Reflection, Flexibility, and Mobile Design: A Look to the Future

By Dr. Alex Rockey

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Chancellor’s seminar series on the future of teaching and learning at KCCD. In preparing my thoughts for the seminar, I realized three main themes emerged as I imagined the next 15 years at KCCD: reflective teaching, continued flexibility, and mobile design.

As a faculty member in the Academic Technology department, I have had a front row seat to the innovations that faculty have implemented in their teaching in the last two years to support student learning despite unprecedented disruptions to our teaching, learning, and lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One instructor provides a snapshot of the innovation that has been widespread at KCCD. In just 6 months he went from never having used Canvas at all to providing audio feedback in SpeedGrader. After seeing the innovations he implemented after moving to remote teaching due to the pandemic, I asked him what he’ll do when he goes back to face-to-face teaching. He said that even when he goes back to face-to-face teaching, there really is no going back to how he taught before the pandemic. He will continue to use Canvas to support his face-to-face instruction. Faculty have worked so hard to innovate over the past two years it is exciting to see how faculty will take these lessons learned and apply them in the next normal as we work to continually serve our students. The innovation that we have seen in the past two years in large part has been fueled by faculty reflecting on what is and isn’t working as they teach in new environments, and it is this reflection that guides the work that Dr. Bill Moseley and I are doing to build a Center for Learning and Applied Research (CLEAR) that will create a space for faculty to continue to reflect on their teaching in action research projects. As part of CLEAR, we are offering a faculty fellowship in which faculty will conduct an action research project of their choice over a ten-month period. The application is open now for all KCCD faculty and will close April 30th. 

Flexibility has also emerged as a theme that will and should guide our work supporting students now and as we embark on the future of teaching and learning. At BC, we are currently working on designing HyFlex classrooms so that students in HyFlex courses can choose to attend face-to-face or online. And they can make this choice each class session of an entire semester. As we think about building out these classrooms, I am inspired by the stories of students that this flexibility in modality will best serve. I think of a student parent who has to stay home with a sick kid, but can still attend class while their child is napping. I think of the student who suffers from migraines and can attend class in a room with dim lights. And I think of the student whose car dies 10 minutes before they have to be at class, but can hop on their computer to attend class instead. As we’re designing these classrooms, we’re focusing on the students we’re serving to create equitable learning experiences so that whether a student is in the physical classroom or the Zoom room, they are still able to interact fully with not only their instructor, but their classmates as well. 

Finally, as we consider the future of teaching and learning another theme that emerges is the value of learning that extends beyond classroom walls. Designing courses that students can interact with on their mobile device is an emerging strategy for not only creating expansive learning opportunities, but also for designing for equity. We all saw in the move to emergency remote teaching a disparity in access to home internet. At Bakersfield College for example, the COVID-19 impact survey showed that about 20% of our students don’t have access to reliable home internet. Even before COVID-19, surveys by the Pew Research Center showed that many students depended on smartphones for access to home internet and smartphone dependency varied based on age, income, and ethnicity (Pew Research Center, 2019). Creating courses that leverage the technology students already have literally in their pockets has such potential for reducing barriers of access and closing equity gaps. There is also exciting potential for students to fill the in-between parts of their day with course work. Leveraging these in-between moments in a day for course work can be a powerful tool to support our students who are taking care of children, working full-time or just juggling a lot. Imagine for example if a student can read an article for class on the bus to work on their phone or complete a getting to know you survey while waiting to pick up their kids from school. Leveraging these in-between moments provides a powerful opportunity for us to create learning experiences that transcend the classroom.

Preparing for the future of teaching and learning begins with a reflection on what our students need now and considering how these needs will grow in the future. Time and again in speaking with students and faculty, the power of flexibility emerges as a foundational aspect of serving students. I imagine this need for flexibility will only grow in the future as we create learning experiences for students who are navigating a rapidly changing workforce. Mobile design presents another need that one can imagine will only grow. Smartphones are a nascent technology, but have become pervasive in our lives and the lives of our students. Leveraging the tools students already have access to provides an opportunity for us to engage our students with learning anywhere they may be. The innovation that faculty have brought to their teaching in the past two years provides a powerful foundation upon which we can build a responsive learning experience for our students. 

References:

Pew Research Center (2019). Mobile technology and home broadband 2019. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/06/13/mobile-technology-and-home-broadband-2019/

Bio:

Alex Rockey, PhD, is an Academic Technology Professor at Bakersfield College. As an educator with K-16 teaching experience, Alex has taught online teaching courses to faculty, first-year writing at the college level, and high school English and Puente. Her interests include humanizing online education, accessibility, and mobile learning and design. Alex is passionate about the potential of mobile design to improve student access to high-quality educational opportunities. To read more about her work on online education, check out her website at: alexrockey.com or visit the BC Academic Technology blog of which she is Managing Editor.

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