Flexible Learning at UBC: A State of Being

From Video Game Law, Arts One Digital, to MOOCs, it seems that there are many UBC faculty who are using technology-enhanced learning in some form or another to enhance their teaching. And, at UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, it was Novak Rogic, whom we interviewed in early April, who first introduced us to the term: Flexible Learning.

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According to UBC, much of the flexible learning activity is taking place within individual courses, rather than at a program level. UBC wants to change how courses are created, taught and delivered across the entire campus. Flexible learning courses can include student-generated content and flipped classroom approaches. UBC is supporting its course transformation agenda with funding and resources. Higher education is changing and, for UBC, technology is seen as the big impetus for change.

For the university’s initial round of funding (courses offered in 2013/14 academic year), more than 100 courses (that’s approximately 34,000 students!) incorporated the concept of students as producers as part of the course delivery, with 41 projects that used the flipped classroom approach.

As one example, with “Your Chinese Learning, Your Way” students were asked to create audio and video recordings based on dialogues presented in the course’s textbook. These assignments were incorporated into two beginning Chinese courses, CHIN 101 and CHIN 103. Learning Mandarin Chinese can be very challenging and these two activities were developed to make learning the language more accessible and flexible for students, as these student-developed audio and video recordings will be made available to future students.

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Here’s another example: as part of the Brain and Behaviour block in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Dentistry, Dr. Claudia Krebs and her team are developing a new Neuroanatomy at UBC website that serves as an open access repository of online information. Students can go to watch videos and complete interactive modules before the labs. Her Introduction to the Central Nervous System YouTube video has garnered close to 18,500 views since January 2014.

There are 18 new projects funded for the second round of flexible learning funding for 2014/15. Projects funded include everything from ‘Taking Entrepreneurship 101 Online’, to ‘Legal research and Writing for the Net Generation’, to ‘Designing, Developing and Implementing Online Learning Materials for Core Second-Year Forestry Courses.’

Flexible Learning is an audacious and broad undertaking for UBC – that’s not only seeing real-world results but also changing its game.

Notable Quotes:

Flexible learning is not merely an initiative—it is a whole new way of teaching and learning. It is a forever thing. So, in the short term, we will look at indicators such as student satisfaction with blended classes and faculty participation in flex-learning activities for evidence of traction. And in the longer term, we anticipate improved student learning outcomes and an enhanced institutional reputation as educational innovators. ~  Angela Redish, UBC Vice Provost and Associate Vice President Enrolment and Academic Faculties

Flexible learning is not merely a game-changer. From now on, it is the game. ~  Angela Redish, UBC Vice Provost and Associate Vice President Enrolment and Academic Faculties

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