The Four F's of Distance Learning: Flexibility
Feasibility goes hand-in-hand with flexibility. In this blog we'll look at why it's important to make our distance learning flexible for remote learners, and how educators can achieve this.
Often, the feasibility of a task depends on how flexible it is. That’s why integrating flexibility into distance learning is so important, and vital if you’re to maintain a student-centered approach.
Circumstances are unique for every student, and many will face issues that impede, either temporarily or long-term, on their ability to attend and engage in remote classes.
To function well, distance learning needs to make allowances for disruptions outside students’ control. These may be minor and short-term, such as issues logging in or connecting to WiFi. However in other cases the disruptions may be of a more serious nature.
Some students may have limited or no access to a computer, meaning they can’t access their school’s online learning system. These students will require alternative arrangements in order for them to keep on track with content and to complete assignments. Students with special educational needs may depend on additional learning support software. This will also need to be made available to them as they study remotely.
For students affected by sensitive issues such as illness or bereavement, it’s not feasible (or fair) to expect that they will be able to attend classes as usual.
That’s why flexibility needs to be at the core of your distance learning strategy. Flexibility means providing as many different ways as possible for students to access and engage with content and to communicate their progress. If you provide only a video chat, what happens if a student is unable to attend? Without other means of checking in and viewing the daily learning objectives, the student misses out on a day’s work and falls behind.
By providing multiple ways to engage with content, you’re enabling students to keep up to speed with the rest of the class, no matter their present circumstances. What’s more, you’re also giving them the opportunity to progress through the content at their own pace. This has numerous benefits:
- it builds independence and discipline
- it encourages students to be self-motivated
- it alleviates unnecessary stress or time pressure
- it enables students to take control of their own learning and move at their own pace.
You might want to set up a checklist of weekly deliverables (tasks to be completed across a week) and make this accessible from your learning management system. Offering a one-stop portal for online learning allows for transparency and ease of use. Your students will thank you for it!
To maximize the potential of distance learning, it needs to be adaptable to the changing needs of your students. A flexible learning environment allows everyone to be included regardless of their circumstances. Providing your students with options and workable alternatives is crucial to investing in their learning outcomes.