We are currently teaching mathematics to one distance stream of students. 7 weeks down, we lost almost 1/3 of them. Most of them are out of town students or they are local but could not get into the normal class, distance learning seems to be their only option. As Rumble and Latchem (2004) stated that distance education has decreased as traditional campuses move to reduce costs, but it also reduces the ability to respond to individual student needs.
Design for flexible learning can be done through online learning and I am obliged by this arrangement. My timetable is extremely full Monday to Wednesday, so I normally do all my reading and blogging from Thursday on. The research we have to do or the question we have to answer for this course has no right or wrong answer; we are just speaking freely about our minds, sharing our thoughts and being supportive to each other. However, to my point of view, not all courses can be run 100% through distance or correspondence. Peters (2004) suggested that with an increasing emphasis on digitized instructional material, learning can be more autonomous and self-directed. But are the learners ready to be self-contained with their own study? Now some of the students cannot work with rigid timetables or meet the deadlines under instructor’s supervision, what is it going to be like without it?
All this time, we are doing the best we can to create this flexible learning environment to meet the student’s demands, because they have to work to cover their living costs or they have a family to look after. But what do students think about our effort? I just happened to chat to my students one day after class; they said they paid almost five grand on tuition this year. As a full time student, only 9 classes were scheduled per week. They think it is a huge rip off. Maybe polytechnic should make “flexible learning” a compulsory paper for every student too, get them out of their “spoon-fed” habit, really see how they will be benefit from being a flexible learner.