The growing cost of higher education has significantly affected what students expect from undergraduate courses, particularly the amount of staff contact they have. This relates to time spent not only with lecturers and tutors, but also with technicians, advisors, support workers and anyone else who can positively influence their time at college or university.
The time students get with staff is crucial to how they perform in higher education. So the thinking goes that, if they're paying for that education, they have the right to demand quality time with those who will help them get the most out of it.
“One way to describe this change would be that there is now a more ‘professional’ attitude to study,” according to Time Higher Education Editor John Gill, who believes students now expect different modes of education from universities, and the intelligent incorporation of technology.
The changing attitude of students with regard to staff contact is a big issue for colleges and universities, and one they have to address. Institutions are changing to cater for this demand and improve the quality of the time students spend with staff - not just in terms of how lectures are delivered, but how students interact with staff and how effective this interaction is.
Where flipped learning fits
The increasing adoption of flipped learning plays to this trend. It’s a teaching model originally developed in the 1990s where the typical lecture and homework elements are reversed: students watch videos of lectures at home, becoming familiar with the source material before the class, then devote time with the lecturer to discussions, exercises and projects.
With the leaps and bounds in digital technology since then, modern flipped learning is far more effective and flexible; students are able to learn new concepts from documents, images and videos shared via the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), Youtube and social media apps, which they can access from anywhere using smartphones and tablets.
Not only does this mean face-to-face interaction with staff can be put to better use in terms of practice and development, it’s also enabled the reinvention of the model, allowing students to have mobile access to staff on demand via the cloud.
One thing that doesn’t change is how crucial the contact time is between students and tutors; all that modern flipped learning does is change the means by which students spend time with staff, making it easier for them to get access in the process. And this is where the emphasis needs to be when introducing this model of learning to new participants. The flipped classroom is resisted by some students as going too far down the road of independent study. But by keeping the focus on the quality of staff contact time, and increased opportunity to have it, their expectations will be better met.
While apps, smartphones, tablets and the like are important to modern flipped learning, the value of it is in students interacting with staff. Colleges and universities need to keep this front of mind when embracing technology and promoting its use to students; it’s set to play a bigger role in higher education, and for what better reason than to support the time spent together for a better learning experience.