How do your ideas for flexible learning, and those of your organisation or consultancy fit (or not) with the TES for NZ?
To tell you the truth I preferred the other activity for this part- but maybe that’s because I survived 10 years working for the Ministry… The TES is a broad overview with the aim of causing change at a systems level which ‘trickles’ down to communities, groups, individuals. My focus in teaching is a ground up approach that focusses on an individual’s learning, and then goes out to groups, communities, systems. Although they are part of the same education picture- this difference in approach isn’t always easy to translate amongst the two. The other area that is hard to tackle is that the TES obviously is politically motivated to encourage societal change (for the best?), whereas an organisation’s strategy needs to be robust enough to endure political intent and maintain future focus, as obviously a government’s focus changes over time (or more to the point government and Ministers change over time!). So that is the other reason that I am more motivated to look at OP’s strategy... and see how it’s placed.
In broad terms, yes my education philosophy supports the expectations outlined in the TES for the tertiary sector . In terms of how FL can be used to support these ideas, there has been some amazing innovative practices going on across the education sector to draw from -from Homework centres, to Computers in Home projects, and more recently with innovative practices in Christchurch – the disappointing part in this however is that sometimes the funding has been locked within ‘trials’ and it seems to be increasingly difficult to get innovative approaches shifted into operational funding.
So I would say that ‘yes’ my ideas for FL could fit with the TES’s broad statements, but the practical reality of how these ideas are implemented takes a bit more effort to align with the TES. For example, there is a major focus on the retention of Maori and Pasifika students in tertiary education in the TES. I’m really lucky that in my course there is key learning in both of these 'focus' areas- but I have little influence how OP or OT attracts and supports Maori and/or Pasifika students into my course. Therefore in meeting TES goal of retention and course completion among Maori and Pasifika my course on one hand would look strong (last year this was 100%), but actual student numbers are very small- less than 10% in my class identified as Maori and I had no Pasifika students in 2011. Is it fair my course seems potentially more ‘viable’ in regard to meeting one of the major TES goals when in reality the numbers of students entering the course is still low compared with population rates?
I was also interested in your comment Bronwyn “The tertiary education sector is highly competitive, and now that funding is shrinking even further organisations are scrabbling for a slice of the pie. Is Flexible Learning the answer?”
I too have heard FL being promoted as a $$$ saving option –as learners are given a wide range of choices to access knowledge and skills, which means that you can mitigate some operational costs such as lecture theatres etc. But it is very difficult to define true cost-saving given that there are a lot of hidden dollars in the tertiary sector picture. (For example with staff marking time, costs to individual learners for own IT equipment, internet usage etc). I remember at OP staff inductions with HR it was relayed to new staff that having a blended approach has helped saved the institution money- which I believe is true- but I also know staff who have left because of burn-out issues (not just at OP but across the sector as a whole), and I wonder how ‘actuals’ are calculated into this mix of determining cost?
What do you need to include in your plan to fit with the TES for NZ?
I think the most important action I can take is to continue to offer quality teaching of which FL is part of this picutre. Obviously this is a core intent of our learners, but If I can maintain and grow my quality teaching practice, then my students aren’t going to drop out (and therefore I can help meet TES’s focus on student retention).