Of the pedagogical trends identified by the research (commissioned in partnership with SAGE Publishing), by far the most prominent were research-led teaching and flipped learning – the latter often mentioned in conjunction with technologically-enhanced resources.
Flipped learning, which was practised in schools for some time before it took hold in universities, promotes dynamic learning by encouraging the student to take more responsibility for study. There is no single accepted definition of what it entails, but as well as technological innovation it often involves pre-class prep by students; more targeted use of lecturer contact hours; and the use of (often online) assessment to enable lecturers to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses (with the intent of enabling them to focus on the latter). It may be delivered as a form of blended learning; and some of the most successful practitioners combine its use with more traditional pedagogical methods. Despite the fact that one of the reasons for its development was to enable lecturers to cope with large cohorts of students, there is some evidence that it is more effective with relatively small groups.
Open Education Resources (OERs) have enjoyed quite a lot of media exposure recently and are often favoured by senior university administrators, because they help to fulfil the promise that students won’t have to pay extra for resources; and also serve to highlight the uniqueness of the individual university’s offering. In addition, they win Brownie points by showing support in principle for the Open Access movement. Some academics are enthusiastic about developing them and there have been several serious experiments with OERs at UK universities; but they come with drawbacks. From the academic’s point of view, chief among these is the time they take to develop, and even more, to keep updated, when academics’ schedules are already being squeezed to fit in teaching, research and administration.
From the purist’s point of view, an OER is not really an OER if the university is not prepared to make it available to other institutions and students not enrolled in its own institution – an attitude which many adopt now that HE is promoted by the government as a ‘market’ and universities are in competition with each other. (Such OERs may be contrasted with MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – which by definition are Open Access.)
However, an OER doesn’t have to be a full-length book or comprehensive study programme: much smaller units of teaching and learning resource can qualify, such as individual ‘repurposable’ units of knowledge; quizzes and notes placed by lecturers on the VLE; academics’ own podcasts and video clips; and Lecture Capture, but again only if made available to a wider audience than the university’s own students.
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