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Spreading the word

1 February 2013

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education), shares his thoughts on lecture-flipping.

Professor Anthony Smith, UCL's Vice-Provost (Education)

One of the early things that struck me on joining UCL 12 months ago was the extraordinary range of high-quality work in teaching and learning that is going on every day. With no shortage of inspiration and innovation, one challenge became clear: how can more of the UCL community draw on the experience and expertise of others to enhance their teaching and indeed how can our students benefit more readily from this wealth of knowledge?

Recent events address this challenge. Earlier this month I was very pleased to present Certificates of Membership of the Association for Learning Technology to Teaching Administrators from across UCL who have developed a portfolio of skills in supporting e-learning in their departments. This is part of the Digital Department project, initially funded by JISC and now supported by my office, seeks to bring together a network of more than 200 Teaching Administrators across UCL. Further information about the network is available from Stefanie Anyadi or Clive Young.

Also earlier this month I attended the first presentation in the ‘Summits and Horizons’ series co-organised by E-learning Environments (ELE) and the UCL Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT). The subject of the first seminar was ‘Beyond lecture recording’, with presentations by BASc Course Director Carl Gombrich, E-Learning Advisory Team Leader Clive Young and Sylvia Moes, Project and Innovation Manager in Media at VU Amsterdam. I am sure many in the audience, like me, were inspired by Carl’s reflections on using ‘lecture flipping’ and ‘hot questions’ with the first cohort of students on the new BASc programme. Here, the lectures are pre-recorded and viewed by students ahead of the ‘lecture slot’.

A key innovation has been the concept of ‘hot questions’ developed in collaboration with Matt Jenner (E-Learning Environments). Students submit three questions prompted by the lecture and then vote on all the questions submitted to identify those that are most important to them. The lecturer then bases the timetabled face-to-face session around these questions. Carl emphasised the importance of using these questions and preparing thoroughly so time spent with students becomes much more interactive, collaborative and discursive rather than a simple Q and A session. He also felt that it wasn’t necessary to go in front of the camera to produce a pre-recorded lecture – a voice-over coupled with visual aids would work as well as a talking head. Like many, I have recorded my lectures for the past 2-3 years, but I am now tempted to try the flipped approach this term.

Clive Young followed with a useful review of the literature around lecture recording, not least to debunk the urban myth about lecture attendance. The evidence is that recorded lectures neither improve nor worsen attendance. It is clear from our own usage statistics (250,000 views last year) that having lectures available to view is something that is really valued by our students. As we strive to bring a fresh student-centred approach to our work, we would do well to capitalise on these technological enhancements to the student experience.

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education)

Page last modified on 01 feb 13 11:08


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