization, technology and government reform, have felt the pressure to ‘go flexible’. However, flexible learning options offered by institutions vary, as do definitions of flexibility and associated terms. Whilst the related literature describes a range of policies and innovative case studies, there is a paucity of empirical evidence about the kinds of flexibilities available to students, leaving institutions with no solid base upon which to confidently plan and develop the flexible provision of their programs of study.

This paper reports on steps taken by one regional Australian university towards identifying, within particular fields of study, the kinds of flexible opportunities it offers across its undergraduate and postgraduate coursework curriculum, and in which combinations. An institution-wide survey of units (n=530) was conducted to establish current practice across five dimensions of flexibility (mode of delivery, extent and nature of online teaching, flexible learning, place of delivery and time of delivery).

The findings show that large variations across broad fields of study were found within all five dimensions of flexibility surveyed. It was apparent that no one formula for flexibility caters for all learning contexts, and that certain influential variables need to be taken into account in determining flexible offerings.

Keywords: Flexibility; higher education; strategic planning.

Mapping flexibilities

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Bird, J.