The future of learning lies in a blended approach

With the approach of B Trimester, the University of Waikato is taking the opportunity to apply the advantages of the Covid-19 lockdown shift to online teaching and learning and revisit traditional ways of delivering lecture content.

As part of the move down alert levels, lengthy consideration went into the best way to teach in B Trimester. Even at Alert Level 1, many students’ lives are disrupted and will continue to remain so in the B Trimester due to changes in health, work and family commitments (for example, Alert Level 1 Golden Rule 1 stipulates remaining home if unwell). A recent survey of students enrolled in large B Trimester classes found a sizable proportion (42%) would take advantage of flexible and remote learning options.

The University balanced this input with the needs of students returning to campus and the requirements for the University to be able to revert to fully online delivery should alert levels rise again.

The resulting blended learning approach means tutorials, seminars, noho, workshops, labs and other smaller classes will be offered face-to-face while maintaining remote access options for those unable to attend.

There is no ‘ban’ on lectures – rather, the majority of large classes which traditionally have taken the form of a lecturer speaking for one to two hours while students take notes, will instead be restructured into short videos by the lecturer for students to view as preparation for in-depth discussion and face-to-face activities in tutorials, workshops, case studies and other smaller group classes. This allows students who are unable to attend classes on-campus to access recorded lecture material, and gives all students flexibility to access teaching material independently.

Small group learning is an increasingly important method in the learning process.

Lectures delivered in the traditional way are no longer the best way to facilitate learning. This opportunity for modifying learning experiences with an eye to the future is why the University has decided against running lectures concurrently live and in video, which would not provide a complete learning experience. In many universities around the world, lectures play only a small part in a student’s learning. Workshops, seminars, labs, online fora, tutorials, discussion groups and work-integrated learning are among the examples of increasingly important methods for contributing to the learning process.

The University of Waikato’s approach to teaching and learning during B Trimester places more emphasis on these smaller group learning experiences, making teaching more interactive and giving students more opportunities for collaborative learning. Maintaining remote learning options for these classes also continues to provide access for students who are unable to return to campus. Teaching staff are receiving plenty of support with the redesign of their delivery to shorter videos combined with activities to reinforce comprehension.

Taking this blended approach to larger lecture classes means the University is well-placed to quickly return to physically-distanced classes or fully online delivery if there is a return to higher alert levels. Overall, the University of Waikato is focused on ensuring all students have every opportunity for collaborative learning and teaching experiences.

Information on assessments, final grades and work-integrated learning for A Trimester is available here.