Fewer than one in seven European universities are strong advocates of the flipped classroom as a model for enhancing student learning, while only half of institutions are developing more forms of online learning, according to a recent report from the European University Association (EUA).
A survey of 303 universities across 43 higher education systems in Europe found that teaching in small groups was the most popular of five teaching approaches surveyed, with 91 per cent of respondents stating that they found it useful “fully” or “to some extent”. Problem-based learning was found useful by 87 per cent of participants.
But the flipped classroom model, which advocates claim is a more effective teaching strategy than the traditional lecture, was the least popular method in the survey, which also asked about peer learning and community projects. Just 15 per cent of respondents said that they found the model “fully useful”, while a further 39 per cent said it was useful to some extent.
One fifth of universities said that they did not have any information on this approach. However, there are significant country differences: the flipped classroom model has been implemented fully or to some extent by all responding universities in Switzerland and the UK.
Thérèse Zhang, deputy director for higher education policy at the EUA and co-author of the report, Trends 2018: Learning and Teaching in the European Higher Education Area, said that the research shows that the flipped classroom model “is still perceived as relatively new in European higher education”.
“It’s taken up in some parts of institutions rather than others and some disciplines are more favourable grounds for trying and testing and implementing this kind of approach,” she said.
An overwhelming majority of universities said that there was a general acceptance that digital learning had improved and that it was becoming part of their institutional strategy.
However, only around half of institutions across the 43 higher education systems said that they were developing more online learning for degree programmes (49 per cent) and non-degree purposes (52 per cent).
“Universities still remain physical places for learning and teaching,” Ms Zhang said.
James Conroy, vice-principal for internationalisation at the University of Glasgow, said that the research shows that “the enhanced efficacy of ‘new’, technology-driven learning is rather difficult to prove”. He added that varied forms of pedagogy “continue to be used and useful for a good reason – they all perform differently if [they are used as] complementary functions in the complex ecology of higher education”.
“There is much talk of e-learning, and no doubt it has its place, but on the evidence to date it is hardly a substitute for the intellectual encounter that more traditional forms of educational practice entail,” he said.
“As the report points out, the often high expectations that accompany the introduction of new or enhanced technologies are rarely delivered – largely because we continue to make the mistake that change is, in and of itself, progress to a positive destination. While it is always the case that pedagogies can be reshaped and improved, the two things are not always the same and change does not always mean better.”
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