Flexibytes: Flexible learning news, trends, and resources.
Welcome to the Flexibytes e-newsletter featuring flexible learning news, trends, and resources at UBC and beyond.

In this issue:

1. Open Education
2. Flexible Learning Trends
3. MOOCs
4. Flipped Classroom

Open education

Openly licensed educational resources: providing equitable access to education for all learnersOpen educational resources (OER) continue to gain increasing attention from key stakeholders in government and education. In a press release from the White House, the Obama administration reaffirms their support for “the use of open educational resources to provide equitable access to quality education.” They note that open educational resources “can increase access to high-quality education opportunities and reduce the cost of education around the world.” The press release also outlines activities undertaken at the White House to support OERs, including an International Open Education Workshop and other initiatives that support the second U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

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Campus tech leaders report more support for free educational materialsA recent survey of college technology leaders found that there is growing support for open textbooks and open educational resources (OERs) in higher education. According to the Campus Computing Survey, 81 percent of respondents felt that open educational resources will “be an important source for instructional material in the next five years. And 38 percent report that their institutions encourage faculty members to use open-resource content, compared with 33 percent in 2014.” These survey findings are reflected in the growing use of open educational resources and textbooks in BC, with the development of the BC Open Textbook Project, and at UBC, where a number of programs, such as Physics 100, have recently successfully included open textbooks and OERs as instructional resources.

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Flexible learning trends

How to teach in an age of distraction

Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores teaching in an age of cell phones, text messaging and distraction. Turkle argues that “in education, learning is the focus,” and multitasking can hinder this goal. Rather than accommodating multitasking and distractions in the classroom, Turkle maintains that they need to be challenged. She goes on to defend the often criticized traditional lecture as a space where students “learn from speaking and from listening,” and where community can flourish.

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Coming together to change the future of education at Google’s Moonshot Summit

On July 21, 2015, educators, edTech innovators, and entrepreneurs came together for Google’s Moonshot for Education Summit in Amsterdam. A moonshot in education revolves around the idea of “how the education system needs to evolve to reflect…new realities.” During the summit, participants were asked, “If you could change anything in the education system, what would your ‘moonshot’ be?” Among some of the main ideas that emerged from the summit were:

  • Dissolving the wall between schools and community by including young people and outsiders such as artists and companies in curriculum design.
  • Creating a platform where students could develop their own learning content and share it, perhaps like a junior edX.
  • Crowdsourcing potential problems and solutions in conjunction with teachers and schools.
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The science of learning

The Deans for Impact, an American nonprofit organization representing leaders in educator preparation, reviewed key findings from cognitive science related to how students learn. They then connected the research to practical implications for teaching and learning. The document identifies six questions about teaching and learning and provides research-based answers and practical implications for the classroom. The report is a valuable resource for educators interested in understanding evidence-based approaches and strategies for effective teaching and learning.

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Effectiveness of integrating MOOCs in traditional classrooms for undergraduate students

MOOCs are mostly used as standalone, online courses that do not offer credit. However, some institutions, including UBC, are now introducing MOOCs into face-to-face classroom settings. Maria Joseph Israel from the University of San Francisco looks at five models of integrating MOOCs into the classroom, where they can be used as open educational resources or courseware for blended courses. Israel discusses how these integrations impact learning outcomes and student satisfaction and makes recommendations for MOOC providers and institutions adopting MOOCs for in-class courses.

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From MOOC to personal learning

There are many studies about MOOCs in the media. Stephen Downes, who leads the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, explores a different type of MOOC, known as the cMOOC. The cMOOC “is based on connection rather than content, looks more like an online community than a course, and doesn’t have a defined curriculum or formal assignments.” The free-form nature of the cMOOC means that students have to “manage their own time, find their own resources, and structure their own learning.” Downes explores what enables a person to learn effectively in a cMOOC and examines what type of learning design or technology is best suited to support learning in this community-based environment.

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Flipped classrooms

The effects of the inverted classroom approach: Student behaviours, perceptions and learning outcomes

There are a growing number of studies examining the effectiveness of the flipped/inverted classroom approach on student engagement and learning. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) looked at student behaviours and perceptions associated with the flipped classroom in a first year engineering physics course at the University of Toronto. The report found improved student-faculty interactions and class enjoyment and interest. In addition, “more than 80% of the students in the inverted classroom found video lessons to be an effective introduction to the course material.” However, similar to other recent reports on the flipped classroom, learner preference was mixed, with only 34% of students reporting that they preferred the flipped classroom approach to a “traditional” lecture classroom.

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Flexible Learning
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