Knowing in uncertain times: optimism, ignorance and flexible learning

Year: 1997

Author: Taylor, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores Universities are scrambling to position themselves in relation to challenges like globalisation, commercialisation, and the increasing availability and capacities of information technologies. They are experiencing significant identity crisis's they are buffeted by significant changes in both demands and the resources they have available to meet those demands. Many of the strategies being utilised to respond to those demands are themselves unproven. Thus we have institutions responding to novel demands with strategies which are also novel. Levels of anxiety about these novel times vary, but the actual level of exposure to the challenges seems to be related to that level. For example, academic managers expressing most concern about commercialisation, while IT managers express greatest need to engage with the new capacities of the information technologies.

Flexible learning is seen as an area of convergence of both challenges and potential solutions. This paper is based on research conducted into the adoption of flexible learning approaches in three faculty environments, and the more general experiences of the author as a staff developer with particular responsibility for promoting the adoption of flexible learning. It looks to some of the dysfunctional as well as the potential aspects of these expectations, focusing on the levels of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the value of those practices to both staff and students.