Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Flexible learning for part time students, but where's the OERs

A new report from from Michael McLinden, University of Birmingham for the HEA looks at Flexible pedagogies: part-time learners and learning in higher education
This is a really useful report to help focus strategies to meet these students needs, in the face of some scared decline in part time student numbers. See full report here

“a dramatic decline” in the numbers of entrants to part-time courses over the past two years in England (HEFCE 2013). 6pp
But it goes further. Than this an challenges the sector to see the blurring of full time and part time as all students take on increasing levels out work outside of education (Pollard et al. 2012). Higher Ed has to get over this idea of full time and pastime, and explore flexible models that help support both (2011 White Paper).
Obviously, technology is going to be a great enabler to raising the level of flexibility offered, but other changes have to happen like changes in the timetable of delivery (Outram 2011)
The report then uses case studies and examples to illustrate the educational landscape for part-time learners
"In 2010-11 there were 823,895 students studying part-time and 1,677,305 studying full-time with part-time students representing 33%" (Maguire 2013). Which has fallen by 40% since 2010 (HEFCE 2013). 
There are a number of reasons for this: impact of fee changes, economic factors, and fewer parttime courses.

Part timers are more likely to be mature, non traditional ( few previous qualifications), from disadvantaged backgrounds, and full time carers (HESA)

On case study looked at Foundation degree in Professional Golf (FdSc) part-time distance learning programme in partnership with the University of Birmingham. This course is mostly distance learning, is strongly connected to the industry, is international, with some residency.

Another Case study looked at using part-time students as mentors. In this example eng student parttime and full time work together on one distinct day, full time  student benefit from parttime's industry experience.

A useful resource is Collis and Moonen 2004, and Outram 2011 and a list of areas of flexibility and flexible learning provision.

Having said all this it was interesting that there was little mention of how open learning resources could provide resources for courses or learning experiences that might reconnect these types of students into higher education courses. 

Many of the case studies looked at niche courses, that would be hard to justify investment in OER development. However, all the common academic skills and research methods could easily be supported with some shared resources and modules.  

Another area which is lacking here is challenging the larger systems within organisations that limit innovations. Student record systems, enrolments, general admin and in some cases quality can impose and preference particular designs of programmes.

Collis, B. and Moonen, J. (2004) Flexible Learning in a Digital World. 2nd ed. London: Routledge and Falmer. 

Elliott, A. (2011) Increasing higher education access and pathways through normalization of flexible pedagogies and course structures. In: The 2011 Barcelona European Academic Conference Barcelona, Spain, 2011. Available from: 

http://conferences.cluteonline.com/index.php/IAC/2011SP/paper/viewFile/538/545 [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Freeman, C. (2010) Reflections on the part-time learning experience of mature students at the University of Glamorgan. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/escalate/6917_Resources_and_downloads_from_2nd_Annual_ESCalate_Student_Conference_Students_as_Stakeholders [Accessed 14 September 2013].

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2013) Higher Education in England: Impact of the 2012 Reforms. HEFCE: Bristol. Available from: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/about/intro/abouthighereducationinengland/impact/ [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA): http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/1902/#mode [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Outram, S. (2009) Flexible Learning Pathfinders: a review of the pilots” final and interim reports. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/.../HEA_Evaluation_report_Aug09.DOC [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Outram, S. (2011) Final evaluation of the HEFCE-funded Flexible Learning Pathfinder projects. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/flexiblelearning/Pathfinder_2011_AW_2_281111_1614.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Pollard, E., Newton, B., Hillage, J. (2012) Expanding and Improving Part-time Higher Education. BIS Research Paper Number 68, pp.277. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32397/12-906-expanding-improving-part-time-higher-education.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013].

Maguire, D. (2013) Flexible Learning: Wrapping Higher Education Around the Needs Of Part-Time Students. Higher Education Policy Institute. Available from: http://www.hepi.ac.uk/files/HEPI%20Report%20(60)%20Full%20report.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013].  

Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2008) The experiences of part-time students in higher education: a study from the UK. York: The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/research/surveys/Parttime_student_experience_of_HE.pdf