A Model of Flexible Learning: Exploring Interdependent Relationships Between Students, Lecturers, Resources and Contexts in Virtual Spaces


  • John Raymond Bostock Edge Hill University






In flexible and open models of education students and lecturers experience a virtual sense of separation that is caused by more than physical distance between students and lecturers. Transactional distance is “a psychological and communications gap, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of lecturer and those of the student” created in part by the physical distance inherent to online learning (Moore 1991, p. 2). a large transactional distance such as that between geographically dispersed students and lecturers in an asynchronous, text-based, online learning environment may contribute to students’ feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, which can lead to reduced levels of motivation and engagement and consequently attrition.

When designing e-learning experiences lecturers must consider two variables that affect transactional distance: structure and dialogue. Structure refers to the flexibility or rigidity of the pedagogical methods and strategies used in an e-learning experience. Dialogue refers to the interaction between the lecturer and student during an e-learning experience. Moore does not suggest that either structure or dialogue are inherently good things. Each may be appropriate in different circumstances and a typical educational event such as a conventional lecture will, at a micro-level, move constantly between the two. Another dimension of the theory suggests that more autonomous students, being self-directed, are better able to cope with more structure while less autonomous students benefit more from greater dialogue.

This paper explores a proposed model of flexible learning which attempts to inform practitioners of the fluid, interdependent relationships between students, resources, contexts and lecturers. This helps explain and justify a reconceptualisation of the role of the lecturer and suggests how social activity is also pivotal in successful learning outcomes for students.

Author Biography

John Raymond Bostock, Edge Hill University

Dr John Bostock is a Senior Lecturer in Teaching and Learning Development at Edge Hill University. Formerly a Further Education Lecturer and Team Leader in Modern Languages and Teacher Education he is now Accreditation Lead for the University CPD Scheme (UKPSF), Module Leader on the PGCTHE and Co-ordinator of the University Fellowship Staff Development Series as well as Strategic Lead on Pan-University Initiatives in Accessible and Inclusive Curriculum Design, Transitions and Student Peer Mentoring.


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