Lectures of half of NTU courses set to go online

Move within next five years will allow more 'flipped-classroom teaching' for undergrads

The Hive was dreamed up by renowned British designer Thomas Heatherwick. The $45-million learning hub at NTU was officially launched yesterday.
The Hive was dreamed up by renowned British designer Thomas Heatherwick. The $45-million learning hub at NTU was officially launched yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) plans to put lectures and course content of half of its nearly 3,000 undergraduate courses online within the next five years, so that more "flipped-classroom teaching" can be done.

The idea of the flipped classroom reverses the traditional teaching arrangement by delivering instructions, often online, outside of the classroom, leaving classroom time for deeper learning activities such as homework and discussions.

The university will spend about $75 million implementing this unconventional learning model, with some 1,500 courses set to use it by 2020. For a start, it 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. This was revealed at the official launch of NTU's $45-million learning hub, The Hive, yesterday. The complex, comprising 12 eight-storey towers, is designed to support the teaching method.

Professor Kam Chan Hin, NTU's senior associate provost of undergraduate education, said the approach is suitable for the bulk of the university's courses, particularly those that would benefit from student interaction. "The ability to take learning into their own hands is an invaluable skill that will stay with our students even after they graduate."

The Hive, which took almost three years to complete, has done away with traditional classroom layouts. Each of its 56 "smart" classrooms comes equipped with flexible clustered seating, electronic whiteboards, multiple LCD screens and wireless communication tools.

NTU has, in the past three years, converted tutorial rooms in other buildings into such classrooms. A second learning hub, with more smart classrooms, is being built and will be ready by 2017. Then, it will have about 200 smart classrooms to support flipped-classroom teaching. The university has already introduced the approach in some programmes such as renaissance engineering, and the approach will be rolled out progressively for others.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), was given a tour of The Hive yesterday. He visited one of the classes using a team-based learning pedagogy. With the format, students, who go through course content at their own pace via videos or recorded PowerPoint presentations before class, form groups of five or six, and discuss questions as a team.

NTU president Bertil Andersson said: "The Hive will reinvent the learning experience and also create a unique social space for students from all disciplines to interact."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Lectures of half of NTU courses set to go online'. Subscribe