Multi-access Education and Learner Control
A transformative education allows learners to participate in quality learning experiences that build upon existing knowledge and move the learner towards achieving their goals. By recognizing the variety of individual learning needs that exist among adult learners today, post secondary institutions (PSIs) are able to increase learner control, learner engagement, and often learner satisfaction.
Multi-access education is a way for PSIs to support “learning personalization of modality preference” (Macklin, 2020). It allows for those in rural settings and those with different family, health, or learning needs more equal access. Instead of requiring students to participate in face-to-face classes, students are able to receive credentials through different modes while participating with others in the same course of study. Multi-access is different from blended learning because it allows a student to choose a modality rather than participate using a variety of modalities. These opportunities could be the difference between accessing or not accessing higher education for learners who are caring for aging parents or young children, as well as those who are dealing with health concerns (e.g. immunosuppressed or mental health struggles). Through multi-access education, PSIs are able to move high education out of the realm of the privileged and into the hands of those who may traditionally have been marginalized. The most notable innovation about multi-access education is the learner is now in control of the modality.
As PSIs shift towards multi-access education, learners not only gain more control over their learning experiences, but they also gain more responsibility. While at a glance, this change may appear to result in a more passive learning experience because learners are not in a physical classroom with their instructor, in practice, there are many ways to offer active multi-access experiences. Students must be disciplined to take advantage of the experiences offered and manage online distractions appropriately. Scrolling through a Facebook feed during an online discussion will not add to learning, but using the chat feature in Zoom to further engage in dialogue about the content could improve understanding. As students gain control and responsibility over their education, it is likely they will feel more satisfaction, as they are able to better match their needs and expectations with their experience. Early research shows this result to be true, but greater study is needed (Irvine et al., 2013).
Irvine, V., Code, J., and Richards, L. (2013). Realigning higher education for the 21st-century learner through multi-access learning. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 172-186.
Macklin, S. (Host). (2020, May 19). Learning matters with Valerie Irvine (23). [Audio podcast episode]. In Learning matters: a bridge to practice. Studio Yarah at Trinity Western University. https://www.buzzsprout.com/763976/3826679-23-learning-matters-with-valerie-irvine