FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS IN 2015 ALONG WITH THEIR TEACHERS will flip to celebrate the university’s 50th birthday.
Flipped classes provide a more engaged and deeper form of learning. In an innovative approach to higher education, the university wants its students to learn to learn.
The futuristic NeW Space, the much-anticipated campus in the city, will join the party in 2017.
The flipped approach delivers content before class rather than in class. The classroom, when it is used, becomes a more hands-on learning space, and content is explored in small groups.
A flipped classroom is a form of blended learning.
Students attain content online by watching video lectures, typically at home but in fact anywhere, and activities using the content replace the traditional lecture.
Flip learning is made possible with smartphones, tablets and wireless connectivity.
“That presence in people’s pockets enables this to happen,” says Professor Liz Burd, Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching.
The use of familiar tools aids the transformation from school, home, or workplace.
“When students start at university, they know it is a form of education they haven’t experienced before,” says Professor Burd.
“So we use the expectation of change to deliver a change of expectation.”
Classes for first-year business and law students in 2015 will be flipped and the university will run a special induction campaign.
Year one and year two students will be fl ipped in 2016, the second year for year two students. And when NeW Space is up and running in 2017, all three years will be flipped.
As a Newcastle innovation in education, today’s flipped classes, or UoNline Plus, compare with problembased learning in the 1970s.
Facilitating this change in pedagogy is a concrete structure, the $95 million landmark education precinct under development in the heart of Newcastle’s CBD.
“Without NeW Space we couldn’t have introduced blended learning in such a wholehearted way,” says Professor Burd. “It provides the space and technology to enable the educational strategy, or flip, to work.
“We are bringing the three pieces together – right space, right technology and the innovative curricula.
“Very rarely do you get the perfect story – a new building, the willingness of an organisation to put the resources into technology and support, and the guts to do it. Very often it is easier to do what you have always done.”
Using NeW Space demonstrates a blended form of education doesn’t have to be done at a distance. It will be the touch point where students can come onto campus and meet others working in a similar environment. Theywill have access to resources and infrastructure not available at home or work. This is the principle of the informal learning space design.
It is part of what Professor Burd describes as a “continuum of education”.
“It is better to provide a set of principles that enable innovation and adaptability in the workforce,” she says.
“The tools the university of Newcastle provides get students to understand the process of learning. That is valuable. Career-for-life ambition is more important than the limited workready- for-now.”
The new integrated learning environment changes the teacherstudent dynamic.
“The academic is no longer the one given the prize of information and the source and delivery of that information,” says Professor Burd.
The university’s Sydney campus has been redesigned and, like NeW Space, has no traditional lecture theatres, just enabling places. Based on its existing infrastructure, Singapore will be able to try some of the approaches.
“Callaghan is the challenge,” says Professor Burd. “It has an infrastructure that has been ‘neatly preserved’ for the past 50 years.
“We have a set of lecture theatres all of a design that make it diffi cult for collaborative-based activities. You can’t move from delivering one model in November and then, come February, change the model and think the students are going to cope. Or staff.
“That is why we are using the phased model, starting in 2015 with year one,” says Professor Burd.
New spaces on the Callaghan campus will be pressed into use before NeW Space in the CBD comes into its own.
Staff teaching fl ip classes in 2015 can enter a practically applied professional development course. At some stage through the course they can fl ip their class. The blended online learning design (BOLD) lab from the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) will also help them develop electronic resources.
In the year it celebrates its 50th birthday the university with fl ip is still breaking new ground around the world.
“There is a lot of interest internationally in our changes, including from Asia, Latin America and Europe,” says Professor Burd.
Despite this brave new world, some aspects of a traditional university experience are not only retained, but also considered necessary to the success of the innovation. Technology allows the delivery of course material any time, any place.
But the future is a wonderful melding of the old and the new.
“The campus still establishes a sense of community,” says Professor Burd. “The campus allows students to meet people in similar studies and with similar interests and allows them to form support structures.
“If you can get the campus community working in that way, student retention and successful completion is high.