Learning Hotspots // 21.04.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Turning learning upside down

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A brand new, tech-savvy campus at Manukau Institute of Technology is turning heads. But not everyone agrees it should be turning learning upside down.

Manukau’s latest addition to the MIT family is a massive, state-of-the-art, designer campus created to house around 5,000 students.

Those in the know say the campus is the perfect spot for a whole new style of education – Flipped Learning.

Developed in the early 2000’s, Flipped Learning turns learning around. Instead of arriving at your classroom with a blank slate, your brain is already full of what you’ll need to make the class meaningful and allow you to extend beyond the text book basics.

Dr Tessa Owens, Academic Director of MIT, says it’s a better way to learn.

“Traditionally ideas are introduced to students in the classroom for the first time and then they go away and do homework. What a flipped classroom does is give information to the students before they come to class, so when they arrive they can talk about the application of that knowledge. That’s the key,” says Dr Owens.

“A high-tech building allows students multiple ways to access all the information they need – post a video on a website for them to read, a podcast to listen to…and it enables teachers to develop resources that they previously haven’t been able to provide.”

Suspended above the Manukau transport centre, the new building offers non-traditional learning spaces designed to facilitate Flipped Learning.

“Traditionally the teacher stood at the front of the classroom and the students listened. We now know that people don’t learn particularly well in that environment, probably only concentrating for around 15 minutes in an hour lecture.

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“We use open teaching spaces to bring the concentration back and get students actively involved in problem solving, talking with each other and the tutor. They’re fully engaged in the time that they are there and that’s better use of time than sitting passively listening to someone talk for an hour.”

While many students agree the new campus has the wow factor, not everyone is happy with the way it’s been designed.

Laurence Earl, a second year Diploma in Information and Communication Technology student, says it has a way to go.

‘Sometimes open learning seems to be more of a hindrance than a help. We’re close together, there’s no physical walls and there’s noise competition between different lectures,’ says Earl. ‘While that’s been remedied with temporary screens, it’s a bandaid. Being an IT student I’m in labs and I absolutely prefer the traditional style of classroom. It’s easier to learn when the lecturer can take control. I don’t think the lecturers know how open space learning works.’

However Earl is positive about the high level of technology on offer.

“I love having all that information available at my fingertips. Some lecturers are live streaming their classes and recording them. That’s amazing. If you wanted, you could watch the lecture from bed and everyone comes into class on the same page.”

Earl says he’d like to see more lecturers take advantage of this.

“It’s sadly under-utilised. I’d like to see it used more. It’s set up to do that but it’s not there yet. The campus is far better than the previous one, with new equipment and faster internet and it’s moving in the right direction.”