Flipped learning revisited

Dr Edward Tew – Lecturer in Accounting, HBS.

 

Flipped learning revisited

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in UoR moved to ‘emergency’ remote teaching at the end of the spring term. Colleagues across the university were developing instruction using VLE platforms such as UoR Blackboard and students were studying and working online at a distance.

At the same time, we are urged to use different ways to provide meaningful online learning. In response, UoR has recently published a Teaching and Learning Framework for Autumn 2020 intending to balance the online delivery with interacting teaching. One particular point to note is that this framework is “influenced by pedagogical approaches used in flipped learning” (UoR, 2020). With this in mind, I thought of sharing with you my reflection on the Flipped learning, particularly on the framework proposed by Flipped Learning Network (FLN) (2014) and its application during this Covid-19 pandemic.

According to FLN’s (2014) definition, flipped learning is:

“a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

With this definition, the flipped learning /classroom is built around the four “pillars” F- flexible environment, L- learning culture, I- intentional content, and P- professional educator (Flipped Learning Network, 2014). I believe these four “pillars” can be applied in online flipped lessons which students learn either synchronously or asynchronously. To meet the demand for distance/online learning, especially given the current pandemic, I hope to share my reflection on the use of flipped learning by considering the four pillars accordingly.

 

  1. F – Flexible Environment

In this pillar, educators allow a variety of learning modes in which students choose when and where they learn either group work or independent study.

Application: Select a platform that will be the hub of your online classroom and for all your instructional activities and resources.  In my module, I stick to use the Blackboard (BB) as my core online learning platform with students. Don’t be afraid to be experimental and mix the available tools on the BB, such as wikis to upload students’ group work, presentations, and research activities. There are many other platforms available such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Webex. The key is to use what is already familiar to students so that the learning process and activities are made easier for them to navigate and participate effectively.

 

  1. L – Learning Culture

The learning culture in flipped learning has shifted the traditional teacher-centred model to a learner-centred approach. As a result, students are actively involved in knowledge construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning in a personally meaningful manner.

Application: Once you’ve chosen your platform, decide how you will organise learning to encourage a learner-centred learning culture. To do this, communication is the key. In my module, I made sure the module was easy to navigate. I made sure the learning aims and objectives are clearly stated so students can see what they were learning for each topic/ lesson. I also made use of the BB’s module page with folders created to indicate my teaching materials, learning activities and presentations etc. Next, I tried to encourage collaboration in learning using tools such as discussion boards, wikis, blogs or online meetings (i.e. WhatsApp, Team, Zoom). These would provide user-friendly spaces to get my students to work collaboratively and sharing ideas. With all these tools, I have constantly made it clear that students were expected to do their learning first before coming to meet together for critical discussion and interaction.

 

  1. I- Intentional Content

In this pillar, educators decide what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. This pillar aims to maximise classroom time to encourage student-centred learning as considered in pillar 2 above.

Application: Intentional learning occurs when we purposefully select and deliver the content to actively engage students in learning. In my module, I always leave a ‘gap’ for students to further explore and research the subject topic in a group or individually. I used the discussion board and wikis to see their collaborative work and research on the subject matter. I also made sure they could apply what they have learned in an assigned case study. I intentionally used the assessment strategies that test students’ ability to conduct their research and critical thinking. Textbook’s resources and library learning resources are particularly useful in this respect.

 

  1. P – Professional Educator

FLN (2014, p.2) proposes that “Professional Educators are reflective in their practice, connect with each other to improve their instruction, accept constructive criticism, and tolerate controlled chaos in their classrooms. While Professional Educators take on less visibly prominent roles in a flipped classroom, they remain the essential ingredient that enables Flipped Learning to occur.”

Application: The teacher’s role in an online flipped classroom is to facilitate learning as in a physical classroom. In this case, it means it is essential to be available to your students virtually, providing instructional support and feedback. In my module, I monitored the online discussion board and provided feedback promptly.  I also used BB Collaborate to have 1-2-1 and group sessions with students to moderate students’ learning progress and provide constructive feedback.

This is a challenging time for numerous reasons particularly the anxiety of the unknown surrounding the virus. Given the current situation under the COVID-19 crisis, implementing online flipped learning/classroom makes sense so students do not fall behind in their learning. However, barriers and challenges to develop an effective one must be acknowledged. In this view, I resonate with FLN’s (2014) quote for Professional educators above as I need to be agile and robust to improve my instructional strategies, accept constructive criticism, and welcome controlled chaos in this online flipped classrooms. We must adapt, change quickly and moving forward effectively to counter the challenges in this unprecedented time.

 

References:

Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ , Reproducible PDF can be found at www.flippedlearning.org/definition.

UoR (2020) Teaching and Learning: Framework for Autumn term 2020, available at: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/leadershipgroup/autumn-teaching-proposal-v11.pdf

 

 

Still Learning Together

Professor Cindy Becker, School of Literature and Languages

Introduction

One of the most difficult aspects of lockdown has been the sense of disrupted conversations: the students you wanted to remind about how to plan an essay, the query you heard in a seminar discussion that you want to answer now that you have thought about it. For me, this was more troublesome than the empty corridors as students started to leave.

As lecturers, our whole lives are run to the rhythm of academic terms, and so to have ‘term’ still happening when I was stuck at home seemed like a daily set of missed opportunities, which led, inevitably, to increased anxiety about how my students were doing and how they could prepare well for the challenges ahead. Of course, I was not alone in this; we all felt it and found different ways to resolve that niggling feeling of unfinished business.

What was needed?

I realised that I needed to find a way to stay in touch with students, not just those who I would meet online as part of online teaching and formal meetings, but also those who might be worried but who would not know quite where to turn. Perhaps more important than that, I wanted to reassure students that we are still here, we still want to teach them, and we are as keen to stay in touch as they are.

From a teaching perspective, I also saw this as an opportunity to help students with some of wider aspects of learning and of assessment, rather than focusing just on subject specific material.

How I responded

I set up a YouTube channel, called Still Learning Together, and then, over the course of a month, I uploaded short screencasts to the channel three times a week. I thought it important that we stayed in touch when there were no scheduled activities, so I ran this project over the Spring vacation.

The screencasts covered a range of areas:

Still Learning Together: Eight things we do not need in an unseen exam answer

Still Learning Together: Five memory techniques

Still Learning Together: Ten things at the start of an exam

Still Learning Together: Seven fixes for writer’s block

Still Learning Together: Six rehearsals for a great presentation

Still Learning Together: Four thoughts on primary and secondary sources

Still Learning Together: Three fixes for a comma splice

Still Learning Together: Six steps to calmness

Still Learning Together: Five ways to conquer reading lists

Still Learning Together: Six things you need not include in your essay

Still learning together: Four steps to semi-colons

Engaging with students

Because I could not know which of our students might be feeling isolated or anxious at any point, I wanted to reach the widest range of students for each screencast. I used BB announcements, with email, for each year of each programme in our School. I also asked students to let me know if they would like me to make any screencasts especially for them, so some of those listed above were produced on request.

Students engaged with the resource, with more than 870 views of the channel since I created it, which I found pleasing. I am keeping my ears open for any requests for guidance from students that might be answered through future screencasts.

Looking ahead

Our Outreach Officer, Dr Neil Cocks, sent links to the channel to some local schools with which we have relationships and received a positive response (especially to the grammar help!). We have also added them to our Literature Launchpad YouTube channel.

I am planning to develop the channel later in the summer with our Foundation Degree students in mind, so that we can put links to the channel on their central BB sites. I am also trying to think of other ways in which we might develop and use the material. We might, perhaps, include links to the screencasts as quickmarks on turnitin, or perhaps have the links as a central resource on our BB sites…

I would also like to continue to involve students, and to help them remember that we really do want to stay close to them and to keep developing their learning skills with them. I am considering how to do this, including asking students for more suggestions and boosting usage of the YouTube channel over the summer and just before the Autumn Term.

I am enjoying mulling this over from time to time, and happy to hear any suggestions from colleagues about how I might develop the channel. As with everything to do with Teaching and Learning, as soon as you think a project is finished you find a little thread leading you on to the next part of the path…one of the joys of our profession, even in lockdown.

Update 31/07/20

It occurred to me that, if students have to self-isolate in the coming months, they could be left feeling a bit lost, especially if they had assumed that they would be on campus throughout the year. With this in mind, I created the following document which shows students where they can go for some instant help and support. I produced three clips and put them on the Still Learning Together YouTube channel and, although they are not the final word on online learning, they might reassure our students that we are ready to help.

If you become aware that one of your students is having to self-isolate at any point this year, you might like to send them this document. 

Word document download