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Flexible Learning in Higher Education: A Practical Guide Based on the SEDA Series

Flexible Learning in Action: Case Study in Higher Education

Flexible learning is a term that has gained popularity in recent years, especially in the context of higher education. But what does it mean exactly and how can it be implemented effectively? In this article, we will explore the concept of flexible learning, its benefits and challenges, and a case study of a series of publications that showcase flexible learning practices in higher education.

Flexible Learning in Action: Case Study in Higher Education (SEDA Series)


What is flexible learning and why is it important?

Flexible learning is a state of being in which learning and teaching is increasingly freed from the limitations of the time, place and pace of study. But this kind of flexibility does not end there. It also encompasses flexibility in the content, methods, assessment and support of learning, as well as flexibility in the roles and relationships between learners and teachers .

Flexible learning is important because it responds to the needs and preferences of diverse learners, who have different backgrounds, goals, abilities and circumstances. It also reflects the changing demands and opportunities of the society and the economy, which require lifelong learning, skills development and innovation. Flexible learning can enhance access, equity, quality and relevance of higher education, as well as student success, satisfaction and employability .

How does flexible learning work in higher education?

Flexible learning can be implemented in various ways in higher education, depending on the context, resources and objectives of each institution, programme or course. Some examples of flexible learning options are:

  • Online, blended or hybrid learning modes that combine face-to-face and digital interactions.

  • Open or distance education that allows learners to study at their own pace and place.

  • Modular or micro-credentials that enable learners to accumulate credits or qualifications over time.

  • Personalized or adaptive learning that tailors content and feedback to individual learners' needs and progress.

  • Active or experiential learning that engages learners in authentic tasks and projects.

  • Collaborative or cooperative learning that fosters peer interaction and support.

  • Inclusive or accessible learning that accommodates learners with diverse abilities and backgrounds.

  • Student-centred or learner-led learning that empowers learners to take charge of their own learning.

These are not mutually exclusive categories, but rather dimensions of flexibility that can be combined or adapted to suit different situations and purposes. The key is to find a balance between structure and freedom, guidance and autonomy, consistency and diversity .

Case study: SEDA Series on Flexible Learning

What is the SEDA Series and what are its objectives?

The SEDA Series on Flexible Learning is a collection of books published by Routledge in collaboration with the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), a professional association for staff and educational developers in higher education. The series aims to provide practical guidance and examples of good practice on how to design, deliver and support flexible learning in higher education. The series covers topics such as curriculum design, assessment, feedback, technology, student engagement, staff development and quality assurance .

How does the SEDA Series promote flexible learning in higher education?

The SEDA Series promotes flexible learning in higher education by offering a range of perspectives and approaches that can be adapted to different contexts and disciplines. The series is based on the following principles :

  • Flexible learning is learner-centred and responsive to learner diversity.

  • Flexible learning is aligned with learning outcomes and assessment criteria.

  • Flexible learning is supported by appropriate pedagogy and technology.

  • Flexible learning is informed by evidence and evaluation.

  • Flexible learning is enhanced by collaboration and communication.

  • Flexible learning is embedded in institutional culture and strategy.

Examples of flexible learning practices from the SEDA Series

The SEDA Series provides many examples of flexible learning practices from different higher education institutions and disciplines. Here are some of them :

Book titleFlexible learning practice

Designing Courses with Greater Flexibility: How to Apply Learning Design Principles for More Responsive Curriculum DevelopmentA framework for designing flexible courses based on six dimensions: content, delivery, resources, support, assessment and accreditation.

Assessment for Flexible Learning: Designing, Implementing and Evaluating Assessment in Higher EducationA model for developing assessment for flexible learning based on four stages: planning, designing, implementing and evaluating.

Feedback for Flexible Learning: Developing, Enhancing and Managing Feedback Practices in Higher EducationA toolkit for enhancing feedback for flexible learning based on four elements: feedback literacy, feedback dialogue, feedback design and feedback culture.

Technology Enhanced Learning for Flexible Education: A Guide to Embedding Technology into Learning and Teaching PracticeA guide to embedding technology into learning and teaching practice based on four steps: identifying needs, selecting tools, designing activities and evaluating impact.

Engaging Students in Flexible Learning: Strategies to Promote Active Participation and Collaboration in Higher EducationA set of strategies to engage students in flexible learning based on four themes: motivation, participation, collaboration and reflection.

Developing Staff for Flexible Learning: A Handbook for Academic Developers in Higher EducationA handbook for academic developers to support staff in flexible learning based on four areas: awareness, skills, confidence and culture.

Quality Assurance for Flexible Learning: A Guide for Enhancing Quality Culture in Higher EducationA guide for enhancing quality culture in flexible learning based on four dimensions: policy, process, practice and people.

Benefits and challenges of flexible learning in higher education

What are the benefits of flexible learning for students and teachers?

Flexible learning can bring many benefits for students and teachers in higher education. Some of them are :

  • Increased access and participation of learners who face barriers due to location, time, cost or other factors.

  • Improved retention and completion rates of learners who can adjust their study pace and mode according to their needs and circumstances.

  • Enhanced attainment and achievement of learners who can choose the content, methods and assessment that suit their preferences and goals.

  • Improved employability and career prospects of learners who can develop relevant skills and competencies for the changing labour market.

  • Increased satisfaction and motivation of learners who can enjoy more autonomy, variety and personalization in their learning experience.

  • Improved quality and innovation of teaching practices that can respond to the diverse needs and expectations of learners.

  • Enhanced professional development and recognition of teachers who can update their knowledge and skills in pedagogy and technology.

  • Increased collaboration and communication between teachers and learners who can interact more frequently and effectively through various channels.

  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of resource allocation and management that can optimize the use of physical, human and financial resources.

What are the challenges of implementing flexible learning in higher education?

Flexible learning can also pose some challenges for students and teachers in higher education. Some of them are :

  • Lack of adequate infrastructure, equipment or connectivity that can limit the access or quality of online or blended learning modes.

Lack of appropriate policies, regulations 71b2f0854b

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