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

OER-based degrees: Momentum
In this blog post, David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning and Education Fellow at Creative Commons, examines the growth and significance of OER-based degrees. Fifteen years ago, MIT started sharing instructional resources through their OpenCourseWare project, which led to hundreds of other institutions sharing resources. In recent years, new OpenCourseWare initiatives have slowed; however, there has been a growth in OER-based degrees—degree programs that use only open access resources. Wiley points to the example of the Z degree offered at Tidewater Community College in Virginia, which cut student cost by 25 percent. Similar to MIT’s project, the Z degree is inspiring the creation of similar programs. Northern Virginia Community College is now offering two OER-based degrees and, in California, the governor is allocating $5 million dollars for the creation of OER-based degrees at community colleges across the state. Wiley notes that the growth of these degrees makes it “quite easy to imagine half of all US community colleges offering an OER-based degree by 2020.”  

Flexible Learning Trends

Six implications of the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environments (NGDLE) frameworkA year after EDUCAUSE published a white paper on new directions for digital learning environments, Malcolm Brown, director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, reflects on the growing support and momentum for learning environments to be based on component architecture. Brown states that “rather than relying heavily on a single application like an LMS, this approach would be more modular in nature, allowing institutions to pick and choose the most relevant digital tools to suit the specific needs of their student and faculty populations.” Brown identifies six initial implications of this approach. He highlights the fact that the higher education community can act as architects of the learning environment. “The shift to component-based architecture gives us — the members of the higher ed community — an unprecedented opportunity to shape, rethink, plan, and design our digital learning environments in a way that we haven’t had since the advent of the LMS.” Brown writes that, “At EDUCAUSE, we see this evolution toward the NGDLE as nothing less than academic transformation. This will require new aspects or dimensions to leadership, especially the ability to build consensus across campus groups and organizations.”

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Five time-saving strategies for the flipped classroom

To address the notion that flipping the classroom is too time-consuming, this Faculty Focus article provides strategies for instructors to save time and create a successful flipped experience.

  1. Find flippable moments: Rather than flipping everything, focus your time and energy on identifying key moments where you can flip work.
  2. Make small changes: Start by focusing on a specific lesson, and try one flipped strategy during this lesson.
  3. Build margins into the lesson: Plan margins or white space into your lessons. For example, allot extra time for challenges with technology or explaining a new activity.
  4. Rethink how your time is defined: Consider how you are already using time to prepare lectures—a flipped approach is a reallocation of this time.
  5. Do less, accomplish more: “Don’t force the strategies,” the article states. “Do whatever works for you and your teaching style. By flipping only what needs flipping, by stepping back and doing less, your students will accomplish more.”
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No cooking cutting in my classroom
In this commentary from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rebecca Eggenschwiler, associate professor of English at Montgomery College in Maryland, critiques the view that classes and teaching should be standardized. She argues that efforts to standardize have led to passionless and disengaged teachers and students. As universities increasingly focus on learning analytics and prescriptive pathways to student success, Eggenschwiler emphasizes that education is an interpersonal experience. “Real education and real learning live and breathe in difference, in intangibility, in unpredictability,” she states. “Part of my job in the classroom is being adaptable, adjusting my lessons, my pace, my readings to fit the needs of a specific group of people.” As students have individual needs, professors have different teaching styles based on their personality, expertise, interest, and ideas—this, Eggenschwiler argues, should be embraced. “Nothing is more instructive or transformative for students than working with engaged, passionate, learned people in the classroom. The more different versions of this they encounter, the better.”

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The Internet of Things is here

This article by Florence Hudson, senior vice president and chief innovation officer for Internet2, looks at the continued expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how higher education can be involved in and shape its development. IoT is a network of everyday objects, ranging from vehicles and appliances to buildings and drones, which are connected through digital sensors that allow the objects to send and receive data. Currently, billions of physical devices across the world are interconnected through the Internet or other network technology, and it is estimated that by 2025 the IoT could represent 11 percent of the global gross domestic product. The IoT is already evident on campuses—on average students arrive on campus with seven IoT devices. The article suggests that higher education “has an opportunity to support the development and deployment of the technical and business model innovations for an IoT-enabled economy.” It provides the example of engineering and computer science professors creating IoT labs to improve IoT technologies or law schools teaching IoT ethics, privacy, and policy. The article encourages higher education institutions to use their “resources and talent to develop and shape the future of the IoT.”

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Flipped classroom research and trends from different fields of studyThis paper, from the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, analyses the trends and contents of flipped classroom research. The authors performed a content analysis on 20 articles from 2013 to 2015 that reported on flipped learning classroom initiatives. Some of the items they looked at were methodologies, areas of studies, technology tools or online platforms, impacts on students’ learning, and challenges. It was found that flipped classrooms “brought positive impacts toward students’ learning activities such as achievement, motivation, engagement, and interaction.” The authors also suggest that government or policymakers should see the flipped classroom as a contemporary model that should be implemented in higher education, as well as K-12 classrooms.

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Refugees around the world can now take online classes for free

The U.S. State Department recently announced a partnership with online education platform Coursera to give refugees free access to thousands of online courses. Nonprofit groups that support refugees around the world, or individual refugees, can apply for fully funded access to Coursera’s course catalogue. They will be able to take all Coursera classes, which range from data science to fashion design, without the costs of obtaining professional certificates. Evan Ryan, U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, stated the new program hopes to aid refugees by offering “important skills that will help them in the global economy.” While finding a new career, or continuing a previous career, may not be as straightforward as watching a few videos, the program may still have value; a 2015 study found that 72 percent of people who took MOOCs saw career benefits afterwards.

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A systematic review of the socio-ethical aspects of massive online open coursesA study from the European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning conducted a systematic literature review to explore socio-ethical dimensions of MOOCs. The aim of the research was to look at the opportunities MOOCs have provided for equality and inclusivity, as well as the difficulties faced. The author acknowledged how “technological innovations that have given rise to MOOCs, and the new pedagogies that are emerging, are redefining educational possibilities." However, she states that "these developments have outpaced our critical thinking around the fundamental principles of how to deliver an education that is ethically sound...Many of the articles published provide empirical evidence showing that both forms of MOOCs offer opportunities to learn and connect across geographical boundaries, yet we are at a point where social inclusion is polarised toward the more privileged." The author says there are questions regarding the quality of MOOCs and how quality should be assured. She argues that "more insight into digital literacies...and how learners and facilitators can effectively collaborate online will push further the boundaries of inclusion."

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Flexible Learning
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Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z2

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