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Implementing Flexible Curriculum: The potential opportunities and challenges in integrating online learning into teaching and learning post-COVID

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Abstract

flexibility in our curriculum and assessment processes. The flexible curriculum is an indicator of an effective and rigorous curriculum that allows educators to support students meeting their individual needs and facilitate developing life skills. During this COVID-19 outbreak, it is evident that the nature of learning spaces are changing drastically. It is challenging for many as they find keeping consistency in instruction an issue. On the other hand, for many, it has been an opportunity to employ technology as an instructional tool, and enrich their IT skills.
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Title of Assignment
Implementing Flexible Curriculum: The potential opportunities and challenges in
integrating online learning into teaching and learning post-COVID
Module Name
DED 623: Curriculum and Innovation: Theory and Practice
Module Coordinator
Dr. Christopher Hill
Student ID
2013121113
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Table of Contents
Introduction......................................................................................................................................3
Context.............................................................................................................................................4
Literature Review and Theoratical Approach to Flexible Curriculum............................................5
Flexible Learning.........................................................................................................................5
Curriculum flexibility..................................................................................................................7
Asynchronous learning as an approach to remote teaching.........................................................7
Blended curriculum and blended learning...................................................................................8
Methodologies and approaches to implementation of a Blended Curriculum..............................10
Methodology..................................................................................................................................12
Data collection procedure..............................................................................................................12
Results and Discussion..................................................................................................................13
Descriptive statistics..................................................................................................................13
Discussion..................................................................................................................................15
Conclusion and recommendations.................................................................................................18
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Introduction
Over the last five decades, the world has seen a drastic growth in education at all academic
levels. Today, COVID-19 is the great challenge impeding growth in educational systems hence
trying to undo all the previous achievements (Mahaye 2020). This global pandemic has
influenced education policies in many countries to the extent that governments have forced
institutions to do away with face to face learning to virtual education and online teaching.
Unfortunately, key education stakeholders such as institutional heads, teachers, and government
officials have not attained sufficient guidance on how to address this dilemma. There is still a
challenge of the knowledge gap on how educational institutions can implement asynchronous
learning/ flexible teaching and what preparations would be appropriate to address the needs of
learners at various levels in different fields of study (Czerniewicz, Trotter & Haupt 2019). One
of the recommended preparations is the adoption of the blended curriculum, but how can this be
implemented in flexible ways to improve students' learning trajectories during and after this
pandemic?
This research paper presents insights on the various processes that help schools to realize
flexibility in blended curriculum implementation. Flexibility in the curriculum can be
contextualized in terms of accessibility and adaptability of the curriculum to the various
capabilities and needs of the students. The blended curriculum aims at realizing flexibility in
learning by combing online and face to face components (Khan, Shaik, Ali & Bebi, 2012).
Several educational institutions are designing and implementing blended curricula to increase the
enrolment of students and meet the needs of diverse students' graduation portfolios. To promote
continuous learning during the COVID crisis, schools have to design a curriculum that allows
enables remote learning. The response to these initiatives varies across different countries and
jurisdictions (Mahaye 2020). Some countries have predetermined national curricula while others
have given teachers discretion to select the teaching program content. Much as it is imperative to
direct students' learning to the flexible curriculum and examinations/assessments, it is also
important to protect students' interest in learning by focusing on the diverse needs of learners in
both historical and global contexts.
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Context
This research also explores the conditions that can promote or affect the realization of curriculum
flexibility. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten educators to determine what
defining curricular flexibility in schools, the level of success is obtained by schools in utilizing
flexible curriculum approaches to blended learning, which predicts the effectiveness,
opportunities, and challenges of delivering flexible curriculum during and after the COVID
crisis. The paper is segmented into three major sections. Section one is the introduction, which
explains the rationale for conducting this research. The second section is the literature review and
the theoretical approach to blended curriculum based on the existing research. The third section
is the discussions section, which explains the obtained research findings in relation to the
existing literature, focused on the opportunities and challenges of implementing blended
curriculum as one way of ensuring flexibility in teaching.
The study was conducted by collecting responses from participants from the various educational
institutions in the United Arab Emirates and Middle East countries. The institutions offer various
programs of higher education, which prepare students for further studies and fieldwork. The
school also has various graduation portfolios. Due to the outbreak of COVID, students were
dispersed to their homes. To facilitate teaching, it was determined that the schools should initiate
online teaching and learning in the time of social distancing to continue students’ educational
activities and implement a flexible blended curriculum to address the needs of the students
(Mahaye 2020). The design of this curriculum was developed on a framework that includes
alteration between online and face to face learning, organization of weekly lessons and creation
of digital platforms to allow students to share the corresponding teaching materials. The blend
also includes a source of curriculum materials in online lessons and electronic learning
environments through software connections hence allowing synchronous communication to
thrive (Cheong, 2013). Teacher educators were given discretionary powers to fill the blended
structure to meet the needs of their teaching courses by deciding on what should be done online
and on face to face. This implies that different uses use different blended structures for their
curriculum teaching, which creates the need to examine the flexibility of the schools' formal
curriculum. Following are the questions developed to collect responses.
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Research questions
I. What best defines curricular flexibility in the school?
II. How successfully is the school using flexible approaches to the curriculum and
assessments to engage students who need additional support?
III. How does curricular flexibility enable students to learn 21st-Century Skills?
IV. Should online teaching be considered as an alternative approach to teaching one
on one in schools?
V. Is the school curriculum flexible enough to deliver online during COVID-19
without any drastic change?
VI. Have schools made changes to the content and assessment process to fit into the
situation?
VII. How does the school assess students' learning when teaching online?
VIII. What are the potential opportunities and challenges in integrating online learning
into teaching and learning post-COVID?
Literature Review and Theoratical Approach to Flexible Curriculum
Flexible Learning
In teaching and learning, flexibility is the ability of the educational environment to offer a wide
range of choices and customize the course to meet the diverse learning needs and expectations of
individual students (Jonker, März, & Voogt, 2020). Because of the mushrooming dynamics such
as pandemics, natural hazards, wars, and political insurgencies, among others, schools ought to
provide the possibility of making learning choices to students. Such choices of earning should
cover a wide range of aspects, including instructional approach, course content, class times, and
communication medium, learning resources, technology use, and learning location, requirements
for entry, and completion dates, among others. The current technological advancements have led
to the development of ICT systems that allows the integration of new learning models, which has
created more opportunities for the proliferation of flexible learning(Singh & Thurman, 2019).
One of the opportunities for flexible learning is open learning, which focuses on making learners
more independent and self-determined as teachers become facilitators than instructors.
Flexibility-oriented practices are based on the learner-centered philosophy, which is the
foundation theory. The creation of flexible learning environments allows the elimination of
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barriers to attend classrooms in a given educational context and allows instructors and students to
exchange knowledge in a two-way approach (Ryan & Tilbury, 2013; Gordon, 2014). Flexible
learning has been extended further to address issues of flexible pedagogy beyond simple syllabus
coverage. According to Gardon (2014), flexible pedagogy is an attribute of learner-centered
approach, which gives educators a wide range of choices from the study dimensions such as
learning time and location, learning activities, support for learners and teachers, learning and
teaching resources, as well as flexible instructional strategies. These choices have made learning
and teaching more flexible compared to ancient fixed teaching and learning approaches, which
has promoted effective, engaged, and easy learning.
There are several characteristics that make learning flexible in both classroom and online
settings. First of all, learners should be provided with a wide range of choices and empowered to
take learning responsibilities for purposes of understanding the curriculum content (Jonker,
März, & Voogt, 2020). This means that learns should be able to regulate themselves in terms of
making adjustments, self-monitoring, goal setting, and making rational decisions and necessary
adjustments. All these and capabilities enable active learning to make learning more effective
and engaging rather than instructive. The second characteristic of flexible learning is that it
applies the constructivist approach, which is learner-centered, by allowing changes in the
teaching process whereby the learner has to take the learning responsibilities instead of the
teacher taking such responsibilities (Jonker, März, & Voogt, 2020).
Curriculum flexibility
Today, learning institutions are enrolling studies from diverse backgrounds in terms of cultural
background, domicile, age, professional and personal experiences, prior education, digital
literacy, and learning approaches (Severiens et al., 2014). The increasing diversity requires a
flexible curriculum that addresses and adapts to the different capabilities and needs of the
learners (Rao & Meo 2016). Flexible curricula provide more opportunities for learners to
regulate their learning environment and learning/study processes. According to Cheong (2013),
curriculum flexibility requires a proper understanding of the available choices of learning and
how those choices affect an individual's learning. However, Tucker and Morris (2011) noted that
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the degrees of flexibility vary with different continuums where the curriculum can be positioned.
A curriculum can be flexible in terms of its details, how, when, and where it is being
implemented. According to Carlsen et al. (2016), curriculum flexibility based on when and
where aspects of learning are the requirement for inclusion of all learners in the educational
framework irrespective of their diverse backgrounds. In fact, a flexible curriculum that enables
learners to decide on what, when, and where they should learn is fascinating to both the students
at remote locations and non-traditional students. The extent to which the curriculum is adoptable
or accessible is the adaptability or accessibility dimension of contextualizing the curriculum.
Flexibility in the perception of learning is important since students have diverse learning
challenges that influence learning and teaching processes.
Asynchronous learning as an approach to remote teaching
The outbreak of COVID 19 is one of the circumstances that have created a dilemma on how
learning institutions can maintain contacts with parents and students. This has created a need to
ramp up their ability to conduct remote teaching, inform and ensure contact with learners
(Czerniewicz, Trotter, & Haupt 2019). Teachers need to learn new technology and pedagogy to
give this reassurance to the learners that they are able to conduct remote teaching (Jonker, März,
& Voogt 2020). To achieve remote teaching among those teachers who are used to real-time
classroom teaching is adopting asynchronous learning. For most teaching and learning aspects,
there is no simultaneous communication between the teacher and the students. Asynchronous
learning creates flexibility for teachers in preparing teaching and learning materials and helps
learners to maneuver the demands for study against the demands at home (Smits & Voogt 2017).
Asynchronous learning is appropriate in digital formats (Khan et al. 2012). Teachers have
offloaded the burden of delivering the learning materials in a fixed time frame because they can
post such material online for access by students on-demand and enable the learners to engage
with e-mails, blogs, and wikis to flexibly meet their schedules. The other benefit of asynchronous
learning is that it helps teachers to make the periodic analysis of student participation and make
an online appointment for learners with specific questions and learning needs. According to
Czerniewicz, Trotter and Haupt (2019), video lessons are easier to prepare and effective to
deliver since they are usually short, taking not more than 30 minutes. Education institutions
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offering online courses should design optimized approaches to asynchronous learning that
balance effectiveness and accessibility.
Blended curriculum and blended learning
The blended curriculum is the curriculum that deliberately mixes both face to face and digital
education to support and stimulate learning to realize flexibility in teaching and learning
(Boelens et al., 2017). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many educational institutions may be
forced to embrace blended education through the reformation of the curriculum, learning
activities, and teaching courses. The blended curriculum design can be placed on various
continuums depending on the appropriateness of the context where learning and teaching can be
accomplished either in face to face teaching with face to face curricula or online /digital
environment with online curricular (Graham et al. 2013; Czerniewicz, Trotter & Haupt 2019).
Other determinant factors include the functions of online and face to face parts, who control the
curricula blend, i.e., the students, teacher or the designer; the sequence of online and face to face
parts (Boelens et al. 2017). The digital environment is enriched with many flexible options that
help teachers to deliver knowledge without involving face to face contact. According to Carlsen
et al. (2016), ICTs play a significant role in helping schools realize flexibility in curriculum
implementation because of the provide alternatives and make choices from a variety of
manageable and realizable educational interventions hence bridge the time and distance. In
regard to flexible curriculum, the digital element of the blended curriculum helps the teachers to
present the content through different means at different levels using a variety of alternative and
choices such as learning materials and activities hence enabling educational institutions to realize
pedagogical and programmatic responsiveness to the learning needs of students. Digital
platforms bring education to learners to distant locations and help learners to have an opportunity
to study at their convenient time hence promoting learning inclusion to all students. Flexibility is
connected to various underlying pedagogies that can be adopted in 21st-century teaching and
teaching (Nikolov et al. 2018; Jonker, März & Voogt, 2020). Blended learning is appropriate for
the implementation and adoption of the learner-centered teaching approaches whereby learners
with their needs are prioritized when making decisions regarding the learning and teaching
processes. The teacher becomes a coach instead of being the center of student interactions.
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Blended learning integrates ICT into the learning and teaching environment to combine both
online and face to face learning and teaching. It is an academic setting in learning and teaching
situations where there is a combination of the learning approaches, models of teaching, and
various delivery platforms (Smits & Voogt, 2017). Schools should adopt blended learning as the
outcome of applying the systematic and strategic approach to the integration of technology to
facilitate and stimulate interaction between students and teachers.
Blended learning requires three major aspects, namely interactive traditional teaching
approaches, instructor based training approaches, technologically enabled, and multiple content
delivery mode (Khan,et al. 2012). All these learning aspects are facilitated by the instructor or
the teacher. According to Chlup and Coryell (2017), blended learning combines cooperative/live
learning, virtual learning, and traditional learning. It also combines unstructured and structured
methods of learning and mixes asynchronous learning or synchronous learning with online
formats of learning. In all models, there use of two different instruction media. According to
Khan et al. (2012), blended learning requires improvement on the existing pedagogical
tendencies that apply a variety of teaching models and approaches assisted by technology. It
cannot thrive with the presence of both the students and the teachers. It involves the application
of different teaching methods, and technology offers the elements of teaching control such as
pace, time, and content delivery and instruction platforms.
Methodologies and approaches to implementation of a Blended Curriculum
The increasing growth of student enrolment stimulates the need for more robust and effective
teaching approaches to revolutionize education systems in schools by focusing on trends in the
evolution of ICT. The proliferation of ICT increase across the world, global education systems
should adapt new technologies to transform the curriculum and enable it to meet the demands of
the 21st century (Aguilar 2012; Huang et al. 2013). Education practices need to be aligned with
technology to improve the quality and effectiveness of education. The use of a blended
curriculum in education institutions requires a clear framework to improve its effectiveness and
efficiency. The framework determines what should be taught, how it benefits the learners, and
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the potentials offered by the curriculum implement to learning and teaching processes (Kintu et
al., 2017).
In Kintu, Zhu, and Kagambe (2017), the authors explain how robots can be used for the
implementation of the blended curriculum in elementary schools. However, some countries have
not to be embraced in different countries. There are quality dimensions through which robotic
education can be contextualized in the facilitation of blended learning. The CFA six-factor
model explains five quality dimensions that allow the applicability of robotic education, namely;
teaching methods, cognitive functions, social interactions, principal features, and characteristics
of the pupils as well as the learning content (Bijeikiene, Rasinskiene & Zutkiens, 2011).
Schools have a duty to select which dimensions are useful for teaching, learning, and curriculum
administration. Technology adoption in learning and teaching helps departments and instructors
to come up with flexible learning approaches.
According to Gordon (2014), there is a variety of web tools to assist learners in developing
content and interacting with their colleagues using social networks, wikis, and blogs. In
addition, the existing communication mediums, e.g., instant messages and e-mail applications
improve the convenience of administrators and teachers in the implementation of the blended
curriculum.
Schools also ought to provide evaluation and assessment of learning quality and the effectiveness
of the academic and teaching programs to determine whether they are resonating with the
requirements of flexible teaching/learning, there are various methods of conducting such quality
assessments such as standardized tests, peer assessments, team projects, research papers, and
presentations(Jonker, März, & Voogt 2020). E-portfolios provide more flexibility for learners to
assess themselves and update evidence of their achievements and academic developments.
Flexible curriculum implementation requires flexible timing and assessment delivery channel to
conduct both human managed assessments and computer-based tests such as adaptive and online
tests. Schools can also utilize learning analytics to provide flexible learning (Jonker, März &
Voogt 2020). These analytics collect the learning traces of students within a system of learning
and generate dashboards, reports, and other real-time assessments.
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Blended curriculum implementation requires specialized services and supports that should be
given to both the instructors and students. The place and the time to gather such support and the
approaches to get such support should also be flexible enough. According to Gordon (2014),
students can get digital support through online meetings, face-face interactions with
teachers/tutors, help desks, video-based real-time interaction tools, group help sessions, and
online meetings with their tutors, among other methods. Because of diversity in the languages
and other cultural backgrounds, schools must allow learners to specify the language of
communication or the language used on the learning materials to support international students.
Today, the proliferation of intelligent learning technologies is enabling schools to provide
personalized student support based on the learning needs and characteristics of the student, such
as personal preferences, special needs, learning performance, among others (Mahaye 2020). In
the context of computing education, blended learning is facilitated by modern technology that
provides rigors and depth analysis of the faculty to develop models that promote active learning
and increase student participation.
In brief, higher education is experiencing significant changes because of the current Pandemics
amidst the advancement in technology and the use of ICTs. E-learning and mobile learning are
facilitating the learning and teaching experience with the use of modern technologies and media
channels. One of the outcomes of ICT-based learning systems is blended learning, which requires
the use of a flexible/blended curriculum. The application of blended learning approaches requires
the reformation of the existing traditional learning approaches, and integration of technology-
supported learning approaches hence offsetting the consequences of traditional teaching
methodologies (Khan et al. 2012).
In terms of assessment, the flexible curriculum requires that teachers should provide immediate
feedback to the learners regarding their performance. This can be attained by the use of the latest
technologies, such as Zoom, in combination with various assessment techniques (Bakir 2013).
Assessments help to examine how the teachers are implementing a blended curriculum and how
students understand the curriculum/course content, but it requires innovative and creative
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methods. This above literature presents the opportunities, challenges, and requirements of
implementing a blended/flexible curriculum in 21st-century learning and teaching.
Methodology
During this COVID-19 outbreak, it is evident that the nature of learning spaces are changing
drastically. The situation becomes challenging for many educational institutions, and keeping
consistency in instructions is becoming a great issue (Mahaye 2020). On the other hand, for
many, it has been an opportunity to employ technology as an instructional tool, and enrich their
IT skills to enhance teaching effectiveness. A qualitative approach was employed to explore the
elements of flexible learning and how effective do we see the use of flexibility in normal times
and times like these. The 15 minutes-survey was conducted to collect the responses of teachers
about the extent of flexibility in the institution's curriculum and assessment processes. Most of
the questions were open ended to secure maximum subjective content and narrative descriptions.
Flexibility was examined to determine the effectiveness and rigorousness of the curriculum that
allows educators to support students in meeting their individual needs and facilitate developing
life skills.
Data collection procedure
A consent form was sent to the respondents to obtain their prior informed consent regarding their
participation in the study. After gaining consent, a link to the online survey was sent to the
participants, which they were able to fill and submit their responses. Teachers were randomly
sampled from various schools around the Middle East. After obtaining ethical clearance from the
university faculty, respondents accepted to respond to the survey. Potential respondents were
approached by sending e-mails to teachers from learning institutions via their departments. The
sample was skewed towards respondents who share the same interest in blended curriculum
delivery. A sum of thirty-three teachers from different faculty departments participated in the
survey.
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Results and Discussion
Descriptive statistics
Results indicate that out of the 33 teachers, 27(82%) teachers were from UAE schools, while
18% of teachers were from other countries. In terms of work experience, it was found that 24%
of teachers had less than five years' experience, while 39% had a wider teaching experience
ranging from 5 to 12 years. The most commonly taught curricula were CCSS (48%), British
(24%), IB (3%), and other curricula (24%). The majority of the teachers had taught 6th to 10th
grades, while Pre-K grade was the least taught grade. Details of all the responses to the survey
have been presented in the Appendix section of this paper. The tables below show the
demographic details of the survey.
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Social distancing has been enforced in more than 120 countries across the world as a preventive
measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in the temporary closure of learning
institutions both locally and regionally. Flexible curricula have been implemented by different
governments to avoid total curriculum disruption. Flexible curriculum is being adopted through
technology-based pedagogy to facilitate the learning and dissemination of learning materials to
students who are staying home. This paper was aimed at examining the effectiveness,
challenges, and opportunities of implementing a blended curriculum to allow flexible learning in
this pandemic era.
When participants were asked about what best defines curricular flexibility in delivering
instruction and assessing students understanding, one of the participants indicated that
"There are several processes we can apply depending on the program, level of student and
urgency...such at altering planning topics covered, scheduling, duration of instruction,
assessment as to cut down weigh, or limit assessment components, or decrease percentages, use
of distance and online learning regarding the type of functions used, duration, attendance-
participation.
Another respondent indicated that:
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"Students should be assessed often to check their understanding via exit card; formative
assessment helps the teacher define his flexibility and support students understanding for the
subject taught."
These responses imply that implementation of a flexible curriculum requires rigorous curriculum
reform and transformation in various aspects such as topics covered, scheduling, duration of
instruction, assessment as to cut down weigh, or limit assessment components, or decrease
percentages, use of distance and online learning regarding the type of functions used.
Discussion
For the comprehension of study findings, it is imperative to understand the perceptions of
teachers regarding the flexibility of a blended curriculum with respect to the existing research.
There are diverse perceptions that emerged from various questions about curriculum flexibility.
Teachers were asked about what flexible approaches are being used by schools to deliver the
curriculum and conduct assessments in their school and engage students who need additional
support. Some teachers indicated that their schools are utilizing their inclusion department during
assessments for those who have difficulties in reading differentiated assessment while other
respondents indicated that they are now working on backward curriculum design to identify the
gaps through international and internal assessments, then develop a robust curriculum to
overcome such weaknesses (Mahaye 2020).
Flexible curriculum is also being implemented by being flexible with learners in terms of
instruction time, quality of questions, continuous follow up and encouragement by assessing
them on the spot and one by one in a way that suits each one potential and ability. These
responses imply that flexibility in the blended curriculum is perceived by schools in terms of
adapting to the student's preferences and the varied needs of the schools. No respondent
contextualized flexible curriculum implementation in the aspect of promoting distance learning.
In fact, results indicate that when participants were asked whether they think online teaching is
more flexible than one on one teaching, only 30% believed that online teaching is flexible in
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facilitating 21st-century teaching while the majority (69%) were either not sure or could not
believe in the same school of thought. This explains the extent to which schools are adopting
technology and online tools to facilitate flexible learning in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results also indicate that majority of the participants (76%) believed that their curriculum was
not flexible enough to deliver online during COVID-19 without making minor changes to their
lesson plans. These findings imply that blended curriculum can only be implemented in a well
digitally developed society. Rural schools lack basic technology infrastructure and amenities to
facilitate a flexible curriculum; hence they may not benefit from the program. According to
Jonker, März, and Voogt (2020), all places should have digital equipment to ensure that there is
equitable assess to technology-based learning. Technology infrastructure is a precondition for the
enactment and implementation of flexible teaching and learning using technology-based
approaches.
Regarding student assessment, it was found that all respondents indicate that they use mobile
applications and web tools such as Quizzes during live sessions, Edmodo app, Nearpod
activities, Classkick, Mentimeter to send feedback on reports and other research components.
However, it was found that online teaching is affected by several challenges, including parent's
refusal to take online learning seriously; emotional, financial, economic, and social challenges
affecting both teachers and learners, difficulty in conducting science experiments, failure to keep
all students on task all the time.
According to Jonker, März, and Voogt, (2020), the conditions that lead to the success of flexible
curriculum implementation are either teacher-related, context-related or student-related
conditions. The attitude of the teachers towards curriculum flexibility can either hinder or enable
its implementation. Secondly, the challenge of lack of skills among teachers' especially digital
skills, pedagogical skills, and curriculum design skills, can influence the success and
effectiveness of the adopted blended curriculum flexibility.
Context-related conditions such as time, school rules and regulations, and availability of teaching
materials can also determine the flexibility and effectiveness of the blended curriculum. Some
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teachers may not have adequate time to develop curriculum materials and redesign their courses
and translate them into a blended form. This means that more time is required to prepare digital
materials and online lessons to improve the flexibility of the curriculum. The availability of
online resources with flexible schedules creates more opportunities for students to use such
online resources at all times, unlike in circumstances when the materials have strict schedules.
One of the respondents indicated that
"…there is the limitation of the time because the curriculum load that should be covered in a
very short period of online sessions.
Parents' intervention in the learning process also hinders the flexibility of the blended curriculum
since some students have no devices, and some students do not show up to attend the sessions.
According to Czerniewicz, Trotter and Haupt (2019), student-related conditions such as student's
skills and attitudes can influence the flexibility of the blended curriculum. Lack of digital skills
can impede their adaptability to the blended curriculum, while passive student roles influenced
by a negative attitude towards learning hinder curriculum flexibility. According to Jonker, März,
and Voogt, (2020), flexible learning requires students to be able to make plans, structure their
tasks, study independently, and work according to their plans. Insufficient study skills is a
common challenge in young students, part-time students, and first-year learners.
The challenges and opportunities affecting the flexibility of the blended curriculum reflect the
success and effectiveness of curriculum implementation. According to Gaol & Hutagalung
(2020), a flexible blended curriculum requires a shared vision across all the stakeholders
regarding the rationale for its flexibility. This would improve the positive perceptions and
attitudes of learners and teachers towards the adoption of technologies and online learning
materials. The changing demands and fixed routines of both learners and students have found to
limit the flexibility and adaptability of the curriculum (Bakir 2013). There is an increasing
concern the insufficient instruction time, fixed daily routines diverting students from learning,
and negative beliefs towards blended learning (Tondeur et al. 2017; Mahaye 2020). According to
Smits and Voogt (2017), teachers need to exhibit a high level of professionalism when handling a
blended curriculum and delivering knowledge to develop self-efficacy and improve students'
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attitudes towards online learning. A high level of professionalism is needed when introducing
and incorporating technological changes in educational practices to improve the adaptability of
the blended curriculum.
Conclusion and recommendations
This study was aimed at capturing the perceptions of teachers towards curriculum flexibility in
the adopted blended curriculum used to facilitate learning in this COVID-19 pandemic. It
presents the underlying opportunities and challenges effective the implementation of a flexible
blended curriculum. Results indicate the level of flexibility in curriculum implementation is low
since many students are still struggling with various challenges regarding the adoption of modern
technologies to facilitate online teaching.
There are many student-related and teacher-related constraints regarding curriculum flexibility,
which require effective support and services as well as collaboration between schools, families,
governments, and enterprises to improve the quality and flexibility of blended learning. The
challenge of inadequate teaching and studying skills on the side of teachers and learners
respectively limits the flexibility of the blended curriculum. Many teachers still believe that
online learning may not transform flexible education in this pandemic era.
The timing and the location for online learning remains a big concern since most schools have
not ensured flexibility in the starting and finishing time for the course, the time of participating
in the course, the pace of study and the timing/schedule for student assessment. Schools need to
specify and ensure flexibility in the time for which students should study independently and the
time for which students should interact with colleagues and tutors.
Leaners should be given choices based on their educational challenges and preferences, for
example, studying over the weekends and evenings. The location where students can access
learning materials and conduct learning activities should be flexible enough with various options,
including public transport, homes, campus premises, websites, and mobile devices. Students
should be given an opportunity to determine the sequence and sections of the content to learn
depending on their size and scope of their course, forms of course orientation, pathways of
learning, and their desires, through the content modulation process. A self-inquiry course should
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be conducted by the learning institutions to allow students to chose sections and topics of the
blended curriculum based on their learning needs, strengths, and personal interests.
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Appendices
Appendix 1: Screen Shots of Survey (Questions)
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Appendix 2: Screenshots of participants’s responses
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