Someone asked me for a copy of a recently published paper, and I was reminded that I haven’t yet made the author’s copy available. I try to make all of my papers available on my publications page, by either linking to the open access versions or providing a link to a pre-print version – and if anyone emails me, I send them a copy of the published version, though there are often little differences between the author’s preprint and the published version.

In short, this paper fits within my research on flexible learning. Flexible learning is often positioned as a tool to enable freedom, as imagined through narratives of learners being able to study at “anytime” and from “anywhere.” In this paper, we explore and critique the notion of freedom in the context of flexible learning.

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (2021). The Problem with Flexible Learning: Neoliberalism, Freedom, and Learner Subjectivities. Learning, Media, & Technology, 46(2), 144-155. or author’s pre-print copy.


Through analysis of the relationship between neoliberalism, learner subjectivity, and flexible education, this paper examines the freedom said to be enabled by flexible education. It asks: What is the nature of such freedom, who does it make free, and in what ways? While flexible education is often framed to be liberatory in nature, especially when understood through the freedom to learn and study as one chooses or is able, the institutional assumptions around how one accommodates this education, the economic or logistic reasons one may be compelled to learn in such ways, and the consequent effects on subjectivity of learning in this way are rarely considered together. By laying bare the relationship between neoliberal forms of freedom (as the freedom to choose and the freedom to take responsibility for oneself), and the affordances of flexible education, this paper illuminates the productive nature of flexible education as a tool of governmentality that serves to regulate subjectivity and in fact delimit certain freedoms. Finally, this paper argues that in order for flexible education to better serve learners, normative forms of freedom must be questioned and historicized to support this work.