What is flexible learning?
Flexible learning, has many components, one of which is to blend technology and online tools together with more traditional classroom elements. The “flipped classroom” model, for example, provides students access to pre-recorded lectures, reading and other course materials in advance and uses class time for active learning activities.
At the Faculty of Science, for example, two of the largest first-year courses – Biology 112 and Biology 121 – will be transformed over the next year and a half. With a combined 15 sections and nearly 4,000 students, the introduction of active learning elements such as problem-based case studies and small group discussions – as well as corresponding methods for assessing students afterwards – is a massive undertaking, says Shona Ellis, professor of teaching and associate head of Biology.
“It’s definitely exciting and also a bit scary,” says Ellis, who adds that the support and participation of the UBC Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology, the UBC Science Centre for Learning and Teaching (formerly Skylight) and the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative has been tremendous. “But we’re doing it because we really believe in this mode of education and there is a lot of evidence that shows the benefits for students.”
Other examples of flexible learning
Natural hazards under the microscope
The flooding of the Bow River in Calgary was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Undergraduate students in UBC’s Geography of Natural Hazards will be soon be able to apply ‘interactive digital landscape models’ to analyze flood planes and predict where the worst of the flooding occurred. Thanks to state-of-the-art photoscan technology and 3D aerial photography, avalanches, tsunamis and floods can now be scrutinized to determine vulnerabilities and calculate hazards. Whether measuring slope angles in avalanche shuts or counting the number of trees in areas at risk for forest fires, this high-resolution technology is providing UBC Geography students with advanced tools that may one day save lives.
Your Chinese learning, your way
Waiting for the bus? Why not pull out your smart phone and complete an assignment while you’re waiting. That’s the option UBC students taking Basic Chinese 1 have as they begin a new year of university., Short 3 to 5 minute assignments are available at the tap of app. Students now have the flexibility to choose when to complete an assignment: during a lunch break, while on transit or even 5 minutes before class starts. And if they don’t like how they’ve done, they can repeat the exercises until it’s perfect. Instant feedback is supplied on a variety of platforms – whether smartphone, tablet or computer.
Turning learning on its head
Aptly nicknamed the ‘flipbped’ classroom, Political Science professor Allen Sens delivers lectures through video segments available to students online. What’s different? Students are required to watch the videos before class, so they can come prepared to discuss, debate and participate in order to reinforce the concepts taught online. “Flexible learning can liberate both professors and students,” says Sens. “With lecture content moved online, professors and students can engage with each other in class, allowing different kinds of learning to take place.”