Personal and Flexible Learning
Globalization, shifts in demographics, and the evolution of the modern workplace have led to a change in our population of learners. Student expectations around education have changed, with a greater emphasis on accessibility, flexibility, personalized experiences, and self-directed experiences.
Within our classrooms this translates into anticipating and responding to student needs, providing choice, providing opportunities for agency, increasing engagement, and ultimately improving the learning experience to serve a broader student community.
Personalized and flexible learning experiences place the learner in control. Students may choose where, when and how learning occurs.
This does not mean that you need to change everything about your teaching approach, as many current teaching strategies already incorporate aspects of personal and flexible learning (e.g.: student generated content, online learning, blended learning, flipped classrooms, experiential learning). But by intentionally focusing your course development on the provision of personal and flexible learning, you can ensure that your students will have increased access, choice, convenience and personalisation to suit their learning needs.
Universal Design for Education (UDE) is an educational framework that guides the development of flexible learning environments. It strives to accommodate individual learning differences by providing multiple means of representation, expression and engagement.
UDE results in more inclusionary practices, improving access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning. For more information, please refer to our section on UDE.
- Universal Design for Education (UDE) – Memorial University
Flexible course design focuses on providing students with choices about the pace of learning (e.g. on-demand content, flexible timelines, choice of assessment dates), the location of learning (e.g. classroom, home, online) and the mode of delivery.
While this approach requires students to take on more responsibility for their own learning, it also increases accessibility within a course, allowing you to better meet the needs of a diverse range of students.
Ryerson University offers the following resource as an introduction to flexible learning, including its integration within the classroom, and evaluation of flexible learning strategies:
- Flexible Learning – M. Schwartz, Ryerson University
Personal Goals and Metacognitive Skills
Students often come into a course with personal goals that reflect diverse interests, needs, educational paths, and educational targets. Tapping into these goals can empower students to become more active participants in the learning process, increase self-efficacy, and be motivated to realize their full potential.
Achieving these goals (as well as your course-specific goals) is dependent on a student’s metacognitive skills. These include skills around orientation, goal-setting, planning, self-regulation, monitoring, reflection, and evaluation strategies.
The following resource, Getting Started with Metacognition, provides a comprehensible introduction to metacognition. The second resource, Teaching Metacognitive Skills, provides more practical instructional strategies that can be used to help students develop metacognitive skills.