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

In this issue:

1. Open Education
2. Flexible Learning Trends
3. MOOCs
 

Open Education


Open textbooks save Math students up to $1 million this yearInstructors in 16 math courses at UBC have adopted open or free textbooks, which have collectively saved students between $608,000 and $1,024,000 in the 2016 academic year. All first-year courses and most second-year courses in the department currently use open or freely accessible textbooks. Since 1997, the adoption of these resources has impacted more than 23,000 students and saved them between $1,315,000 and $2,429,000 on commercially available textbooks. Instructors in the department were largely motivated to adopt and create open resources so they could customize content to fit the course and improve the learning experience for students. One student noted, “We have to pay an exorbitant amount to get into university, and on top of that we have to pay $200 for a textbook. With open textbooks students will still be able to have the learning experience. I think that’s what the student needs.”
 
According to a new report published by the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, the number of UBC students using open textbooks has doubled since last year. The report also documents the use of open textbooks at UBC in the past five years and explores emerging trends in open educational practices at UBC.  

Flexible Learning Trends


Beyond dinosaurs and Pokémon Go: How AR is being used to deliver enhanced education experiences

Matt Ramirez, futures senior innovation developer at Jisc, a not-for-profit organization that supports education and research, shares several examples of how augmented reality is being used in education in the UK. In one example, medical students, trainee surgeons, and the general public were able to view the first virtual reality, 360-degree operation. The surgery, taking place at Royal London Hospital, was streamed live using multiple specialist cameras placed above the operating table. In another example, a team from the University of São Paulo and Duke University developed an immersive and interactive virtual environment that simulates an archeological site. Since it can be difficult to give students access to sensitive archaeological sites, the virtual environment acted as a “realistic, interactive 3D space that supports research and exploration.”
 
At UBC, a Geography course is using augmented reality field trips to create immersive and flexible learning experiences for students. UBC Studios has also created a virtual reality lab for faculty and staff to try emerging technologies.

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3 easy ways to embrace high-impact learning

The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at how hackathons, innovation time off, and sprint prize competitions can provide immersive and high-impact learning experiences. Hackathons are short, intensive events where participants work to solve a problem. They can “motivate participants to focus on the situation at hand, learn new tools when necessary, and adapt existing knowledge and skills to meet the challenge.” In innovation time off, students are given part of course time to pursue a project, related to the course, of personal interest. This would allow students to “connect the dots between the course material and their own questions and interests.” In sprint prize competitions, students seek a “prize” for creating innovative solutions to problems. This practice “allows students to creatively use course skills in a fun environment while still being publicly accountable for their work.”

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Professors aren’t good at sharing their classroom practices. Teaching portfolios might help.

This article from educational technology company EdSurge looks at how digital teaching portfolios can help instructors share and transform their teaching practices. Teaching portfolios “document evidence of teaching success as well as more informal descriptions of teaching mechanics.” Portfolios can also be a way for faculty to learn about the types of changes their colleagues are making in their teaching. The California State University system has a requirement that faculty who are awarded a grant for course revisions write a summary and reflection of their teaching. Through this requirement, a library of 200 teaching portfolios has been created. However, the article points out that portfolios are still not the norm for many professors and may require a “cultural change” to be fully adopted. 

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10 fundamentals of teaching online for faculty and instructors

Tony Bates, author of the open textbook Teaching in a Digital Age, has compiled a series of guides for faculty and instructors looking to teach online. The guides address myths and misconceptions about online teaching to help instructors decide whether, and in which circumstances, they should teach online. The guides are based on Bates’ 40 years of experience teaching online and also draw on research as well as input from experienced online instructors. The 10 guides include an overview of online learning, a comparison with face-to-face teaching, a look at different kinds of online learning, and methods to effectively teach online.

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Finding common ground: Identifying and eliciting metacognition in ePortfolios across contextsA study from the International Journal of ePortfolio looks at how to identify evidence of metacognition across ePortfolios. The research team studied three groups: traditional-age undergraduate students, graduate Education students, and adults returning to school to complete a bachelor’s degree. Metacognition is a skill that involves “learning a specific subject, but also developing an awareness of…learning and thinking processes as well as an ability to monitor, assess, control, and change those processes.” Through a qualitative coding process, the team identified four key metacognition markers: awareness of transfer of learning over time; awareness of processes and strategies for learning; awareness of strengths and weaknesses in learning; and awareness of affect and values while learning. According to the researchers, the four markers explain what a portfolio with effective metacognition would look like.

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MOOCs


Digital badging in the MOOC space

Over the past year, the University of Notre Dame studied the design and implementation of digital badges in the global MOOC environment. Digital badges can be defined as “visual symbols of credentials…[that] make specific claims about learning and…are designed to be shared easily.” The team examined three edX courses, which each had different goals and requirements to earn a badge. In the first MOOC, “I Heart Stats: Learning to Love Statistics,” the team studied the impact of badges on course completion. In the second MOOC, “Math in Sports,” the researchers examined the profiles and perceptions of badge earners. In the final MOOC, “The Meaning of Rome: The Renaissance and Baroque City,” the team looked at the story behind badge earners and evidence of course performance. From their findings, the team concluded that it takes more than a badge to motivate MOOC completion, and e-portfolios should be used with digital badges to make learning performance visible. 

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Creating a MOOC that emphasizes flexibility for students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has developed a MOOC on using technology for effective teaching. The MOOC, designed for teachers in secondary schools and higher education, includes short lectures, videos, TED talks, readings, blogs, slides, exercises, and short interviews with instructors. Discussion sections are integrated directly below the content and include comments from former students to create a learner community. The MOOC also includes self-administered multiple choice assessments for students to gauge their understanding. For final exams, students submit video reflections/responses to course materials, which professors respond to with video feedback. The feedback is meant to “strengthen relations between students and professors, and is designed to be motivating.” 

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