Interesting, these buzz words – suddenly they’re everywhere. Flexible is one of them, or maybe it’s that I suddenly tuned into that channel. It’s being used for everything from selling cars to e-learning initiatives. And today is “Work-at-home-day” in Sweden, third consecutive year, and lots of companies close their offices and let the employees work from home. Incidentally this morning there was an article in The New Zealand Herald about how to separate work and home when working from home with interesting ideas about how to manage the transition to work at home. (nzherald.co.nz/small-business/news/article.cfm?c_id=85&objectid=11226594)
Anderson & Simpson (2012) look back at the history of distance learning and establish the fact that “people have always learned through open and flexible means” – thinking of preachers and itinerant storytellers as early teachers. Until the invention of the printing press most of the dissemination of knowledge was an oral affair at least where the common people was concerned. The next important thing after Gutenberg was the establishing of postal services. Now, five hundred odd years later, postal services are once again not that reliable, but we have e-mails and the web to sort out most day-to-day requirements. If people stayed on in their professions and lived more or less permanently in an area through all their working life fifty or hundred years ago, today it is common to change careers two or three times and move several times. Flexible learning for many offers a solution to the need for further education.
“Flexible learning” is frequently followed by “distance” and/or “online”, which entails the presence of a computer or other mobile device. A 2013 study of incoming college students in the US revealed that 78% had regular access to a mobile device, which means that at the time 22% did not! How are these catered for? (universitybusiness.com/article/bridging-digital-divide)
Flexible in terms of time in many cases mean invasion on off-duty hours or leisure time. Finding a reasonable balance between work and time off is difficult. Being online more or less permanently, students may expect answers to questions from teachers late at night or during weekends. So – in the end some of us may in actual fact end up being tied down by flexibility.