Temporal flexibility in the digital university: Full-time, part-time, flexitime

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This article engages with the persistent theme of flexibility in online distance education. It argues that, while a discourse of flexibility promises opportunities for access to online education, it also has the potential to devalue it by paying too little attention to education’s time-consuming practices, often perpetuating a notion of teaching and learning that is depicted as atemporal and free from the constraints of time. The article draws on case study interviews with staff and students engaged in a distance education expansion project in a UK university. A temporal analysis highlights institutional adjustments towards flexibility and draws attention to interview accounts that are indicative of a culture of combined work and study that is beyond full-time, in a wider context in which part-time study is aligned with affordability and made unproblematic as a flexible mode of access. Further research on time and temporality in distance and higher education is recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-479
Number of pages18
JournalDistance Education
Issue number4
Early online date26 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2018


  • digital education
  • higher education
  • flexibility
  • part-time
  • temporality


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