For most of the last century, teaching was the same. A university lecture in 1920 did not look that different from a lecture in 1980. A professor stepped up to the podium and imparted wisdom in a 45-minute monologue. Students took notes. The end.
Those days are long gone at UBC. The introduction of the Internet and the advent of personal computing have changed everything.
Today, when Dr. Simon Bates holds a physics session for 300 undergraduates, they arrive having read and digested all the material in advance. His role is facilitating engagement, which includes problem solving, spontaneous questions and discussion in breakout groups. It’s called a “flipped classroom” and it has changed the post-secondary learning environment at UBC and transformed the student experience.
“If you were to parachute into one of my lectures, you’d probably think I’d lost control of my class,” says Bates, Professor of Teaching in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. “It’s noisy, interactive and slightly unpredictable. I have a rough map of what I’d like to do, but I vary it. I spend time challenging understanding, highlighting connections or testing.”
According to former UBC President Stephen Toope, four factors are driving a warp-speed acceleration of learning models at UBC: a better understanding of how we learn, transformative technologies, new demands for options and the rising costs of the traditional model.
First, thanks to advances in cognitive science, we know more about how to design effective learning. For example, research has shown that testing more often teaches us to retrieve information under stress and improves long-term memory.