NTU launches new facility that features unconventional teaching method

A 3D-printed miniature of The Hive, created by NTU alumnus Bok Chian Check who took a month to produce it.
A 3D-printed miniature of The Hive, created by NTU alumnus Bok Chian Check who took a month to produce it.PHOTO: NTU/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Tuesday (Oct 20) officially launched its new learning hub, The Hive, designed to support the "flipped classroom" teaching method.

The $45 million hub is the centrepiece of this unconventional model of learning, which reverses the traditional teaching approach by delivering instruction, often online, outside of the classroom. It leaves classroom time for deeper learning activities such as discussions.

For a start, the university targets to convert at least 150 undergraduate courses to use the new pedagogy in this academic year, which started in August, with a third of them already completed.

About 1,500 courses will be converted within five years using this new pedagogy. NTU will spend about $75 million implementing this new approach to learning.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), officiated the opening of The Hive on Tuesday.

He toured the architectural showpiece at the NTU campus, and also visited one of the classes using a team-based learning pedagogy. With the format the students, in groups of five or six, discuss questions and answer them as a team.

The Hive, built over a period of 32 months, was dreamed up by Mr Thomas Heathereick, a renowned British designer whose notable creations include the cauldron for the flame at the London Olympics in 2012.

The Hive had been nicknamed the "dim sum basket building", as the structure resembles the round wooden trays used for Chinese snacks.

It can be accessed 24 hours a day and is composed of 12 towers, each of which is eight storeys high .

It has done away with traditional classroom layouts. Each of the 56 "smart" classrooms in hub is equipped with flexible clustered seating, electronic whiteboards and multiple LCD screens.

NTU has, in the past three years, converted most of its tutorial rooms into such classrooms. A second learning hub, with more smart classrooms, is being built and will be ready by 2017.

NTU president Bertil Andersson said the building will be a hotspot for students from all disciplines.

"The Hive will reinvent the learning experience and also create a unique social space for students from all disciplines to interact," he said.

"This is a university building like no other. It defies the norms of traditional university buildings and redefines them with its iconic shape and unusual use of space. Within its iconic shape and classroom structure lies the future of learning in Singapore."