FLEX is flexible as the title suggests and it does what it says on the tin. I think it does. Perhaps it is not just flexible but elastic. This may be its appeal? There is evidence that it has inspired colleagues internally and externally to adapt the FLEX approach for other professional development initiatives but also for undergraduate and postgraduate units in different disciplines.
Can’t wait to co-facilitate FLEX next term with my colleagues Kath and Ben starting in a few weeks. Since 2014 when I developed FLEX after arriving at Manchester Met it has grown every year and become popular unit on our a PgCert and the MA in Higher Education. It has worked really well for many and offered opportunities to engage in scholarly activities around their teaching and disseminate some of their work through conferences and publications. With my colleague Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos we carried out some related research and with a Kath Botham early on we did a pilot for the HEA linked to the use of portfolios within FLEX.
It is now the first time I will be team teaching on this unit but I am not new to such practices. Extremely valuable, I have found in the past for peer dialogue and support. I have been team teaching systematically on our a PgCert with Haleh Moravej, also on one of her units (we have written about our team-teaching experience and this will be published later this year). Then with a learning developer, recently and I often invite colleagues in the PgCert to team teach with me. In the past,when I was at Salford Uni, this provided an introduction to academic development to a colleague who then transitioned full time to become an academic developer. So working together has some fantastic benefits for all involved.
We are in lockdown, for over six weeks now and I have been working systematically to reshape our FLEX Moodle areas. Reshaping with a purpose. Until now, I did not pay much attention to these spaces, I have to admit. So when I started looking at them with a critical eye I started stripping some of its layers away. I think I actually removed most of it. I realised I needed to revisit my own research into learning and teaching supported by technology. There was extensive work I did in my thesis, also linked to pedagogical models and frameworks supported by technology and the collaborative learning framework I developed. I also looked back at my own experiences as a distant and online student on a range of programmes and courses and my role as a facilitator in some of these. This experience and research came in handy. Very handy indeed. I know that frameworks can make a difference to learning and teaching, to scaffold, support and build community. I have experienced it myself and my research confirms this as well.
The new design (well there is a design now!) is streamlined and the use of learning blocks or blocks for learning, with a focus on supported inquiry, and clear (I hope!) instructions will bring clarity, help navigation and foster engagement so that we can come together and learn together. Less is definitely more. I am really looking forward to hearing how colleagues find this space and if they feel that it is easy to navigate through the space and easily find what they are looking for but also participate in the activities and discussions.
As there are two FLEX units, FLEX 15 and FLEX 30 I felt that it would be beneficial to bring the two groups together not just synchronously but also asynchronously. We will do this through our uniting Twitter hashtag #flexcpd and also our brand new private Facebook group. I wasn’t keen to use Facebook but we have used it in the past and also our #creativeHE community has been transferred there and it seems to work ok. Let’s see what happens with your FLEX community there.
Hopefully, our colleagues will who joined FLEX will find the unit useful to not just reflect on their practice but also to get ideas that they could adapt in their own teaching.