The potentialities of the information (or Internet) age have somehow exceeded many of our current calculations in education (Brown, 2000; Cornford & Pollock, 2003; Duke, 2002). Imagine a student attending a class waiting to be taught mostly in lectures or direct training from the instructor. The same student as a learner has at hand many an on-demand (or just-in-time) ubiquitous high-quality learning environments with learner-friendly support, such as the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia. org). Today’s numerous virtual communities, including the WELL project (http://www.well.com) or the Blacksburg community networks (http://www.bev.net), have demonstrated to our inquiring students the possibility of fostering their own learning initiatives, with the comfort of an electronic personalized space in the form of customizable information system (IS) support (Vat, 2005) guarded by privately assigned identifier and password, to experience and make sense of their worlds of learning. The message to the education community is clear: we need to inject more flexibility (Khan, 2007a) in support of learning; namely, learners now must be empowered with more say in what they learn, when they learn, and where and how they learn.
The issue of flexibility in education was brought up by Moore (1972) in his paper “Learner autonomy: The second dimension of independent learning.” Moore wrote (Moore, 1972, p. 81): “for every program, we seek to identify the relationship between learners and teachers, and where control of each instructional process lies, by asking: Is learning self-initiated and self-motivated? Who identifies goals and objectives, and selects programs for study? Who determines the pace, the sequence, and the methods of information gathering? What provision is there for the development of learners’ ideas and for creative solutions to problems? Is emphasis on gathering information external to the learner? How flexible is each instructional process to the requirements of the learner? How is the usefulness and quality of learning judged?” The search for answers to these questions deserves our thinking both at the course design and instruction level and at the institutional organization and policy level, if the issue of flexibility should be well elucidated.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Landscape: A situation of concerns whose resolution aims to bring about improvement in specific areas of social concern (how people could learn better, in our case through a proper instructional context of e-portfolio) by activating in the people involved in the situation a learning cycle which is ideally galvanized by an iterative process of action and reflection.
IS Support: An information systems (IS) function supporting people taking purposeful action. This is often done by indicating that the purposeful action can itself be expressed via activity models, a fundamental re-thinking of what is entailed in providing informational support to purposeful action. The idea is that in order to conceptualize, and so create an IS support which serves, it is first necessary to conceptualize that which is served, since the way the latter is thought of will dictate what would be necessary to serve or support it.
E-Portfolio (electronic portfolio): An electronic space to reflect upon a person’s or an organization’s digital identity, including relevant working experiences in terms of artifacts that relate to his or her professional career, or the organizational profiles detailing the mission, history and achievement of the enterprise. In an instructional context, the nature of e-portfolio often carries two connotations: as a means of assessing specific student performance, and as a showcase for outstanding student accomplishments.
Deep Learning: Learning that goes beyond a surface level and promotes the development of meta-cognition through communities of inquiry.
Online Learning Support: An electronic learning management system which facilitates individuals’ learning through an electronic medium, typically the Web, provides for personal renewal, keeps an open attitude to the outside world, and supports a commitment to knowledge.
Assessment: Measurement of the degree to which a learner acquired the skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes that a learning experience was designed to facilitate.
Flexible Learning: A teaching strategy designed to empower students to learn, to learn fully, effectively, efficiently, and with rewarding satisfaction. It is the responsibility of our profession as teachers or faculty to study ways of maximizing the potential of our environments to support students’ learning and to minimize those elements in their environments that may impede it.
Reflection: Related to teaching based on an assumption that students do not receive information from the teacher and slot it straight into an empty place in their knowledge base. Instead, learning involved activities related to specific experiences in which learners think about what they are learning, how new things being learned relate to their pre-existing knowledge, and how they are personally learning the new skills, knowledge, and /or attitudes.