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The Future of Education: The Flipped Classroom or Blended Learning?

We are into week 11 of the lockdown and as educators, we have seen days which we never imagined in the wildest of our dreams. The entire experience of education changed overnight. Educators became learners and students were suddenly given those very gadgets (read smartphones and laptops) for which they were earlier cajoled for constant usage. Online education suddenly became the new normal. Many of the faculty adapted very quickly to the situation and got their act together to conduct classes from their homes. The students on the other hand, geared themselves to studying in the comfort zones of their homes. Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp, WebEx, Skype, Google Meet, etc – all possible platforms were explored, and a new classroom was created.

IILM University also swiftly adopted technology to ensure that the learning did not stop, irrespective of the lockdown. In fact, IILM went a step further to ensure that almost all the scheduled activities other than teaching were also conducted online, viz mentoring, dissertation guidance, Club activities and placement preparation workshops for the students. The Placement Cell at IILM University leveraged their strong industry connect to get virtual summer internships for their undergraduate and postgraduate students. Faculty mentors at IILM have been continuously guiding and hand-holding these interning students to keep up their motivation levels while working for home.

The Way Forward

As the pandemic situation gets critical, experts around the world are deliberating on the way forward for higher education, anticipating online education to assume greater significance in the coming years. Academicians are exploring the options of the flipped classroom and blended learning to offer an effective learning environment for the students. The author discusses here the case of these two trending topics which are likely to show us the direction, as we prepare ourselves for the forthcoming semesters to welcome the existing and new batches of students.

The Flipped Classroom

Let us take the case of a flipped classroom first. Based on my experience and having heard several online discussions, I feel that the success of the implementation of the flipped classroom lies not only in the orientation of the faculty but also on the ownership of the student in his learning. Until now we as faculty majorly adopted a passive learning approach which was faculty-centric in a lecture mode with the objective of content dissemination. What is required is an active learning approach that is student-centric and works on a collaborative model with the objective of content creation. The flip of the traditional classroom works on this principle. An element of experiential learning is brought in along with academic learning. A robust LMS makes it possible to create a flipped classroom. The conceptual learning is done by the students through the LMS and in the class they are given pedagogical tools to apply that learning – whether it is through a project or a case or a simulation.

This sounds exciting, but how many of our students would seriously come prepared for the class and contribute to the classroom discussion? Given the fact that most of them look forward to an exhilarating experience in college and campus life, academics is the last thing on their mind. Forget students, will we able to orient and motivate our faculty to create a flipped classroom? Moreover, the perception of undergraduate students towards education is different in comparison to post-graduate students. Also, there is a huge effort that is required on part of the faculty for creating online content for the LMS. And last but not the least, LMS comes at an enormous cost. Will institutions be able to afford this massive investment at a time when student recruitments look bleak? Will we be able to restructure our infrastructure for creating this learning environment?

I feel that the answers to these questions will tell us whether we should head in the direction towards flipped classrooms or not.

Blended Learning

Blended learning according to me is a healthy mix of the traditional classroom and online teaching. Technology cannot replace educators – it is an undisputed fact because interaction with the students is a must for learning to be effective. And for this, student engagement in class is particularly important. In fact, for blended learning to be successful, the end objective should be participative learning. Given the low levels of the attention span of our students, it would certainly be a Herculean task in online teaching.

Blended learning is possible if we change some of our existing teaching practices. A differential pedagogy is the need of the hour. An increased use of simulation, gamification, role plays, and case studies in the online classroom setting are foreseen. Faculty preparedness with respect to the design of the course, course learning outcomes, course content, and pre-class groundwork will be of utmost importance. The focus would be on curated content and overload of reading material would become passé. Increased usage of audio and multimedia material by the faculty in the new age online classroom is likely to make the sessions interesting for the students. Faculty would have to design the communication plan for each course and establish certain norms for their class. Class time management would be of great significance. The duration of the classes will also have to carefully deliberated. The planning of the timetables and the schedules will have to be done in such a way that students are excited to attend their classes, rather than feeling compelled.

Whether the future lies in the flipped classroom or blended learning, I believe that facilitators are required to be academically, physically and mentally prepared for their classes going forward. The old teaching practices will have to be done away with. In fact, faculty preparation for each class would decide how effective their session would be. And it is not just about digital literacy, but also the online behaviour while conducting the classes in the new-age classroom. Their mannerisms, their involvement and conduct would decide if students attending are mentally present or only logged in to show their online presence in the class.

Conclusion

Rote learning and the traditional learning approach need to be replaced with a student-centric learning approach while making best use of technology. A hybrid model of teaching is the need of the hour. A meticulous planning is required to ensure that students enjoy their online learning journey rather than feel disinterested. The time has come to innovate the learning pedagogy and create an ocean of new knowledge. It is time to rethink, plan, and prepare.

Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA) for Formative Assessments

Keywords: Computer Aided Assessment, Formative Assessment, Online Assessment, Formative Feedback, E-learning


The role and scope of ICT (information and computing technology) expanded
mainly in 1990s and became a hot topic of research in education. The rationale given for using assessment through computers is that due to global development of online learning, online assessment should be used to complement it.

Computer-assisted assessment (CAA) is a broad term which describes the
application of computer technologies to the assessment process. This may include
a variety of activities which assess knowledge, understanding and skills using one
or more technologies such as the Internet, intranets, CD-ROM and optical data
capture systems.

Approaches to Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) can be divided in 2 systems:

1.  Automated marking of paper forms, using optical mark reader (OMR) e.g.,
CAT test for management courses, and

2.  Computerized marking in which questions are presented and responses
assessed entirely by the computer software, with no paper involved e.g.,
the online test and Quizzies.

CAA software can provide immediate supportive feedback for each question,
tailor the answer given, making this particularly suitable for informal self-
assessment and Formative Feedback by tutor. It is fundamentally useful in testing basic knowledge required in any subject like Terminology, and fundamental conceptual knowledge. There are a plethora of Assessment tools that can be used for assessing student’s learning capacity and knowledge gained.

This blog is sharing the experience of designing and running of online quizz that I had made using the Question-Mark Perception software in collaboration with Nottingham Trend University UK.

I had applied it for Fashion UG students in Level 2 of studies where subject of Pattern Making was tested. MCQs were reinforcing their learning in conceptual way, as students tend to ignore it in a skill based subject. It was a five minutes short quizz with ten questions (pictures and visuals were also part of questions) though some students finished it in 3 minutes. The quiz gave me an option to save the questions online that could be used for future batches as well. Gradually a teacher can start making a “question pool” ready to be implemented as when needed in a very organized and quick way. It took me a few days to design, re-think, pilot run, and saving a final copy. Students could run it anytime and at their own place. 

Students’s feedback was quite positive as the reult was immediatly sent to them as soon as they completed the test. The best part, as per student’s perception, was that it was quick and took only few minutes. One of the important piont that was noted in  students’ feedback was that they felt “Marking was fair”.

See the source image

My perception of its pedagogical advantage as a Formative Assessment is
explained below with the help of following points, though some of them
came as realizations only after the execution:
 a. Testing the knowledge gained by setting significant milestones; and
the associated loopholes/gaps in the same before the summative
assessment. One of the learning outcomes of this module is to
acquire and apply basic knowledge of the subject.
 b. Informal, timely, appropriate and correct feedback for the test
taken.
 c. Easier method of record generation when used as a means of
assessment
 d. A means of supporting the administration part and tracking of
learning
 e. And, last but not the least, as a tool for learning information
management skills – how do you manage answering questions in the limited period?

The use of CAA in universities of UK and US is growing (McKenna, 2001)
and there are at least 3 reasons why we might want to introduce ICT-
based assessment:

  • To avoid disjunction between teaching and assessment modes with e-based learning (a validity issue);
  • To save staff time in marking (an efficiency issue);
  • To enable formative feedback to students (a pedagogic issue)–(Gipps, 2005, p. 173)

In the light of what is written by an author (Fellenz, 2006), and felt by many
others, assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational
improvement. We should be taking account of our learners’ needs and design the
assessments accordingly. Also, we should be continuously recreating ourselves
and looking for new, innovative and challenging approaches for evaluation.
Hence, e-learning and CAA has an important role to play as an integral part in
today’s educational scenario.

“E-Learning is fundamentally about learning and not about technology.
Strategic development of e-learning should be based on the needs and
demands of learners and the quality of their educational experience.”
(Joint SFEFC/SHEFC e-Learning Group: Final Report 2003, p. 52).

In conclusion, I am of the view that technology, if used and understood from pedagogical point
of view, has a lot of potential and flexibility to offer in current scenario.

 

References:

1. GIPPS, C.V., 2005. “What is the role for ICT-based assessment in universities?”
Studies in Higher Education (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group) [online]. 30 (2),
pp.171-180.

2. McKENNA, C., 2001. Introducing computers into the assessment process: what
is the impact upon academic practice? Paper presented at the Higher Education
Close Up Conference 2, Lancaster University, 16-18 July 2001. [Online]
Available from: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001805.htm

Website:

http://www.oecd.org/innovation/research/34899903.pdf