M. Keppell

Charles Sturt University (AUSTRALIA)
An Aspirational Framework has been designed to provide academic staff with a means to identify the characteristics of learning design that characterize blended and flexible learning environments in ‘distance education’ learning and teaching. The framework is ‘aspirational’ in that it is not prescriptive but provides levels of quality learning and teaching practices in blended and flexible learning towards which academics can aspire. The framework has five dimensions comprising: pedagogy (e.g. authentic learning interactions, assessment as learning), course and subject interactions (information access, interactive learning, networked learning, student-generated content), ICT (learning management systems, web 2.0 tools), multi-literacies (e.g. information literacy, technoliteracy) and learning spaces (e.g. physical, virtual, formal, informal, outdoor, professional, personal learning spaces). For each of these dimensions there are three levels of learning design. Academic staff utilize the framework to self-assess their teaching in relation to each of the dimensions across the three levels of design.

For the purposes of this presentation flexible learning provides opportunities to improve the student experience through flexibility in time, pace, place (physical, virtual, on-campus, off-campus), mode of study (print-based, face-to-face, blended, online), teaching approach (collaborative, independent), forms of assessment and staffing. It may utilise a wide range of media, environments, learning spaces and technologies for learning and teaching. ‘Blended and flexible learning’ (BFL) is a design approach that examines the relationships between flexible learning opportunities, in order to optimise student engagement and equivalence in learning outcomes regardless of mode of study (Keppell, 2010).

The framework can be utilized in two ways. Firstly, academic staff can self-assess their own teaching using a rubric that examines the dimensions from the perspective of pedagogy, course and subject interactions, ICT, multi-literacies and learning spaces across three levels. This allows the staff member to evaluate their own teaching that may lead to conversations with educational designers and professional development opportunities. Secondly, academic staff are provided with opportunities and rewards to develop their capacity to ensure that students experience consistency and quality of blended and flexible learning and teaching throughout a course/degree program. This self-assessment may also assist the academic when applying for promotion by providing evidence to promotion panels and to heads of departments/schools in relation to the quality of their learning and teaching. The aspirational framework has the potential to enhance the quality of blended and flexible learning at distance education universities and this presentation will elaborate these aspects of the framework.

Keppell, M. J. (2010). Blended and flexible learning standards. Charles Sturt University.