Registration is open for APODE Week 2023

The Asia-Pacific Online Distance Education (APODE) week will be held from 7 to 9 November 2023 and has the theme ‘Evolving Practice in Flexible Learning’. FLANZ and the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia (ODLAA) partner to provide a series of webinars. Globally, we partner with EDEN Digital Learning Europe who will be holding the European Open and Digital Learning Week (EODLW) together with the Coimbra Group Education Innovation and Doctoral Studies Working Groups and the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), who will be holding its National Distance Learning Week (NDLW).

We offer three free events. Check out their details on the APODE Week 2023 page.

  • ‘Digital assessments: A form of flexible learning’ with Kwong Nui Sim on 7 November 2023
  • ‘Getting started with UDL for open, flexible, and distance learning’ with Annette van Lamoen and Michael Grawe on 8 November 2023
  • ‘Lifelong joy: Promoting the joy of online learning across context, audience, and time’ with panellists Anitra Nottingham, Chinh Nguyen, Lina Du-Lazzara, Sarah Prestige, Toni Jones, and moderator Dawn Gilmore on 9 November 2023

Audio podcasting: An important pedagogical tool for flexible and online learning

Source: Dr Collin Bjork

Today’s students—especially those engaged in blended and online learning—face many external pressures that impact their studies. Many students work one or more jobs, often full time, to keep up with the current cost-of-living crisis and housing crisis. Others have families and caretaking duties that require their time and attention. Flexible, blended, and online learning makes a high-quality education accessible to these students. That’s a good thing.

But too often, online learning asks students to park themselves in front of a computer with a fast and stable internet connection, working through screen after screen of content on a learning management system. Many rural students, however, don’t have consistent access to fast and stable internet. And natural disasters like Cyclone Gabrielle—which, in the future, will only increase in quantity and scale due to climate change—can disrupt the accessibility of online learning for students anywhere. Plus, many students simply don’t have time to sit for hours at the computer because they need to watch the kids or make a meal or run errands on the other side of town. Simply put, it’s not enough to put a course on the internet and say that it’s now accessible to all. Accessibility is more complex than that. 

That’s where podcasting comes in. But people disagree about what a podcast is. Does a podcast need an RSS feed? Or can streaming audio also be a podcast? What about video podcasts? As these technologies continue to change, so too will definitions of podcasting. Given the aforementioned challenges that students currently face, this blog post focuses specifically on the affordances of audio podcasting, an intimate medium that makes audio recordings available with or without an active internet connection. 

cat with a digital microphone
Source: Dr Melissa Gunn

Audio podcasting, as a pedagogical tool, can improve accessibility for flexible and online learning. When educational content is packaged as an audio podcast, students can download that podcast to their mobile device and access it anywhere, any time. This means they can listen while they’re commuting to work, doing the washing, or exercising. And even if students don’t have a mobile phone or don’t like learning on their phone, they can access podcast content through the same computer and internet connection that they use to engage with other course content. Podcasting, in short, improves accessibility. 

Crucially, however, any medium for online and flexible education must also be accessible to students with disabilities. Too often, online course content lacks alt-text for images, transcripts for video lectures, slides designed with colorblind awareness, and so on. Podcasting is no different. To be accessible, pedagogical podcasts should have written transcripts for students with hearing disabilities. They should also have content warnings for any audio that students may find unsettling, especially students who have experienced trauma. These podcasting strategies create an inclusive and accessible pedagogical environment for flexible and online learners. 

Despite these benefits, podcasting does not work in every educational environment. Not all course content is suited to audio-only delivery. In many courses, students need to see charts, graphs, images, and other visual content to enrich their learning experience. This makes sense. But lecturers in visual-heavy courses might still consider what elements of their course could be taught via audio. Perhaps some theoretical background. Or historical context. Or an interesting anecdote. In every course, there’s probably some content that could benefit from being delivered orally and consumed aurally. 

The most common concern that educators express about using audio podcasting to teach is this: how much do students actually learn when listening to a podcast while doing something else? Many consumers indicate that they listen to podcasts to learn something new, but audio podcasting can seem like a passive—even distracted—mode of learning. The reality, however, is more complicated. Podcasting allows students to easily pause, rewind, and replay content. And an increasing number of podcasting platforms are making space for dialogue among listeners and the podcasters themselves. Podcasting is more interactive than it seems. 

It’s also important to encourage students to find a note-taking strategy that works for them when listening to podcasts. Some will want to have a notes application open, so they can jot down important ideas. Others will prefer to leave audio messages for themselves after listening to each episode, and some will prefer simply to listen to episodes multiple times as they prepare for their assessments. Of course, many students won’t take notes at all. But frankly, there are plenty of students who don’t take notes during lectures or when they’re reading course content. And heck, some students don’t attend lectures or even watch them online. In terms of student engagement, then, podcasting is hardly different from these other pedagogical forms. 

Ultimately, podcasting can be a fruitful tool for augmenting the accessibility of courses, especially in flexible and online learning environments. And I encourage you to give it a try!

If you’re unsure about how to begin creating your own pedagogical podcast, you can download a 1-page “How to Guide” from my website. You can also learn more by subscribing to my podcast about podcasting: Pod Uni. The latest episode features an interview with media whiz and podcast host Lucy Blakiston from Shit You Should Care About

Dr Collin Bjork
Dr Collin Bjork

Collin Bjork is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication and Podcasting at Massey University in Aotearoa New Zealand. He uses rhetorical theory to examine the mutually informing relationship among media, power, discourse, and democracy. His research has been published in Philosophy and Rhetoric, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, College Composition and Communication, Convergence, and Computers and Composition. He is currently working on a project that traces the complicated relationship between true crime podcasting and civic dialogue. In addition to Pod Uni, he also co-produces the academic podcast Global Rhetorics

Webinar: 21 years of teaching online: The good, the bad, and the noteworthy

This presentation will draw key insights from 21 years of online teaching, with a focus on asynchronous online discussion, student perspectives, and teacher workloads. Alongside research insights, you will receive practical suggestions, with an invitation to join the conversation and share your insights about online discussion from your own viewpoint and context. You do not need to have been teaching online for 21 years to participate.

The research that underlies this session is the article ‘Student expectations of peers in academic asynchronous online discussion‘, published in the Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning last year.


Profile photo of Dr Dianne ForbesDr Dianne Forbes (EdD) is a former primary school teacher and is now a senior lecturer in teacher education and digital learning at The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato. She has more than two decades of experience as an online teacher. Dianne has a long-standing interest in asynchronous online discussion and in innovative online pedagogies, including student-led podcasts, video, social media, and flipped/blended learning. Her research interests focus on human, social, and relational dimensions of learning through digital technologies, including ethics and professionalism. A consistent focus of her work is the perspectives and experience of students and teachers as participants in digital learning.


Register for free for this webinar. It will take place on Thursday, 31 August 2023, 14:00-15:00 NZST.

Seven years with the FLANZ Executive Committee

It’s a long time to serve with any group, but as a member of the FLANZ Executive Committee, the last seven years have been well worth it. And now that I’m stepping down, I’m not even prepared to go very far, as I continue to serve as Co-Editor of the FLANZ Flagship Journal, the Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning

The highlights of this Committee are threefold as far as I can see – it runs a valued Professional Association, works in a resoundingly topical subject area, and there is much joy and camaraderie working with the other Committee members to achieve things of interest to our profession.  

If anyone was ever in any doubt over the value of flexible learning (distance learning, online learning, open learning, or any flexible application or combination of these) prior to COVID-19, there is no doubt about its value now. These most recent years have meant flexibility over flexible learning itself is also needed, and the field is constantly pivoting to deal with new issues and ways of working as they arise. The pandemic led to much Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) and the FLANZ Executive responded with support for the transition not to ERT but to real flexible learning with its supporting theories, practical applications and nuanced deliveries. The more recent rise of ChatGPT and AI in educational settings has led again to leading professional discussions and webinars, and identifying quality resources to understand and harness the benefits of AI in education while minimising the downsides. Other things will be around the corner.

The FLANZ Executive Committee usually addresses issues head-on. And with a great team of energetic and passionate people, things just happen. It is the enthusiasm as well as the expertise of this group that makes it work. Everyone has the opportunity to take on a portfolio or a role, and we all get to play to our strengths to deliver a range of programmes, activities and resources to support the Flexible Learning communities in New Zealand and beyond. 

And with FLANZ’s biennial conference, a regular webinar series, an academic journal, blogs, newsletters, a professional pathways resource and other activities, there is always something happening and always a new way to connect with people working in online or flexible learning. 

To the FLANZ Executive Committee, it’s been great, and I’m genuinely sad to go. On the good side, it will leave room for someone else to step up to this role, and allows me to continue work with the Association’s Journal. It’s a win-win. For anyone reading this blog, this is your opportunity to be in for the win – consider joining in and being a part of the FLANZ Executive Committee. You can join a great team at a great time, and an AGM to make this all happen is just around the corner.

Note from the editor: It has been a pleasure working with you Alison. You contribution has been considerable and your work with JOFDL is invaluable.

Mama Mia: Let the substance shine through the language [Opinion]

The use of English is embedded in most learning and teaching practices. Even in flexible learning contexts, where learners are given autonomy on how, what, when and where they learn, the use of English is the primary medium for a learner to demonstrate their understanding and, ultimately, achieve academic success. 

Learners must use English in New Zealand (unless one chooses to do so in te reo Māori). So, what difference does it make if one is not a native speaker of English? Is it a disadvantage if one is not a native speaker in a flexible learning context?      

Hinted in the title of this blog, the answer is a big NO. I believe non-native English speakers/writers are not necessarily at a disadvantage because Normal English can convey one’s message perfectly.


All of us are on a learning journey towards Better English. For example, 

Normal English : Keep it as a secret.

Better English : Keep it under wraps. 

Terms adopted from Difference Between Normal English & Better English | – YouTube)

Words are so innocent and powerless, standing in a dictionary, but how potent they become is in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. This is the core of a writing/speaking component within education, especially when thoughts are mainly conveyed by words. As shown in the example above, there is nothing wrong with using Normal English when the focus of education is on more than the writing/speaking, at least not when the students or even the staff are in the learning process to be a better writer/speaker. After all, the core of flexible learning is never stop learning; the rate of change will never stop and neither should the learners.

As an academic developer for years and now an associate dean of learning and teaching, it seems like being a native speaker or not is always highlighted in daily learning and teaching circumstances/conversations, especially when using Normal English.

There is nothing right or wrong with focusing on the language aspect – good writing skills are necessary, but it has nothing to do with being a native speaker or not. Native speakers may know intuitively whether a sentence is grammatical or not, but they usually cannot specify exactly what is wrong and very possibly they make the same mistakes in their own speech or writing. In other words, Better English writing/speaking evolves from practices and perhaps experiences, especially when there are different sets of skills for different types of writing (e.g., a blog post is written differently from a journal article) or speaking (e.g., a daily conversation is quite different from a speech). This aligns with the notion of ‘being adaptable’ in flexible learning. This is particularly when learning is creation not consumption and knowledge is not something a learner absorbs but creates as time passes. Perhaps Normal English is the starting point for Better English.

So, whenever one doubts another person’s English writing/speaking abilities as a non-native speaker or when you receive comments because you are not a native speaker, do take it as a compliment (especially the latter) because:

  1. you clearly possess one or more than one other language and the people who comment may not;
  2. it seems like the only recommendation for your English is that you are not a native speaker.

Again, good writing/speaking skills are essential as they capture your thinking but do not let the notion of being a non-native put you down. Just like ABBA, they are Swedish, but their most famous songs are all in English, and their accents and the way they wrote their lyrics are not a detraction. Similarly, your writing/speaking will shine if you have brilliant ideas and scholarly contributions, even in Normal English. Better English is a bonus, but it is still meaningless without the substance.

A/P Kwong Nui Sim

Associate Dean Learning & Teaching

Sydney International School of Technology and Commerce

Recap: Panel ‘AI is here to stay: Part 2’

On 4 July 2023, FLANZ and EdTechNZ hosted part two of the panel ‘Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay: It’s impact on online, flexible, and distance learning’. We brought back panellists from our first panel conversation on AI on 18 May 2023, and expanded the panel to include more of the school sector.

We’d like to thank you panellists for an engaging conversation, answering the questions from the audience who got to weighty questions very quickly and asked, for example, “What would you personally like to see included in legislation around AI, to protect indigenous knowledge and self-determination?” Our panellists also tackled questions around establishing of rules and regulation specifically targeting artificial intelligence, the usefulness of adding AI literacy to the already existing literacies, what their own experiences are with AI, and where they themselves have observed changes since the first panel.

You can watch the recording of this conversation, read the transcript, and connect with our panellists:

If you are interested in joining future events of FLANZ and EdTechNZ, make sure you follow us on our respective Humanitix pages as you’ll receive email notifications about new events when they are published. Alternatively, view the events on our websites.



FLANZ AGM Date Change to 24 August

The Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ) will be holding its Annual General Meeting via videoconference on 24 August at 12:15 – 1:00pm.

This is a change in date from the originally announced 20 July date
FLANZ invites all FLANZ members to attend this meeting. Members will receive the agenda pack and link to access the meeting ahead of the meeting.
The AGM will also be electing members to be part of the Executive Committee, and call for nominations for these, including the roles of President, Secretary and Treasurer. We strongly encourage anyone working in this area to consider joining our Executive Committee.
Please contact our current FLANZ secretary, Ralph Springett, to initiate the nomination process.

Recap: ‘Bicultural principles of teaching and learning online’

The June FLANZ webinar took place on 20 June 2023, and I had the honour of facilitating the conversation between Arapera Herewini-Card and Dr Rosina Merry from Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand. They, along with Dr Janis Carroll-Lind, are the editors of ‘Bicultural principles of teaching and learning online | Ngā mātāpono kākano rua o te mahi ako tuihono’, which was published by NZCER in 2022.

The book is the culmination of many years of teaching online and conducting research in the space at Te Rito Maioha who are a bicultural organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Eleven authors share their perspective on the topic, looking at different aspects of teaching online. They focus on principles and purposefully do not provide strategies, which Arapera and Rosina explain during our conversation because every organisation will have a unique cultural environment that should be taken into account for defining strategies to implement the principles.

While these principles were originally developed for and with kaiako at Te Rito Maioha, they are applicable in other tertiary contexts not only in Aotearoa but also other countries.

You can watch the recording (with subtitles), read the transcript, and purchase the book to learn more about the principles. Why not get together with colleagues and discuss if and how you are already embracing them, how you can ensure that your teaching and learning environments are equitable and invite all learners to participate? Along the way, you will learn how Te Rito Maioha embraced the principles and how they are already exploring future mahi in that area.

Costa Rica and UNED: Hosting the 29th ICDE World Conference

Cost Rica: A Gateway to Peace, Conservation, and Sustainable Education

In a landmark decision, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) has chosen the beautiful nation of Costa Rica and its renowned distance education institution, Costa Rican Distance State University (UNED), as the hosts of the highly anticipated 29th ICDE World Conference. First time in Central America, and only the third time in Latin America, this prestigious event serves as acknowledgement to Costa Rica’s magnetism as a conference venue and its commitment to peace, conservation, and sustainable practices. As delegates from around the globe gather in this tropical paradise, they are presented with a unique opportunity to explore a country known for its natural wonders and immerse themselves in UNED’s innovating initiatives in distance education.

Costa Rica: A Paradise for Conferences:

Costa Rica, often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America,” is a captivating destination for international conferences. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the country boasts a remarkable array of natural landscapes, from pristine beaches and dense rainforests to imposing volcanoes and breath-taking waterfalls. This incredible biodiversity provides conference attendees with a chance to unwind amidst nature’s wonders, offering a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and inspiration. Costa Rica also serves as a cultural bridge connecting the magnificent heritage of ancient civilizations and diverse and vibrant social groups and peoples from North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean.

Conservation and Sustainability: A Global Leader:

Costa Rica has earned worldwide recognition for its firm commitment to conservation and sustainability. Home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity, the country has embraced progressive environmental policies, such as reforestation, protected area establishment, and renewable energy initiatives. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to witness first-hand the country’s ground-breaking efforts in ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy practices, setting an example for the world in harmonious coexistence with nature.

UNED: Leading the Way in Distance Education:

As the host institution for the 29th ICDE World Conference, UNED (Universidad Estatal a Distancia) is a pioneering force in the field of distance education, not only in Costa Rica but also across Latin America. With over 45 years of experience, UNED has continually evolved to deliver high-quality, accessible, and flexible education to a diverse student body. Its innovative use of technology and commitment to lifelong learning have positioned it as a leading organization in the realm of online education, as well.

UNED’s Impact and Initiatives:

UNED’s impact extends beyond its academic offerings. The institution has been instrumental in promoting social inclusion, gender equality, and educational opportunities for marginalized communities. By leveraging technology and embracing open educational resources, UNED has been able to reach individuals in remote areas, covering 98% of the national territory, by bridging the educational divide and empowering learners from all walks of life.

Registrations are open for the 29th ICDE World Conference.

Our conference organisers are ready to provide an unforgettable experience in Costa Rica. go to to find out more and register for your conference of a lifetime.

Nominations are open for 2023-2024 FLANZ executive roles

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ) will be holding its annual general meeting via videoconference on 20 July, 2023 at 12:15 – 1:00pm. The AGM agenda will be made available prior to the meeting.  

We would like to invite all FLANZ members and people with an interest in distance and flexible learning to attend this meeting.

Call for nominations

FLANZ is seeking nominations to be part of the Executive Committee. We strongly encourage anyone working in this area to consider joining our Executive Committee. As part of this, FLANZ is calling for nominations for the following elected committee positions.

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

The FLANZ Executive Committee page has detail about the executive function. Further detail will be provided as part of the nomination process. Please contact our current FLANZ secretary, Ralph Springett to make your nominations. Ralph will guide you through the nomination process. Note that:

  • Nominations must be with the Secretary by 06 July (14 days before the AGM).
  • Nominations may be taken from the floor during the meeting if there are insufficient nominees for the vacancies. 

We look forward to seeing you at the AGM.

Ngā mihi

Ralph Springett

Secretary, FLANZ