Equal or Equitable? The Role of Flexibility Within Online Education
Online study is generally associated with the terms flexible and flexibility. Many students choose to study online specifically for the flexibility that is offered, hoping they can combine their studies with multiple other responsibilities in their lives. For students living in regional and rural areas, such flexibility can be even more important, given the additional difficulties they face in accessing campus facilities. While a flexible learning environment has the potential to contribute positively towards equity in higher education, this equity can be compromised when university policies and processes that have been designed for on-campus students are applied equally to online students. This paper examines the experiences of a group of regional and rural Education students who have chosen to study online, to a large extent because of online learning’s promised flexibility. Their experiences demonstrate that equal treatment may in fact undermine flexibility and result in an inequitable student experience.
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