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.

ChatGPT in Education: New Resource on FLANZ Professional Pathways

Following the November 2022 launch of ChatGPT, a large language artificial intelligence chatbot, a huge amount of information, comment and discussion has been published. And not unexpectedly, some of this information and comment has been written using ChatGPT itself.

Early readers were not always aware of whose writing they were reading and even now, months later, more sophisticated uses are being harnessed which make the line between writing from a human and writing from ChatGPT difficult to distinguish from each other. Therein lies the problem. This has huge implications for the Education sector, among many others.

Students have ChatGPT available as a tool to assist their writing, which is disrupting the traditional models of assessment such as essay writing, while teachers now have a tool to streamline writing their lesson notes, course developers have a tool for writing new content quickly and consistently for any defined audience, and markers have a tool for assisting their feedback on submitted written work. ChatGPT is available, and it is up to educators to now determine how to best manage with this new player in the marketplace.

There are already 596,000,000 entries listed in a search on <ChatGPT> on Google and it is only 3½ months after the initial release of this software. To help you successfully navigate your way in this rapidly growing information resource on ChatGPT, Alison Fields (InfoSolutions Ltd, FLANZ Executive member) has provided you with a curated list of useful resources providing a solid introduction to AI in general, and ChatGPT in particular, in Education. This list is available in the FLANZ Professional Pathways under Current Topics: ChatGPT in Education.

Workshop review: ‘Innovating Pedagogy 2022’

Thursday 8th September I had the privilege of running an online workshop to explore the potential of a range of different pedagogical approaches that might apply to different educational sectors in New Zealand and Australia.

See Transcript

The Innovating Pedagogy 2022 is the 10th annual report from the Open University (UK) exploring new forms in interactive and innovative practice of teaching, learning and assessment. These innovations already exist in pockets of practice but are not considered mainstream. This collaboration between the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, UK, and the Open University of Catalonia, Spain, is the result of a filtering process and is compiled, based on a review of published studies and other sources. Ten concepts or themes are identified.

Hybrid models
Maximising learning flexibility and opportunities. Beyond the strict curriculum delineations in Blended Learning models, Hybrid forms aim to empower the learner to optimise their own learner choices at to where, when, and how to learn. Providing flexible choices requires teachers and institutions to adjust their systemic approaches.
Influencer-led education
 Learning from education influencers on social media platforms. Acknowledging the growth of edu-influencers, who optimise their use of social media tools to share their knowledge, experience, and passion for a range of subjects from the highly specialised to the generic. Evaluating the veracity of the message is a challenge for the learner.
Dual learning scenarios
Connecting learning in classrooms and industrial workplaces. A step up from work-integrated learning models, the expectation is that course designers fully meld both formal classroom and work spaces into a coherent experience.
Pedagogies of the home
Understanding the home as a place for cultural learning. Not the same as home-schooling. Rather, it seeks to leverage the wider socio-cultural environment that the learner inhabits. Also recognises the burden on marginalised communities to fully participate.
Pedagogies of micro-credentials
Accredited short courses to develop workplace skills. Existing approaches, snippets taken from existing programmes, fail to create an effective learning ecosystem for learners who require support to develop a patchwork portfolio meshing formal, non-formal, and informal experiences together.
Pedagogy of discomfort  
Emotions as powerful tools for learning and for promoting social justice. A process
of self-examination that requires students to critically engage with their ideological traditions and ways of thinking about issues such as racism, oppression, and social injustice.
Pedagogy of autonomy
Building capacity for freedom and independent learning. Explores the notion of incorporating informal, non-formal, and formal learning patterns into the learner’s experience, creating self-regulated learners with an emphasis on their metacognitive development and allowing them to reflect their true selves..
Wellbeing education
Promoting wellbeing across all aspects of teaching and learning. Wellbeing education helps students to develop mental health ‘literacy’ by teaching them how to manage their own mental health, recognise possible disorders, and learn how, where, and when to seek help.
Watch parties
Watching videos together, whatever the time or place. Leveraging the increased connectivity prompted in response to covid-19, and the move of media providers to provide educational tools, this is the notion of structured engagement around a shared viewing (or listening) experience.
Combining movement and conversation to enhance learning. Not just used in service of those in need of emotional support, where the therapeutic benefits have been proven, but across a wide range of learning activities where reflection and thought would be best served by being away from the classroom and being outside and mobile.
10 Themes from the 2022 Innovating Pedagogy report

The workshop used Mentimeter as an online polling tool. Of the 25 participants, 20 regularly voted and made 659 submissions. The tertiary sector dominated, at 15, with fewer representatives from the Private Training Enterprise and Commercial L&D sectors and only one from compulsory education. Only 2 Australians participated.

Despite having laboured the point in all publicity materials that it would be valuable to read the report before participating, only 8 said they had read it (or the summary), with 11 admitting they had not.

Of the 17 that responded to the question about their approach to new educational technologies, 12 saw themselves as ‘progressive’, 2 as ‘radical’, and 3 as ‘pedestrian’.

To get participants involved in thinking about each pedagogic approach, we ran a 2×2 square exercise, asking what the relative effort versus impact might be. See the video for responses.

Following breakout groups we ranked the innovations in terms of the amount of attention participants would pay to them in the next 12 months in their personal practice (see screenshot above).

The general consensus was that whilst there was nothing exceptional or radical in any of these innovations, they provided a focus for reflection and were deemed stimulating. Thank you to all who participated.  

Dr Simon Paul Atkinson 

Kukulska-Hulme, A., (2022). Innovating Pedagogy 2022: Open University Innovation (No. 10). Open University.

Webinar: Embedding interactivity successfully into courses

Four highly experienced learning designers discussed ‘Embedding interactivity successfully into courses’ in a lively panel conversation at the FLANZ webinar on 22 June 2022. The presenters were Hinerangi Eruera Mānuera Murphy (Ngāti Awa; Te Whare Wānanga ō Awanuiārangi in Aotearoa New Zealand), Stephen Bright (Ngāti Kahungunu; University of Waikato), Sue Tickner and Jacqui Thornly (both from Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland).

The presenters shared their experiences and design principles through a presentation each, followed by a joint discussion. Their individual stories combined different threads about designing for interactivity in higher education. Sue, Stephen, Hinerangi, and Jacqui presented their thoughts about the relevance of appropriate interactivity, enabling and hindering factors, and the role of theory. Sue emphasised the community of inquiry framework and the three presences as a useful tool to design for interactivity and engagement. Stephen suggested the use of personas as a tool to design for diversity, which led to an engaged discussion between audience members. The need to put whanaungatanga at the centre of everything was emphasised by Hinerangi with examples from Te Whare Wānanga ō Awanuiārangi. Jacqui outlined a five phase framework to design and facilitate online and face-to-face, and recommended course design resources. Jacqui’s suggestions include:

Conrad RM. & Donaldson JA. (2012) Continuing to Engage the Online Learner. Jossey Bass; California

Ratima MT. Smith JP., McFarlane AH., Rik NM., Jones KL& Davies LK (2022) NgāHau e Whā o Tāwhirimātea – Culturally responsive teaching and learning for the tertiary sector

Nicols, M. (2020) Transforming Universities with Digital Distance Education. Routledge; New York

Sankey M.D (2021) The state of Australasian online higher education post pandemic and beyond. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, Vol19, Issue 2 Quarterly

This is only a snapshot of a highly engaging conversation between our panelists who left their audience with plenty of ideas to consider. If you are interested to follow the whole conversation, you can watch the recording and view the transcript. The panel was chaired by Bettina Schwenger (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland) and Kristina Hoeppner (Catalyst IT).

Join FLANZ to support the efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand around flexible learning, and follow up on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about upcoming events. If you have a topic that you think we should discuss in one of our webinars, please get in touch.



Embedding interactivity successfully into courses (Free Webinar)

Wednesday 22nd June 2022, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm New Zealand Time

ZOOM Webinar

In the last couple of years, educators and institutions have faced rapid changes to fully online learning and teaching. However, online learning can lack flexibility and interaction, due to a number of reasons. This webinar focuses on the highly relevant topic of how to embed interactive, flexible learning successfully into courses.

To achieve interactivity and flexibility in the online and face-to-face mode, expertise in design for learning has to be developed alongside technical competency so that the questions of how? and why? are considered in tandem. It is also important that educators move from technical questions and how a tool functions to the rationale for the use of a certain pedagogical strategy for which a tool could be used. Furthermore, underlying concepts need to be considered about how people learn, the type of learning required and ways to support learning to achieve a particular learning outcome.


Join this free FLANZ webinar to hear our presenters consider the following questions and more:

  • Why should we care about what students do and offer activities?
  • How can we utilise online learning to add value to face-to-face learning?
  • What are the underpinning principles?
  • What could embedding look like?
  • Which strategies work in certain situations and with a certain class size?

Our presenters will share their experiences through a short presentation or activity each, followed by time for questions and discussion. Their individual stories will combine to a rich canvas on how to achieve interactivity at various levels and contexts of learning.

Our presenters

  • Hinerangi Eruera Murphy (Ngāti Awa; Te Whare Wānanga ō Awanuiārangi in Aotearoa New Zealand)
  • Jacqui Thornley (University of Auckland)
  • Stephen Bright (Ngāti Kahungunu; University of Waikato)
  • Sue Tickner (University of Auckland)

Register for this free FLANZ webinar to receive access.

Realities of social media use in education: dangers and pitfalls

Professional Pathways Blog

This blog represents the views of the author and does not represent any official position by FLANZ

Social Media Collage

My previous three blogs on the theme of social media use in education highlighted some of the benefits for educators and students. This blog will highlight some dangers and pitfalls.

These fall into the categories of access, digital literacy, privacy, data protection and social factors

Continue reading “Realities of social media use in education: dangers and pitfalls”

Social Media in Tertiary Education: moving outside the walled garden

Professional Pathways Blog

This blog represents the views of the author and does not represent any official position by FLANZ

Image of adults looking at laptps in a busy coffeeshop

The second blog post in this series of four briefly outlined options for secondary school teachers to leverage the functionality of social media platforms. This third post examines in more depth the benefits for tertiary students. The same caveats still apply though; faculty need to be aware of their institutional policies and adhere to national legislation, particularly in the realm of privacy and data protection.

The Ubiquitous Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) 

The vast majority of tertiary providers, certainly the Universities and Polytechnics & Institutes of Technology (ITP) and Industry Training Organisations (ITO) host their own virtual learning environment (VLE). They do this to integrate the learning resources and articulated learner journey with backend enrolments, identity and payments systems. VLEs have become a common experience for most adult learners in formal education. Continue reading “Social Media in Tertiary Education: moving outside the walled garden”

Practical uses of Social Media in Secondary School: some important things to be aware of

Professional Pathways Blog

This blog represents the views of the author and does not represent any official position by FLANZ

Screen showing social media apps

Given how acclimated most students are to some form of social media, it is worth exploring how such tools may benefit their learning journey. Each social media platform offers different opportunities, from simply making classroom announcements to having live synchronous sessions. Social media represents immediacy, or presence, that can make the student feel more in touch, more supported than the traditional discussion board.

Teachers thinking about making use of social media should always know both their institutions’ guidelines and national legislation. School policies may restrict the use of mobile devices in the classroom and national legislation around data protection and privacy needs to be considered.

My last blog outlined some of the broad opportunities and challenges represented by the use of social media in education. In this blog, I Want to focus on the potential benefits of social media for learners and teachers in formal compulsory schooling, particularly secondary. Continue reading “Practical uses of Social Media in Secondary School: some important things to be aware of”

Social Media in Education: big picture, equity and purpose

Professional Pathways Blog

This blog represents the views of the author and does not represent any official position by FLANZ

male hand holding am iphone with social media icons
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Personal communication devices, our smartphones, have become indispensable for many of us. They have undoubtedly opened up opportunities for increased communication and information retrieval. But what about formal education? What place is there for social media tools in schools, colleges, universities and work-based learning?
Continue reading “Social Media in Education: big picture, equity and purpose”