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Perception of the Need for Introducing Flexible Learning in Graduate Studies in Music Education: A Case Study

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Higher education is facing a challenge of responding to the rapid changes in the society. Student demographics and technology are two of the most notable changes having significant influences on higher education. Changes in student demographics imply the need for diverse curricula and their delivery modes. Advancements in technology imply multiple impacts on various issues such as the preparation of students to deal with changing demands in the workforce, students' increased technology literacy, and the increased number of teaching and learning tools applicable to higher education. A more flexible approach to higher education is often a response to these changes. Growth in a more flexible approach has also been prompted by: (1) pressures to become more responsive to need, (2) the need to find new ways of growth linked to widening access and increasing participation among non-traditional students, (3) the demand for better quality and more student-centered education, and (4) the reduced unit costs compared to traditional forms of delivery (Kedney & Brownlow, 1994).

Although flexible learning is often synonymous with open learning and distance learning, some fine distinctions can be made. Open learning attempts to remove barriers that prevent attendance at traditional courses. Distance learning implies geographical distance between the learner and the providing institution. Flexible learning promotes a shift from formal, whole-class didactic teaching towards individual or group management of learning. The success of flexible learning relies on a strong framework of support and guidance, a set of highly structured resource materials, and systematic negotiation of tasks, self- and peer-assessment and collaborative group work. Flexible learning can be broadly described as "an approach to university education which provides students with the opportunity to take greater responsibility for their learning and to be engaged in learning activities and opportunities that meet their own individual needs" (Wade, 1994, p. 12). Race (1998) sees "flexible learning" as an umbrella term that "includes the sorts of learning involved in open and distance learning provision, but additionally relates to learning pathways in traditional schools, colleges and universities, where learners have some control of the time, place, pace and processes of their study of particular parts of their curriculum" (p. 8).

The Open University in the United Kingdom, established in 1969 and renowned for its open learning systems in higher education, has become more inclusive in its teaching and learning modes that are similar to what we call "flexible learning" today. The latest Plans for Change: The University's Strategic and Development Plans 2002-2012 published by Open University (2002) shows evidence of broadening definitions of open learning to include "e-learning" and to become more similar to flexible learning. Its published mission states that the University is "open" as to people, places, methods, and ideas. Its open delivery methods include using and developing the most effective media and technologies for learning, teaching and assessment. Pioneering e-learning was one of its strategic directions. Some writers suggest that flexible learning has been a characteristic of the further education scene in England, at least in literature and development, for over 30 years (Kedney & Brownlow, 1994). They also suggest that "most, if not all, colleges carry out some activity they would put under the 'flexible curriculum' banner" (p. 1). Higher education institutions elsewhere, such as Australia and the United States, also have ventured into the arena of flexible learning for decades, perhaps under the notion of distance learning.

Johnston (1999) points to the fact that "universities are now more commonly using terms such as 'flexible delivery,' 'flexible learning' or 'flexible approaches' to label moves towards the provision for all students (on and off campus) of teaching and learning approaches which are less time- and place-dependent" (p. 39). This shift has been stimulated by diverse factors such as equity and access issues, higher levels of mobility among students, the tendency for many full-time students to be employed, recognition of a range of learning styles and needs, reductions in funding with increases in student enrolments, the educational potentials offered by technology, and the need for lifelong learning. Flexible learning may help to achieve the desirable social goals of increasing access to education and democratizing teaching and the learning process by giving greater control to the learner (Kirkpatrick & Jakupec, 1999).

In light of the global economy and the international interdependence, Oblinger and Verville (1998) suggest that higher education should enable learners to be more flexible and adaptable. The shifting needs of the society imply a demand for a number of changes in higher education, such as focusing on the learner, redefining learning, and more equitable access to learning. They also see information technology as a change agent with the increasing popularity of digitization; multimedia through computing; powerful data processing, storage, and transfer; and global networks. However, whether flexible learning is effective in all content areas and all skill areas remains questionable. For the purpose of this study, flexible learning is defined as any learning approach that is removed from the traditional face-to-face in-class learning.

The challenge of meeting students' needs is common to most higher education institutions. I have chosen to conduct a case study of a graduate music education program at one American higher education institution. My purpose was to determine the perception of need for introducing flexible learning in graduate studies in the music education program. This study addressed the question: What was the perception of former, current, and prospective graduate students in music education and of key-administrators in the graduate music education program regarding the need for flexible learning?

 

Context of the Study

The target institution enrolled nearly 20,000 students. The department of music education had 12 full-time faculty members, inclusive of a department chair. It offered both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in music education. At the time of this study, 27 students were enrolled in the graduate program. The department was a unit within a college. An assistant dean served as the coordinator of graduate studies in the college and served as the liaison between the college and the Graduate College. Therefore, the department chair and the assistant dean of graduate studies were considered key-administrators of the graduate program in music education.

A faculty member in the department pioneered the first fully online graduate course in the college in the fall of 2000. The online course was an elective course, not a required course, in the graduate program in music education. A few faculty members in the department used the existing university internet tools to supplement the traditional face-to-face classroom teaching. The university upgraded its hardware network with high-speed access throughout the university's computer systems in 2001.

All off-campus courses and summer courses were offered through the office of continuing education, summer and international programs. Graduate students enrolled through this office might not have minimum admission requirements, requiring only a bachelor's degree, or they could register as non-degree seeking students. In other words, summer courses and off-campus courses, including online courses, might have a mixture of degree seeking and non-degree seeking students enrolled with varying degrees of preparation.

The location of the university also played a key role in the study. The main campus of the university was located in a "campus town," where the university formed an overwhelmingly significant part of the community. The university was designed as a residential university with the vast majority of students in the program living within 50 miles of the campus during the time when they attended the university. The summer was relatively inactive. Summer students were few in number, and many of them held teaching positions elsewhere and attended courses in the summer only. Most faculty members in the department did not teach in the summer. The label "AAA University" is used throughout this paper to preserve anonymity.

 

METHOD

To investigate the perception of the need for introducing flexible learning in graduate studies in the department, two types of triangulation approach were adopted. Triangulation of sources was adopted because of the use of a variety of data sources. Data were collected from former students, current students, prospective students, and key-administrators. In addition, methods triangulation was used in order to incorporate both questionnaire and interview methods. As noted by Patton (2002), triangulation that included multiple methods and data sources might help to overcome the intrinsic bias that came from single-method and single-data-source studies. Furthermore, "understanding inconsistencies in findings across different kinds of data can be illuminative and important" (Patton, 2002, p. 556). This study was a study of one educational program. Therefore, aspects of a case study approach were adopted (Bassey, 1999). The research question led to the collection of raw data, which were stored, coded, analyzed, reflected upon, interpreted, and explained. Tools in this study were questionnaires and interviews. Both quantitative and qualitative data were involved in the questionnaires, while only qualitative data were collected at interviews.

 

Questionnaires

An author-designed questionnaire was distributed to former, current, and prospective students of the graduate program. It was pilot-tested for accuracy and sensibility. A slightly modified version of the questionnaire, with minor wording changes involving tense (past tense for former students, present tense for current students, and perfect conditional tense for prospective students; for an example, see statements 1a, 1b, and 1c respectively in Table 1), was distributed to each group. Statements used in the questionnaire for former students (using past tense) are presented in Table 1 (statements 1a and 2-16). Former students were students graduated from the program between 1999 and 2001 (15 questionnaires were sent and 7 were returned). Current students were enrolled in the program in the summer and fall semesters in 2001 (27 questionnaires were sent and 12 were returned). Prospective students were those who made inquiries about the program in the 2000-2001 academic year but did not enroll in summer or fall 2001 or spring 2002 (83 questionnaires were sent and 5 were returned). There was one follow-up mailing of the questionnaires. The low response rate for prospective students was probably due to their lack of commitment to the target institution and change of mailing address while attending another institution.

 

Table 1

Summary of Results from Student Questionnaires


*Statements each with a seven-point rating scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 7=Strongly Agree)   Mean SD

Adjustments to attend the program  
1a. I had to make a lot of adjustments to attend the graduate music education program at AAA University. (former students only, n=7)   5.29 1.98
1b. I have to make a lot of adjustments to attend the graduate music education program at AAA University. (current students only, n=12)   3.42 1.88
1c. I would have to make a lot of adjustments to attend the graduate music education program at AAA University. (prospective students only, n=5)   6.00 0.71
   
Need for flexible learning  
2. The graduate music education program at AAA University would have served me better if there was less face-to-face instruction and more web-based instruction.   2.83 1.88
3. The graduate music education program at AAA University would have served me better if I didn't have to be on campus so often.   3.50 2.06
4. The graduate music education program at AAA University would have served me better if I didn't have so many fixed in-class hours for my coursework.   3.50 1.74
   
Willingness to use various communication tools  
5. I would have been willing to use the fax for my coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   4.38 2.57
6. I would have been willing to use the internet (including email, electronic bulletin board, threaded-discussion, and other web-based technology) for my coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   5.29 1.92
7. I would have been willing to use the postal mail for my coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   4.33 2.14
8. I would have been willing to use the telephone (discussion with instructor and peers) for my coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   4.63 1.97
9. I would have been willing to use a combination of fax, internet, postal mail, telephone, and other communication tools for my coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   5.29 1.76
   
Would-be effects of various communication tools  
10. I think that it would have been a good idea to use the current technology (i.e., fax, internet, postal mail, telephone, or other communication tools) to reduce traditional in-class contact time in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   4.08 1.93
11. Using the current technology (i.e., fax, internet, postal mail, telephone, or other communication tools) could have made my learning significantly more effective in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   3.67 1.74
   
What the program should offer  
12. I believed that attending classes with face-to-face instruction was the best way to conduct coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University.   5.79 1.35
13. I believe that part of the coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University should have been offered without face-to-face classroom contacts to increase flexibility.   5.00 1.91
14. I believe that all of the coursework in the graduate music education program at AAA University should have been offered without face-to-face classroom contacts to increase flexibility.   1.63 1.31
15. I believe that the curriculum in the graduate music education program at AAA University should have been modified to allow more flexibility for students (such as reducing in-class contact time and using distance learning techniques).   4.39 1.85
16. I believe that the graduate music education program at AAA University should have been offered with an option for completion without being on campus.   3.30 1.92

N=24
*Statements 1a, 1b, and 1c were for former students, current students, and prospective students respectively. Statements 2-16 were for former students. Those for current students and prospective students were modified to present tense and perfect conditional tense respectively. The name of the target institution is listed as "AAA University" to preserve anonymity.

The questionnaire concerned students' perceptions of the graduate music education program at the target institution. Questions specifically addressed the potential of, and need for, introducing flexible learning in the program (see Table 1). Students responded to statements on a seven-point scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 7=Strongly Agree) with opportunities to make open comments after each. No names were recorded in all questionnaires.

 

Interviews

Due to changes in the administrative personnel—both the department chair and the assistant dean of graduate studies were in position for one year at the time of this study—three key-administrators were interviewed: (1) chair of the department and former associate dean of the Graduate College, (2) assistant dean of graduate studies of the college and former chair of the department, and (3) professor and former assistant dean of graduate studies of the college. All three key-administrators had been involved in the graduate program with direct managerial roles. Interviews with these key-administrators were semi-structured. All interviews were conducted between August and October 2001. The interviewer listened carefully and asked follow-up questions during the interviews. All interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed for analysis. Data were coded and categorized to detect the emerging themes.

 

RESULTS

I obtained data in the perceptions of former, current, and prospective graduate students (N=24) by way of questionnaires. Preliminary analyses of the questionnaires suggested that former, current, and prospective graduate students did not differ significantly (p>.05 in median tests) in all 16 items, except for item 1, dealing with making a lot of adjustments to attend the graduate program. With the exception of one question, all data from the three groups of students were combined in subsequent analyses.

Table 1 presents a summary of results from student questionnaires. Since preliminary analyses showed a significant difference (p<.05) in making a lot of adjustments to attend the graduate music education program (see items 1a, 1b, and 1c in Table 1), I am reporting the results of this item separately for the three groups of students. With the seven-point scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 7=Strongly Agree), prospective students perceived to have the most adjustments to attend the program (mean=6.00), followed by former students (mean=5.29). Current students perceived to have the least amount of adjustments to attend the program (mean=3.42). Prospective students' mean rating for this item was the highest of all ratings in this study, indicating their strong perception for the need to adjust themselves if they were to attend the program. Written comments reported later in this paper illuminate the types of adjustment made.

Combining the data from the three groups of students, results of the three questions concerning students' expressed need for flexible learning (items 2-4 in Table 1) indicated that all means were below the mid-point of the scale (i.e., below 4). Students did not believe that the program would serve them better by having "less face-to-face instruction," "more web-based instruction" (mean=2.83, item 2), less time "on campus" (mean=3.50, item 3), or less "fixed in-class hours" (mean=3.50, item 4).

To explore the potential of offering flexible learning, five questions concerned students' willingness to use a range of communication devices for coursework in the graduate music education program (items 5-9 in Table 1). These devices included fax, the internet, postal mail, telephone, and a combination of these. Descriptive results showed that students were most "willing to use" the internet (mean=5.29, item 6) and a combination of the various devices (mean=5.29, item 9). Students were least willing to use the postal mail (mean=4.33, item 7) and fax (mean=4.38, item 5).

Concerning the would-be effects of various communication tools (items 10-11 in Table 1) in the graduate music education program, the students, as a group, felt neutral (i.e., around the midpoint) about using these devices "to reduce traditional in-class contact time" (mean=4.08, item 10). On using the same tools to make "learning significantly more effective," results showed an average of slightly below mid-point (mean=3.67).

Five questions addressed students' opinions on what the program should offer in relation to flexible learning (items 12-16 in Table 1). Results revealed that all "face-to-face instruction" was most agreeable among the students (mean=5.79, item 12), followed by partly without face-to-face instruction (mean=5.00, item 13). The idea of having the graduate music education program "wholly without face-to-face classroom contacts" received a very low rating (mean=1.63, item 14). Two-thirds of the students (66.7%) strongly disagreed with having the graduate program completely without face-to-face instruction (item 14). When asked if the current program should be "modified to allow for more flexibility," results were just slightly above the mid-point (mean=4.39, item 15). When asked if the graduate program in music education should be "offered with an option for [degree] completion without being on campus," results were below the mid-point (mean=3.30, item 16).

The questionnaires also asked what types of communication device they have access to at home and at work. Results showed that over 80% of the students have access to computer with internet connection (see Table 2). In contrast, only about a quarter of the students have access to a fax machine at home. The telephone and postal mail were very accessible at home (100%) and at work (over 80%). Responses to the "other" category suggested that some students have access to a cell phone, both at home and at work. One student indicated a "pocket palm" was available at home, and another student indicated teleconference, video-conference, and a scanner available at work.

 

Table 2

Percentage of Students Having Access to Various Communication Devices at Home and at Work


  Computer
with internet
Fax Telephone Mailing Other

At Home 82.6% 26.1% 100% 100% 7.4%
At Work 87.0% 82.6% 82.6% 87.0% 8.7%

N=24
       

 

Students had opportunities to write free comments after responding to each seven-point rating scale. Results of these written comments were consistent with findings of the rating scales. They also helped to explain results of the rating scales. Open-end comments concerning adjustments needed to attend the program suggested that the biggest adjustments for students were the location, distance, and budget. One comment summarized many: "Moving across the state, resigning a full-time teaching position, adjusting to making 1/4 of what I did as a public school teacher."

Written comments on the need for flexible learning (items 2-4 in Table 1) supported the quantitative findings in that students valued face-to-face interactions and the structure of traditional classes. Human interactions were seen as inherent necessities for all educators and for all musicians. This belief was reflected in the example comments below:

 

  • "While I can find value in distance learning, it can never replace personal interaction & discussion, especially in the field of education."
  • "In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of being an educator is knowing how to relate with other people not just computers. There needs to be a balance with the majority of time spent face-to-face."
  • "I chose to attend school full time so that I could receive instruction in the classroom with trained faculty. I do not feel that classroom learning and discussion can be replicated on a computer. I would not have chosen to attend [AAA University] if classes were only computer based with very little class time."
  • "The rigidity of fixed schedules prepares us for real world rigid fixed time schedules and is in some degree necessary to teach time management skills."
  • "I like reasonable fixed in-class hours for my coursework since these are very meaningful in our study."
  • "Nothing replaces face to face classroom conversation and good examples of professor's style of presentation."

Episodes of technical difficulty were mentioned too: "Because I am not very computer literate, this would be difficult."

In contrast, some comments reflected advantages of more web-based instruction and less rigid scheduling. For example:

  • "Great for teachers who live far away."
  • "The more time at home the better when you are a mother and have a family to take care of."
  • "Saves on time & gas $!"

Yet others saw the need for both traditional and flexible modes of course delivery, thus suggesting directions in both. Example comments were:

  • "Time wise: 3 hours in one night after working 8-12 hours per day makes for a long & stressful day. How about 2 hours face to face & one hour web-based for a 3 cr. Hr. class."
  • "Some web-based instruction would have been helpful—but I do not think this type of instruction is appropriate full-time. Individuals are often inspired and enlightened by actual proximity rather than the sanctity of their own work station."

Written comments concerning students' willingness to use various communication tools (items 5-9 in Table 1) clearly supported the use of the internet over fax, postal mail, or telephone. Fax was described as "rather inconvenient." Postal mail was deemed unreliable and costly. Concerns for the use of the telephone were cost, inconvenience in time to call, and health ("neck and ears hurt after a while"). In contrast, the internet received the most support from students, especially email. However, there were still reservations on the over reliance of the internet. Example comments showing these reservations were:

  • "A few of my professors kept in touch via e-mail, but it was more for clarification or updates. I found my professors to be accessible enough that I could have gotten along fine without e-mail."
  • "As long as I still had face-to-face class time, projects, presentations & discussions. Body language doesn't translate well [via the internet]."
  • "The internet is an incredible resource and if it enhances the learning experiences it should be used, by all means. I should add, however, that the internet should not be the sole means of communication, or used as a substitute for in-class interaction."

Participants' comments on the would-be effects of various communication tools (items 10-11 in Table 1) showed repeatedly that information technology should not replace in-class contacts and that limited use of information technology was appropriate. Some comments were stronger than others, but they were consistent. Some example comments were:

  • "Perhaps, in order to accommodate more students a reduction of in-class contact may be necessary, but I believe that you do not really know the exactitudes of the subject and the reactions to questions posed in class w/o actual contact of some kind. Student interaction is a valuable teaching tool that would be greatly missed if eliminated. I feel there is still something important to be gained by being together in class, walking to and from—enjoying casual conversation on the breaks."
  • "The current technology can be used to complement what goes on in class, but should never reduce or replace it. This goes against the very principle of what education is all about. I wouldn't have chosen this university if in-class time was reduced to a minimum."
  • "As a full time student, I think in-class contact time is essential and to reduce it would be a mistake."
  • "Again, in-class time is very useful and I would not like to see it significantly reduced, however some reduction could be beneficial if balanced with other communication tools."

Written comments on what the program should offer (items 12-16 in Table 1) were in accord with the rating-scale results reported above. Students responded strongly, with words such as "absolutely," "definitely," "no substitute," and "importance," to support the notion of face-to-face instruction as the best way to conduct coursework (item 12). Only one student commented against this notion by writing "Not necessarily. A lot of information can be related between instructor, student, and peers via internet, etc."

When commenting on coursework partially done without face-to-face instruction (item 13), students tended to show receptivity and caution. Comments suggested that this might be a good option for students who were not able to be on campus often. However, face-to-face class meetings still remained necessary. Some example comments were:

  • "If certain individuals are unable to come to a classroom (due to scheduling conflicts, etc.) they should have the option of independent study (preferable) or other methods. But there should always be a section offered with face-to-face contact."
  • "I can understand how part time students may find it difficult to get to campus, but in my opinion all students need to be in classes on campus. There are already places built into the program with less 'face' time but I would be very cautious about adding more."

It was clear that students spoke strongly against having all coursework in the program done without face-to-face classes (item 14). Some example comments were:

  • "Dreadful. Perish the thought!"
  • "Please don't let convenience become more important than quality."
  • "You can't read the face/body language of a professor over phone or computer."

Participants' comments also suggested advantages and cautions of modifying the program to make it more flexible (item 15). Example comments were:

  • "Yes, having that option would also allow sick students to participate w/o infecting the other members of the class."
  • "We should always be looking for ways to grow and improve the program, however, it should be done with extreme care and caution as well as a clear understanding of the consequences."
  • "This would be great. As long as there was still in-class face-to-face instruction/discussion."

Students' written comments showed receptivity to the option of conducting coursework without being on campus only if individual student's circumstances would not allow the students to be on campus (item 16). Such circumstances included change of marital status and relocation of family. Some students saw less on campus instruction as lowering accountability and lowering the reputation of the institution. Example comments were:

  • "Part of being able to say '[AAA University] is my alma mater' was truly only made possible because I immersed myself in the university & community environments."
  • "Without face to face contact there is a significant lack of accountability and significant risk to the university's (and [name of the college's]) reputation."

The need for flexible learning was also addressed by interviewing three key-administrators. Themes identified in these interviews paralleled student-questionnaire results reported above. The key-administrators agreed that online technology should be the main tool if the department were to offer any form of flexible learning. However, among the three interviewees, there were differences in the perception of need for more flexible learning in the program. The department chair (formerly the associate dean of the Graduate College) and the assistant dean of graduate studies (formerly the department chair) agreed strongly that flexible learning should be in the future of the program and that flexible course delivery could extend offerings to more students. However, personal experience of the professor (formerly the assistant dean of graduate studies) did not suggest a strong demand for flexible learning. He believed that there was already enough flexibility in the current program by allowing students to choose between thesis option and non-thesis option and to choose between attending classes in the regular semesters and attending classes during the summer. He perceived that students preferred traditional face-to-face instruction over web-based learning and that students felt being left out and having less sense of belonging to the program if courses were taught without traditional face-to-face class meetings. He believed that this would eventually lead to lower quality learning.

 

DISCUSSION

This case study was conducted using a small sample of 24 students and three administrators from one American institution. One must exercise caution to avoid overgeneralization of results. With the overwhelming popularity of new technological devices in this sample's environment, especially the internet and email, students and administrators alike were drawn to these devices when "flexible learning" was mentioned. Flexible learning was seen almost exclusively as an educational enterprise via the internet.

Results of this study clearly show an ambivalent perception on the need for flexible learning. On the one hand, technological devices such as the internet could bring convenience in the learning process and could relegate the needed adjustments to relocate, travel at a distance, and/or to give up a teaching position in order to attend classes on campus. On the other hand, using these devices might not help learning effectiveness in the graduate music education program. There were clear reservations on relying on these devices for coursework. This sample of students did not have strong desires to modify the current program for more flexibility in the program. They even tended to believe that not being on campus should not be an option in the program. Students showed a strong desire to retain traditional in-class learning. Variations in the administrators' views, similar to those of the students', suggested worthiness to explore both traditional and flexible modes of delivery.

Results from the questionnaires clearly showed that students did not want to see the graduate music education program become totally without face-to-face instruction. Students saw the value of traditional classes, where students benefit from social interactions with peers and professors, as an important component of their learning experience. This view was supported by renowned educators, such as Dewey (1963) and Vygotsky (1986). Despite the fact that technological advancements allowed for greater flexibilities in transmitting musical information (Rees & Downs, 1995; Waters, 1999), students believed that the introduction of flexible learning could compromise the quality of the program. Personal interaction was not replaceable with alternative forms of course delivery, especially in the highly specialized practical areas of music and music education. This view was also supported by one of the three key-administrators.

Since the majority of the questionnaire sample (former and current students) had already enrolled in the program or completed the program, findings suggested that attending traditional face-to-face on-campus classes was their choice. When students chose the traditional mode of delivery, they feared that flexible learning would compromise the quality of their education. This could be due to the fact that they did not see how some highly specialized learning in the areas of music and music education could be achieved through flexible delivery.

Results suggest that flexibility may be offered as an option only if students were not able to attend classes due to distance or other reasons. Some students rationalized the need by considering potential students who were in situations different from themselves, such as the need to relocate, the need to stay home for children, the need to travel at great distances if they were to attend traditional classes, and the need to keep their job (i.e., income). These rationales, however, had little relevance to the quality of learning in the program. Therefore the effectiveness of offering flexible learning in a highly specialized, practical, and professional area, such as music education, remains a challenge. Perhaps only certain types of learning in the theoretical, not practical, aspects of such an area might be effective in flexible modes of delivery.

Although voices from former and current students advocating the need for flexible learning in the program were relatively small, there could be a tremendous potential for the program to reach out to students who were not currently served by the program. Two of the three key-administrators concurred with this view. Based on the comments of the few prospective students, it was evident that more flexible options may reach the population of students that the program would not normally have reached.

An important implication drawn from the results was that if the department of music education were to develop flexible modes of course delivery in its graduate program, it should be directed towards a student population different from the one that the department is currently serving. These students may include non-degree seeking students and students who live outside of the region (including international students). In addition, coursework in traditional classroom format must remain available to the student population that the department is currently serving. This direction of development, in offering both traditional and flexible modes of learning, may require additional resources in the department.

Since this study is a case study of one American institution, one must exercise caution in generalizing the findings. There could be common trends, however, in other institutions with similar contexts. Further studies are warranted with institutions in different settings (e.g., urban or suburban), of different sizes (e.g., small liberal-arts colleges or major university networks), and in different nations.

 

References

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Kirkpatrick, D. & Jakupec, V. (1999). Becoming flexible: What does it mean? In A. Tait & R. Mills (Eds.), The Convergence of Distance and Conventional Education: Patterns of Flexibility for the Individual Learner (pp. 51-70). London, UK: Routledge.

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Rees, F.J. & Downs, D.A. (1995). Interactive television and distance learning. Music Educators Journal 82(2), 21-25.

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press.

Wade, W. (1994). Introduction. In W. Wade, K. Hodgkinson, A. Smith, & J. Arfield (Eds.), Flexible Learning in Higher Education (pp. 12-16). London, UK: Kogan Page.

Waters, B. (1999). Ideas for effective web-based instruction. Music Educators Journal 85(4), 13-17, 47.

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Last modified on Thursday, 04/10/2018

C. Victor Fung

C. Victor Fung is Professor of Music Education and Director of the Center for Music Education Research, University of South Florida, Tampa. He holds a Ph.D. in music education, with a minor in ethnomusicology, from Indiana University, Bloomington. He has published in major research journals in music education, such as Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Psychology of Music, and International Journal of Music Education. He has served as editor for Research Perspectives in Music Education and Music Education Research International and is currently editor of the Scholarship and Research component of the College Music Symposium. He has also reviewed for six other professional journals. He is author of the instructional manuals for Carnival Music in Trinidad, Music in Japan, Music in China, and Music in Korea, all part of the Global Music Series published by Oxford University Press. He has given over seventy presentations at professional conferences across four continents. In addition, he has given open lectures and seminars at over twenty universities in Brazil, China, Ireland, Japan, Turkey, and the United States. His research emphasizes on social psychological aspects, multicultural issues, and international perspectives of music education. He was a featured keynote presenter at meetings in Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico. He was a board member of the International Society for Music Education, College Music Society, and Florida Music Educators’ Association.