Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flexible learning Plan

My idea for a flexible learning is to develop flexible strategies for an existing paper called Participation in Occupation 2 within the Occupational Therapy second year Bachelors Programme. The existing paper taught is one that has in the past focused on hands on face to face style of delivery to get the information required to the students. With the development of Wintech in Hamilton delivering the Occupational Therapy bachelors programme there is a need to think outside the box on how we deliver the curriculum.

The aim of the paper is for the students to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of ongoing participation in occupation. By understanding occupation we can quote the following from Christensen and Townsend who defines the term "occupation as viewing the daily pursuits of humans..., to be occupied is to use and even seize control of time and space or place as a person engages in a recognizable life endeavour. Daily human occupations are invested with form and a sense of purpose, meaning, cultural style and social/economic significance or power". Some of the questions that this paper brings up are the following:

- What makes someone want to engage in an occupation on an ongoing basis
-What meaning do people get out of engaging in occupation
-What is the meaning for you and what could be the differences and similarities to the meaning for others
-What can be the barriers to engaging in occupation

The interesting parallels with the paper I'm teaching, flexible delivery itself and the flexible delivery course can be found in why people would want to engage and what do they achieve in a flexible learning programme or course compared to a face to face structure.

How the paper "Participation in Occupation 2" is currently been delivered is to discuss face to face the theoretical components behind occupation. The paper also engaged students in face to face activities to encourage meaning to be developed. The students were asked when off campus to learn a new activity they had not learnt before such as learning to play guitar and were given a time frame to look at the learning process.

My idea is to try and change how this information is delivered by adopting a more flexible approach to engaging students in the process of gaining deeper meaning for themselves into why and how people might engage in occupation in an ongoing way. Some ideas behind this is to use a standard basic text that the students can rely on for information. This text includes use of the Internet as a means of interacting with the book. This will enhance understanding of the human experiences discussed within the book. Other ideas include getting the students to develop a blog and or wiki to relay various chapters allocated to them and answer and review the chapters allocated to them. For the students at the Otago Polytechnic and Wintech students in Hamilton this can be done in groups using a discussion board with an allocation of a number of posts required to ascertain involvement.

Tutorial times for this semester will be not be face to face but this time will be used for students to flexibly find and develop on the information required for this paper. The use of blackboard this semester but changing to moodle will outline the requirements on how to use this time effectively and be used as a guide. For this semester standard face to face lectures will be needed every two weeks for one hour to guide the students to the more autonomous way of learning.

How this fits with the Educational strategy is that these ideas once developed and tweaked over time will allow a range of people to be able to be part of this paper that may have not necessarily been able to attend the existing structured timetable and curriculum. By enabling and catering for those that may have time constraints disabilities, other commitments etc we are allowing a more sustainable financial future by being able to access a greater number of students. We are also opening up a way of students being more self directed, autonomous and therefore if done well allowing a greater intellectual capacity for gaining knowledge in a variety of different ways. My aim for occupational therapy students is for them to be holistic and self aware and independent.

The risks considerations and concerns are the following. Will the students have the motivation to engage in a more self directed way and gain the benefits from this approach. This new flexible way is for some a step away from the basics of occupation within the occupational therapy programme. The need for face to face activities has been seen as the best way to allow engagement of students in occupation and therefore greater meaning has been attached to this. Occupation is about doing. How we classify "doing" may be different in a flexible learning context.


  1. Hi Michelle

    I’ve just had a look at your plan and, I like it!

    You touched on several key points. Nowadays there are some really good books out there suitable for various courses that come with a CD ROM as well as passwords so students and teachers can gain access to internet based material with extra learning and teaching resources.

    I like your proposed use of a variety of blended delivery options including face to face, Blogging, and the use of Moodle for admin. I also I like your use of face to face classes as a guide to help keep students on track, and your suggestion about using a wiki or Blog as a self-directed learning experience sounds good too.

    However, I share your concerns regarding the self-management/motivation of young students to maintain self-directed learning practices. I’m curious, what are your thoughts/feelings/gut instincts regarding the ability of your students to self-direct?

    Great work Michelle, I like where you’re heading.

  2. Hi Gary thank you for your comments. My gut instinct is that very few students have either the skill and or motivation to be autonomous in their learning with this particular subject. This is based on feedback from students last year when I asked them how they got on with learning a new skill on their own. They felt that learning to play guitar as an example was not as important as other subjects. Because it was deemed as a leisure activity. This paper is about everyday life and therefore is perceived as ordinary, laidback, the knowledge is already aquired, too common. So I have the challenge of getting students to explore the "everyday" but also these students are also not naturally motivated to be autonomous with this learning. I think the key is too explore not only everyday meaning from their own perspective but too bring in other cultural experiences so the students can look outside the box and be challenged with this subject.

  3. You have both brought up a very important point - how to guide students to be self-directed and how to pay attention to material they may regard as not important. I was not clear about how you got the students to look at the learning process previously Michelle. Did they have to report back or just think about what happened in a loosely structured activity? I think it is a great idea to get the students to do activities like this and uptake could be improved with some formal structure - which is assessed. Something like this would lend itself to Kolb's experiential cycle. (http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm)

    This part of your plan has got me pretty excited.
    Give students a list of options to choose from so they can pick something they are interested in or can access. As part of the assessment they have to look for flexible resources, e.g. online videos on Youtube, and add them to a group wiki or their own blog.

    Using the guitar option as an example. Perhaps you could bring someone in to show the class how to play the guitar or some other life leisure skill and video it (or find a video on youtube)- Concrete experience and Reflective observation. Flexible option - watch a video clip. At this stage they can be asked to write down what they were noticing or feeling, that is a description of what happened. Flexible option - students record description to their blog, and/or post to a discussion forum. The former option will help them feel as if they own what they are saying. The next stage - Abstract Conceptualisation- is where you help them relate the theories of occupation. Flexible option - presentation about theories, blog posts, online text (have you thought of developing something in wikibooks and getting the class to help you build it?)

    Next they are asked to practice with a real guitar what they learned - Active Experimentation. Flexible option - ask a friend or family member to lend a guitar. Perhaps this is when they get together as a group and help each other. Flexible option - they could meet on Elluminate with web cams or not. They could video themselves playing and put on Youtube. This will lead to the next Concrete Experience - the next guitar lesson. And so on.....you could run two or three cycles like this and each time the reflective observation asks them to reflect more deeply - second time they analyse their actions and thoughts and feelings and start to relate their writing to the theories you taught them, the third time they indicate how the theories of occupation related to this experience overall and what actions they need to put in place in a real world situation. This is where you could begin them on some critical reflection about occupational therapy and society in general in relation to the theories you teach in the paper.

    You could integrate the reflective posts using the cycle into the assessment. My recommendation is to have criteria to measure how they work within something like the Kolb cycle or to measure the depth of reflection, and not to measure "the number of posts to ascertain involvement".

    It is what they write and how they write which will indicate their understanding of the theoretical concepts NOT the number of posts they make. Do you agree that this is what you want them to demonstrate? Believe you me if you design the learning activities well they will engage. Have a think about how you can find out more about their learning preferences and design a range of activities to suit so they can pick and choose.

    On a completely different tangent, and do forgive me but this is what educational designers do, maybe the crux of it is to design the course activities solely around the definition of occupation using a range of real life scenarios for them to role play and discuss. Second Life's virtual world would be wonderful for this. But probably inaccessible for the majority of the students as it is broadband hungry....just a thought.

  4. Hi Michelle
    Couldn't leave without making a comment as a fellow occupational therapist. I love your quote from Christensen and Townsend and additionally, your approach to experiential work, especially when combined with Bronwyn's ideas. I have just assisted in the Adaptive living - occupations stage one practical workshops and recognise potential similarities in delivery activity in experiencing then analysing the components in terms of cognitive social physical environmental etc. Really looking forward to your presentation on this. I have just competed assignment one with no specific occupational therapy course in mind, more promoting the links between Otago, Wintec, and beyond, based on my recent experiences from a student/Wintec point of view.

  5. Thank you Bronwyn and Hilary. The comments made about how to go about getting the students to reflect and give quality rather than quantity in their feedback is fabulous. Being new to developing a paper these ideas are great for me to structure and enable the students to understand the meaning of occupation which can be lost to some students.

  6. It is great to get affirmation from Hilary for your ideas Michelle. Likewise I am looking forward to your presentation.

  7. My name is Adrienne Moyle, I am currently taking the Evaluation for Best Practice course run by Bronwyn Hegarty. As part of our assessment we are required to do an evaluation of a course.

    I have chosen to evaluate the online interaction in the Flexible Learning Course run by Leigh and Bronwyn.

    I would appreciate it if you could take the time to answer 9 questions about the online interaction in the Flexible Learning Course.

    The more participants who respond, the more valid the analysis will be. I have spoken to the facilitators, and now I really need to hear from YOU the participants.

    All responses are anonymous, IP or email addresses will not be collected.

    The responses will be collated and reported to facilitators, management and participants of the Flexible Learning Course and the Evaluation for Best Practice Course.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this survey. You will find an email from me to reply to in the Flexible Learning email forum or at my blog.

    To complete the survey, please click on the link below.
    Click Here to take survey

    Please contact me if you have any problems completing the survey.

    Thanks for your assistance, I really appreciate it!