I co-presented at two conferences:
- ALT Annual Conference 2018 (11-13 September 2018, Manchester)
- Active Learning Conference 2018
Both presentations were focused on lessons learnt from a large blended learning/flipped classroom project I was a part of. The project consisted in designing and developing an innovative BSc programme in Medical Biosciences at Imperial College London, based on the principles of active and blended learning with a strong flipped classroom component (online pre-session self-study materials followed by face-to-face active learning session). My role was that of a learning designer and blended learning specialist, and involved facilitating learning design sessions for the online and face-to-face components to ensure alignment of the content with learning outcomes and assessment as well as delivery of high quality engaging online materials. Both conference presentations captured lessons learnt during this project from the learning design team’s point of view (I co-presented with my colleague Emma Blyth), based on feedback received from students, and the challenges and risks we encountered.
Working on these conference presentations was an excellent opportunity to take stock of what Emma and I (the learning design team) had achieved over the first year of the Medical Biosciences project as well as how we had approached the various challenges and risks inherent in a project of this scale (entire three-year UG programme). Overall, by reflecting on this experience when preparing for the conferences, we managed to identify a number of key lessons for flipping academic delivery, which include the following:
- The hardest message to get across to academic teams was to focus not on what the instructor wants to teach but on what students need to learn to achieve the learning outcomes and perform well in assessments (quality over quantity).
- For flipped programmes, face-to-face sessions should be designed first and aligned with learning outcomes (despite the temptation to start with pre-session self-study online materials).
- Teaching methods matter when designing online content: students have much more appreciation for materials that are bespoke in the sense of having a familiar teacher voice, give them frequent opportunities to test if they are on the right track, and provide clarity as to the amount of detail that is required and the relevance of this information.
- Projects of this scale require a proper learning design and project management structure in place, as well as recognition of the amount of time, effort and dedication flipping a programme takes.
Listing such lessons learnt during the project while preparing for the conferences was very rewarding. In day-to-day work, there is often little time for this type of reflection, which is why I try to make practice-sharing opportunities a significant part of my professional development.
Additionally, presenting to peers at such popular and well-attended conferences as ALT and Active Learning Conference was very rewarding in terms of finding out what the commonalities are across projects colleagues at other institutions and in other disciplines work on. Our sessions at both conferences were very well attended and stimulated a lot of audience questions and discussion. I learnt that good-practice-sharing sessions (which our presentations effectively were) are very welcome in the learning design and learning technology community as the lessons presented can be effectively transferred across disciplines and institutions. Also, we designed our presentations to be interactive with a lot of audience participation and feedback, and realised that this type of delivery (as opposed to unidirectional “lecturing” at our audience) results in a much more rewarding experience for everyone involved in terms of the breadth of topics covered and experiences shared.