FDOL 2014

Topic 3: Flexibility – creating affordances for learning experiences


This week has been all about working on the concept of flexible learning. I have read interesting and inspiring visionary ideas about flexibility (Ryan & Tilbury, 2013)  and also a very hands-on article giving examples of how to design and manage your course in order to make it more flexible (De Boer & Collins, 2005) and not the least have had discussions with my PBL-group.

For me one of the most interesting aspects of flexible learning  was when reflecting the choices we make when designing our learning activities. Last week I wrote about the media wheel, which is used to map out how different tools can support the learning experience in different ways in order to create variation in learning activities to help the learner reach intended learning outcomes (inspired by Laurillard 2002).

Pedagogy for choosing different tools as base of the learning experiences is important but not the only reason. We also need consider how to create opportunities to make the learning happen in order to support learners with another first language or a full-time job and family or even perhaps even to make life easier for students that needs to commute every day. Flexibility often refers to flexibility in time, flexibility in space and flexibility in delivery. De Boer & Collin´s article gives an overview and tips how you can plan and manage flexibilities in different ways in your course (se for instance on table 4, p 38 ).

So, how could you improve flexibility, add elements of accessibility and give variation in learning activities in the same time? One suggestion from the article last mentioned  is recording your lecture and making it available online – this way your students can access your lesson from where ever and whenever. As a bonus students can watch, pause and repeat if needed, a way of lightening the cognitive load (Carrol, 2002).  

A popular approach is using the flipped classroom practice where the homework and lecture are reversed (Educause, 2012). Using a recording instead of always lecturing also gives you the opportunity to use that valuable classroom time for student centered activities like discussions or group work.

But, how do you make sure that the students engage with the material before class? One way could perhaps to build a lesson with TedEd, an educational website connected to the Ted Talks. Here you can use educational videos from the Ted talks or select a video from YouTube (your own if you have them uploaded).

To create a lesson you login to TedEd (its free), search for a video and click Flip This Video in order to start working. In an intuitive interface you can then connect multiple choice and open questions with the video, in order for the student to check their understanding. You can post further reading and reflective questions connected to your concepts and – you can also create a discussion forum where your students can answer your questions or, perhaps state questions of their own to prepare for your next session together. You as a teacher invite students to your flipped lecture with a link. As the teacher/owner of the lecture you can follow your students to see their progress. Many of these things can of course be done within the learning platform, but this is an alternative. I am also thinking that perhaps it would be even more interesting to let students make these flips, but that is a different topic 🙂

TedEd Practice Lesson

Example of a lesson created in TedEd by my colleague Marita Ljungqvist which we are using in an upcoming workshop. The image shows the section Think which includes multiple choice questions or open ended answers. In dig deeper you can add links to related material, there is a space for discussion and … finally there is a space for adding your reflection to bring back to class. 

The discussions and readings of this week  has made me think closer to an aspect tightly connected to the learning experience, a practical one that should not be overseen – expanding the opportunities to learn in time, space and pace. All courses does not need to be fully flexible but we could see over elements that could be improved in this perspective – on step at a time.


PS I am including a section about flexible learning in my next workshop.

TedTalks: http://www.ted.com/
TedEd (click on create a lesson to try it out): http://ed.ted.com/
Record your lecture on your own computer (free, just press the record button): http://www.screencast-o-matic.com


Carroll, J. (2002). Suggestions for teaching international students more effectively. Learning and Teaching Briefing Paper Series, Oxford Brooks University.

De Boer, W., & Collis, B. (2005). Becoming more systematic about flexible learning: beyond time and distance. Research in Learning Technology, 13(1).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (7). Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms. EDUCAUSE Creative Commons. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching: A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. Falmer Pr.

Ryan, A., & Tilbury, D. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas.


8 thoughts on “Topic 3: Flexibility – creating affordances for learning experiences

  1. Thanks for this highly informative mini review! I agree that one step at the time might be a convenient strategy to introduce more flexible learning. Many teachers and learners might not be too enthusiastic if the steps are big, many and includes new technology.

  2. Hi Maria!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and references in flexibility in e-learning.
    You state that a reason for having a flexible on-line course is to “make the learning happen”.
    I like this. As internet and smartphones make us connect more, because it is possible, I think that learning will also increase with this devices, just because it is possible. It is simply easier to get the opportunity to learn. That is one of the reasons why this FDOL course is important. We will be part of making others learn more, and probably persons, that would not have the opportunity if the course was not flexible and on-line.

  3. Nice with pictures embedded in the text. How did you do that? I tried to post a word document with embedded pictures on my WordPress blog, but the pictures disappeared. #FDOL141

  4. Hi, I think Word just might be the problem. I would paste my text into a pain editor (like notes, are you using mac?) and choose to unformat them and then past the text into wordpress. After this you have a clean slate to work with. In the editor you should be able to see insert images/photos. Here you can work with jpg, png and gif-formats. I am away skiing this week but let me know if you still have problems later on.

    • Thanks for advice. I will try again with some other programs and different ways of pasting pictures. Trial and error, and learning by doing. Nice with collaboration in FDOL.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. Does this TEDed only work with TED talks or is there also a more flexible tool to also use other media sources (I think google+ could be a platform to combine media streams with quizzes).

    It was a bit disappointing when clicking the images, was expecting to do a TED quiz, but was only a picture 😛

  6. Pingback: Supporting Learners: Building confidence with the small blend approach | hedbergskan

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