This fourth topic explores some of the drivers behind flexible and mobile learning as well as what flexibility entails for both students and educators. The 21st century has seen a change in student demographics. The student body is increasingly diverse, for example – since many students are learners who may have work and family schedules in addition to study commitments, attending traditional face-to-face classes in a college or university may not always be possible. Ubiquitous networked computer technology, the growth of the Internet and the widely used personalized technologies as well as social media provide multiple platforms for cooperation and co-learning. This has given rise to added opportunities for both students and educators, in a time of increasing uncertainty in the educational landscape. You will be encouraged to reflect on possible challenges and opportunities that flexibility has for learning and education in general, from an individual as well as collaborative and organizational perspectives. Mobile learning, on the other hand, is more than just using a mobile device to communicate with others or to access course content – it is about the mobility of the learner, the fact that learners nowadays are mobile. Reaching a consensus about what mobile learning really is has been very hard, because of the rapid evolution in this field, but also because mobile learning seems to work best when it is part of something else.

Activities/tasks for all learners

Check out the suggested resources below and in Diigo. You may also conduct your own search and share resources you find useful.

On Monday 21st March 10-11 CET  there will be a webinar with Dr Martha Cleveland Innes as an introduction the topic.

Discuss aspects of flexible and mobile learning in your professional context with peers in the ONL G+ Community –  and comment on each other’s contributions!

Twitter (optional): If you are interested please discuss about this topic also on twitter!  We encourage you to make at least one tweet during the topic. Remember to use the hashtag #ONL161 when tweeting. (If you want to know more about twitter we suggest you to view Alastairs video What is Twitter?)


Learning (b)log

Reflect on how and why you would enable elements of flexible and mobile learning. What is your target group of students like? How do you use your learning spaces, virtual as well as on campus? Are there opportunities for further development in this area you have now identified as a result of your engagement in this topic? .
Comment and invite others to comment on your learning blog post. Share your blogpost in the ONL Google+ Community and invite others to comment. If you haven’t already added your blog address to the ONL bloglist, do so!


For guidance on PBL group work including the FISh design, please see Learning activities. Choose one of the scenarios below:

Scenario 1: Posted in a discussion forum in a teachers’ community:
“I´m quite new to all this with flexible and mobile learning and it seems to be quite complex and challenging but also very interesting. Many of my friends and also my students seem to be much more mobile in their learning than me, I am quite stuck at my computer. I found this framework (see image below) for thinking about mobile learning but frankly I don’t understand what it means? Perhaps there are other better frameworks? I would appreciate getting some of your perspectives on this and some concrete examples how you would apply this to a course or a learning activity you know about.”


Scenario 2: “Together with a colleague I have developed a blended learning course design in a higher level education course. In the course design we want to offer students a high level of flexibility in their learning. We realized however that this is not so easy. We have divided course content into several modules and when we move from one module to the next we aim for all course participants to be ready to move on. If they have not grasped first level module content of the second will be more difficult to digest. Thus, we considered there is a need for deadlines for submissions so that we can check progress of participants. For learning activities that depend on collaboration, deadlines also seemed to be needed. Even if the group work tasks were designed so that they could be performed asynchronously; course participants that contributed to a discussion online were expecting activity from their group mates, and if they did not see any activity they became annoyed. In my opinion, the more deadlines and the stricter the rules for how to perform the learning activities, the less flexibility in the learning. I reflect over whether flexible learning has to be individual learning activity and not so much collaboration.”


Suggested resources


Creelman, A. Flexible learning (2014). Available here.


Main readings
Tagged as “suggested resource” in the ONL Diigo group.

  • Jones, B., & Walters, S. (2015). Flexible learning and teaching: looking beyond the binary of full-time/part-time provision in South African higher education. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, 3(1), 61-84.  Available here.
  • Kearney, M., Schuck, S., Burden, K., & Aubusson, P. (2012). Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective. Research in Learning Technology20. Available here.

If you want to explore this topic further
Tagged as “additional resource” in the ONL Diigo group.

  • Rhode, J. (2009). Interaction equivalency in self-paced online learning environments: An exploration of learner preferences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(1). Available here.

  • Bates, A.W. (2015)  Teaching in a Digital Age. Chapter 1: Fundamental Change in Education. Available here.
  • Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. Chapter 1: Conceptual Framework. Available here.
Additional resources

ONL diigo group at

Please check this learners’ generated collection and add further resources you find useful and link well with this topic. Remember to use tags and comment on resources shared by others.


By the end of this topic, you will have had the opportunity to

1. explore drivers for flexible and mobile learning

2. discuss benefits and challenges of flexible/mobile learning in your professional context

3. inquire into flexible/mobile learning related to a specific scenario

WEBINAR with Dr Martha Cleveland Innes, Professor and Chair of Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University. Please see the event page.

Monday 21 March 10-11 CET

Please check your local time:


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