Friday, July 3, 2009

My Flexible Learning Plan

My Flexible Learning Plan

Flexible Plan on Power Point


The National Certificate in Mental Health Support Work is a unit standard based programme worth 122 credits. The course runs over the 34 contact weeks of the standard academic year. Students attend classes one day per week so there are 34 contact days in total. There are four courses corresponding to four terms broadly dealing with: self and cultural awareness; legislation and policy; theories, models and practice skills and finally developing a recovery based framework for practice. Unit standards are integrated throughout the courses and assessments are designed to meet unit standard requirements whilst being accessible, manageable and fun for students.

Historically the majority of students attending this course have done so while working full time in mental health support roles. These students access the course as professional development and are encouraged and in some situations financially supported by their employers. These students have additional motivation to complete the course in the form of a $2000 grant paid in full when they complete the course.

In the past two years there has been a shift in this tradition so that in 2009 nearly 50% of my students are not working in mental health. This trend looks set to continue in the current economic and political climate as organisations are less able to support staff to access the course and the industry is less transient. Employees are holding on to their jobs meaning that there are less new staff needing to complete the training. This in itself would not be a problem as the programme could just make a shift to more general promotion and aim to attract students from the wider pool however there tends to be a high drop out rate for students who are not working in mental health in this course.

I believe that the high drop out rate is attributable to two primary causes. The first is that students not working in mental health may select this course because they believe that it's one day delivery format makes it an easy option when in fact the exact opposite is true. The second and related issue is that the demands this course places on students in terms of independent time and work commitment are too high for students who don't have some grounding in mental health.

Consequently there are some significant sustainability issues for the certificate programme and several options as I see it;

  • Stop running the programme altogether
  • Merge it with the Certificate in Human Services and make mental health a specialty
  • Shift to a blended online and block delivery format

Even with diminishing numbers the programme is relatively profitable. It employs me at .6 and I have several guest lecturers through out the year but employment costs are relatively low . The one day delivery format means minimum cost in terms of additional resources. While the programme continues to be promoted within the mental health industry and supported with a grant it will continue to be profitable even with relatively few students so it would be foolish to discontinue offering it.

Merging it with the mental health certificate would probably be the easiest option but evidence from the diploma programme indicates that this may reduce accessibility for people working in mental health. Both the local certificate and diploma are run as full-time contact courses.

Shifting to a blended online and block delivery format is the most useful strategy and my flexible learning plan is based on this ideal solution.

The Plan

My Flexible Learning Plan is to restructure the delivery of this programme so that it is more accessible to;

  • Distance students
  • People working night shifts
  • Parents and care givers
  • Students with literacy issues and other learning support needs
  • Students who want to self pace

The purpose of this restructuring is to increase numbers generally, widen the potential pool of students already working in mental health and to provide a more supportive programme for students whose learning needs are not supported in the current high intensity format.

The Delivery will be restructured as follows;


Retain four courses and maintain status quo re each course as prerequisite for the next.


Retain status quo regarding delivery of one guided course per term within NZ academic year


Increase flexibility re start and finish dates of each course – no set times


Increase flexibility re study times – no set times


Use of Elluminate to record joint sessions to increase flexible access


Standardise the number of weeks in each course and adjust content to match (8 or 9 weeks for each course)


Reduce contact from the current 36 days to 16 days. 5 day block in the first and third terms and 3 day blocks in the second and fourth terms


Move current course material from blackboard to Moodle


Modify lesson plans and resources for online environment in line with flexible learning ideas (see previous bog)


Modify assessments for online environments in line with flexible learning ideas (see previous blog) and as follows;

Self Awareness Journal

Experiment with using Google docs shared between student and facilitator. This tool will enable a more formative approach while protecting students privacy rights and keeping them safe.

Course Workbooks

Convert worksheet based tasks to quiz format for pre and post topic self evaluations. Convert all other workbook material to Blog format. Use blog as day to day facilitating tool.

Collage/posters and Presentations

Retain in face to face blocks or convert to online presentation formats. Pamphlets; Use publisher.

Essay and Report

Retain as they are.

Group Work

Google groups or a moodle equivalent and collaborative google docs

Resources and Support required to carry out this Plan

I can’t see that my plan needs particular resources other than for me to have a little more skill, knowledge and rather more time. I don’t intend to create any fabulous resources other than those I can create with the technology that is readily available to me primarily because there are already so many wonderful resources freely available on line. I anticipate building the online course up over several years just as I have done with my face to face programme.

Resources Required

Where will I access this


Advice regarding organisational requirements that need to be met in order to make a programme change this significant.

Sally Pairman


Information regarding the student experience of block contact sessions and how these work best in terms of financing and accommodation needs, length and timing

Colleagues including;

Mid Wives



Cert in Health Studies


Upskilling me

EDC staff and community learning centre



Dianne Begg

Amber’s Questions Revisited

Amber’s questions

My Response

Could she start the course immediately?

Yes she could

Could she do it on line in her own time and from her own home?

Yes she could

Could she access resources online?

Yes she could. Everything she needed and more was available

Could she leave at 2.30 in order to be home by three for her children?

Not an issue as she was going to access the course on line but there are some block courses which will run for full days . Did she think she would be able to organise some childcare for those? If not, perhaps we could give the students training in childcare a practice session!

Did I provide any additional support?

I explained that there are lots of course specific support resources on line as part of the programme and that she could email or ring me anytime. Also that if she need additional support I could link her to the online or face to face support services at provided at Poly.

How would I cater to her learning needs and to her learning style?

I explained that there are a range of learning activities and assessments built into the programme that cater to differentlearning styles and needs

Since she had to come to class would there be plenty of opportunity for social interaction?

Not an issue as she didn’t have to come to class but since the bulk of the day to day material would be delivered and processed on blogs there was plenty of opportunity to engage in social interaction with other students. Also the contact days would involve a lot of social time.

Amber was delighted with the responses I gave to her questions and signed up on the spot!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenny
    My name is Adrienne Moyle, I am currently taking the Evaluation for Best Practice course run by Bronwyn Hegarty. As part of our assessment we are required to do an evaluation of a course.

    I have chosen to evaluate the online interaction in the Flexible Learning Course run by Leigh and Bronwyn.

    I would appreciate it if you could take the time to answer 9 questions about the online interaction in the Flexible Learning Course.

    The more participants who respond, the more valid the analysis will be. I have spoken to the facilitators, and now I really need to hear from YOU the participants.

    All responses are anonymous, IP or email addresses will not be collected.

    The responses will be collated and reported to facilitators, management and participants of the Flexible Learning Course and the Evaluation for Best Practice Course.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this survey. You will find an email from me to reply to in the Flexible Learning email forum or at my blog.

    To complete the survey, please click on the link below.
    Click Here to take survey

    Please contact me if you have any problems completing the survey.

    Thanks for your assistance, I really appreciate it!



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