Multidisciplinary Design

The world is changing and to survive we must change with it. No longer an industrial society, we have to embrace technology and innovation to compete. But what drives technology and innovation? What makes one product more successful than another? Perhaps design drives innovation.

Higher education matters because it drives innovation and economic transformation. Higher education helps to produce economic growth, which in turn contributes to national prosperity….Employing graduates creates innovation, enabling firms to identify and make more effective use of knowledge, ideas and technology.

However, in order for design to drive innovation, students need to be knowledgeable in other disciplines other than design. According to the report on Multi-disciplinary Design Education in the UK, innovation drives new skills and a supply of differently skilled people drives innovation. Therefore, we need people who can not only design but have had exposure to other disciplines other than their own and are comfortable working with teams in many disciplines.

Designers, in order to be competitive, need skills beyond design in order to be competitive.

  1. They need to be able to understand and articulate the client’s needs and markets.
  2. Designers need the communication skills to explain their work to employers.
  3. Designers often business owners  so they need entrepreneurial skills as well.
  4. Designers need to gain exposure to a variety of established businesses, writing design briefs and working in teams with authentic businesses.
  5. Designers that have a broader view of science and technology so they can work with the subject experts.
  6. Working with engineering students, materials scientists and computing specialists will help designers  know more about the design of environmentally sustainable products.

There are many ways for universities to integrate multidisciplinary design in their courses. They can use authentic client projects, mentors from businesses, bring in visiting lecturers, help students get internships in businesses other than design businesses. This exposure will raise the likelihood  their students will be employed and help drive the economy in innovation.

Multi-disciplinary Design Education in the UK. Report and recommendations from the Multi-Disciplinary Design Network, November 2010.

Quote:  Lord Browne of Madingley (2010). Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education. as quoted in Multi-disciplinary Design Education in the UK. Report and recommendations from the Multi-Disciplinary Design Network, November 2010.


Today while I was looking for some developmental math tutorials, I stumbled upon HippoCampus delivers high-quality academic instructional videos and exercises for students in middle school and high school. I was very impressed. The math tutorials I watched not only were high quality, the videos also linked the content to real world applications. So these videos are equally suitable for adults. You can’t embed the content and share the videos among other instructors without a license, but you can use them free with your students. Those students who sign up can create playlists, customize the site according to the subject and textbooks, etc.

For more information, see

  • PULL content from HippoCampus or across the web into custom Playlists
  • CUSTOMIZE the site to your subject and textbook
  • ADD a textbook correlation if your textbook isn’t in the current list
  • SHARE your customized HippoCampus site and Playlists with your students

Flipping Your Classroom

I first heard about the Flipped Classroom listening to a TED talk on the Khan Academy so when I found the book Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, I ordered a copy. The authors acknowledge that they were not the first to initiate a flipped classroom, nor do they propose that their flipped classroom is the flipped classroom. What they do is explain their experience with a flipped classroom and why they feel it is successful.

So what is a flipped classroom?

A Flipped classroom is a method of instruction where the student basically does what is normally done in the classroom at home. And at school the student does what s/he would have done at home. Although technology does not have to be a component of a flipped classroom, Bergmann and Sams recorded their lectures for the students to watch at home. Then, the next day, students work on the assignments that in a traditional classroom are assigned at home. This gives the instructor the classroom time to help the students with concepts they struggle with as well as discover holes in student learning.

Why would you want to flip your classroom?

Flipping your classroom will change the way you teach. You will no longer be the sage on the stage. Instead of repeating lectures year after year, you record a video (or use another means of getting your content to your students) once and spend the rest of your time with the students.This give you more time with your students. You get to know your students better.

Flipping helps your busy students, the ones that continually miss because they are in student activities. They will no longer miss your lecture when they miss your class. They can watch the lecture on their own time and then do their work independently, catching up with you when they ARE in class.

Flipping helps the struggling student. In the traditional classroom the brightest and best raise their hands and ask questions. Meanwhile the students who struggle are often “lost” and do not understand the material well enough to do their homework, or spend hours going over the problems in frustration. In a flipped classroom, you have the opportunity to find misunderstandings and give struggling students the attention they need to grasp the material.

“Flipping allows students to pause and rewind their teacher.” (p. 24) Some students are unable to take notes fast enough. Other students find the pace too slow. Flipping allows students to listen and take notes at their own pace.

Flipping is ideal for a Mastery Classroom

A mastery classroom, a popular trend that received a lot of attention the 70s, is a classroom model where students learn at their own pace. Once difficult for an instructor to keep track of and maintain, technology can be leveraged to help with the assessments and repetitious tasks. In a flipped mastery classroom, students are provided with all the materials necessary to complete an objective and the teacher is there to guide the individual students whenever they need assistance. Bergmann and Sams talk to every kid in every class every day. Teachers are not able to do that in a traditional classroom.

The advantages of Flipped Mastery Classroom is that all students can move at their own pace.  Content mastery helps students with time-management skills as well as puts them in charge of their own learning. It gives students timely (often instant) feedback and provides opportunities for remediation. And it ensures that all students are involved.

The Flipped Mastery Classroom and Universal Design

The most exciting aspect of the work Bergmann and Sams did in their flipped classroom is when they took their teaching to the level of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Basically, Universal Design, coined by the folks at Harvard, is classes designed around how individuals learn rather than designing a course one way that every learner has to follow.  UBL basically proposes that instructors provide students with “multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement.” The point is to meet the objectives, correct? So what difference does it make whether the student verbally meets requirement, or makes a podcast, videocast, or writes down the requirement in a blog? I wholeheartedly agree. I dislike watching videos. I would much rather read the material. And an answer written in my blog is my learning to keep! These teachers do not require every student to complete every problem! They do not care how a student meets the objective…just that they meet them! I would have loved to have had teachers like that when I was in school. A quote from the authors worth repeating…

“Allowing students choice in how to learn has empowered them. Students realize that their learning is their own responsibility. Teaching them this life lesson is more important than our science content.” (p.68)

The book has much more information than I have gone over here. I hope I have peaked your interest. It is an easy read. Pick it up and consider flipping your classroom.

I took a learning theory class last summer and my professor said there is no scientific evidence that people have different learning styles. However, we all have learning preferences. For instance, I would much rather read material than watch a video. (Yeah, I know, that’s weird.)

Creating a Significant Learning Experience

part 1

A written reflection on my learning as I read Creating Significant Learning Experiences by Dee Fink.

We have a problem in higher education. Although most, if not all, faculty members desire their students to achieve higher learning experiences, they (the faculty) teach in a form that does not promote higher learning. The problem is that students are not learning because they did not have a significant learning experience during the course and so easily forget the material.

What is a significant learning experience? According to Fink,

In a powerful learning experience, students will be engaged in their own learning, there will be a high energy level associated with it, and the whole process will have important outcomes or results. Not only will students be learning throughout the course, by the end of the course they will clearly have changed in some important way—they will have learned something important. And that learning will have the potential for changing their lives in an important way.

L. Dee Fink.(Kindle Locations 179-181)

Frank Smith in his book, The Book of Learning and Forgetting, argues, “We can only learn from activities that are interesting and comprehensible to us; in other words, activities that are satisfying. If this is not the case, only inefficient rote learning, or memorization, is available to us and forgetting is inevitable” (1998, p. 87).

According to Fink, significant learning includes enhancing the student’s life, the life of others and prepares the students for work.

Okay. So how do we do that? How do we change a person’s learning experience so that the student has changed in some way? How do we change from teaching something to providing a learning experience?

According to Fink, good courses:

• Challenge students to significant kinds of learning. • Use active forms of learning. • Have teachers who care-about the subject, their students, and about teaching and learning. • Have teachers who interact well with students. • Have a good system of feedback, assessment, and grading.

…if someone’s teaching successfully meets these criteria, its impact is going to be good, no matter what else is bad about it even if a teacher is not a great lecturer or well organized. Conversely, if someone’s teaching does not meet these five criteria, that teaching is poor, no matter what else is good about it. (Kindle Locations 460-464)

Fink has created a taxonomy of significant learning which includes six categories that interconnect.

  1. Foundational Knowledge, being able to understand and remember information and ideas.
  2. Application, putting the knowledge to use with skills, with creative, critical and practical thinking, and managing projects.
  3. Integration, or the connections between other things, other people other ideas.
  4. Human Dimension, or learning about self and others-the social implications of what they have learned.
  5. Caring, developing new feelings, interests, and values as a result of the learning
  6. Learning How to Learn, becoming a better student, inquiring about a subject, self-directing learners; enables students to continue learning and learn with greater effectiveness

By using the taxonomy above, learning goes beyond knowledge mastery which makes learning more worthwhile and interesting.

Redesigning a course has the potential to solve three major problems teachers frequently face. If students don’t read, then redesign the course to give students a reason to do the readings. If students are bored, the redesign the course away from lectures and include more active learning. If students don’t retain the information, then give the learners more experience using what they have learned.

Fink, D.L. (2003) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (Josse Bass Higher and Adult Education) Kindle Edition.

Smith, F. (1998) The Book of Learning and Forgetting. The Teachers College Press

A Course by Dee Fink

Creating Significant Learning Experiences

I found that I really enjoy course design. I have this book called Creating Significant Learning Experiences by Dee Fink that I used as a tool to help me design my course, I found out today that I can take a course through Dee Fink’s company on Significant Learning, I’m thinking of taking it. But I need a new course. Maybe I will create a course on web design. Anyway, I’m pretty psyched.

L. Dee Fink. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (Josse Bass Higher and Adult Education)

Making Students Feel Connected

I read an article today ( Faculty Focus that “some organizations are projecting that by 2020 students will take up to 60 percent of their courses online” (not sure their source). The article goes on to talk about the human experience, etc. and how Drexel University does things like contact the students by phone to welcome them, etc. Unless they go further than that, it looks to me like all the are doing is adding fluff and trying to protect their investment.

A call to welcome me is nice, but what I want from an online course and what I hope to give would be a continual presence. Students sometimes need help and to know their instructor is accessible. We want to be able to virtually raise our hand and know the instructor will call on us. But how can s/he do that with 25 students in perhaps as many as four courses? That’s 100 individuals wanting the instructor’s attention!

One way the instructor can show presence in the classroom is by being on the discussion boards and chime in on the conversations. They also can answer emails quickly during working hours. What about virtual office hours with video conferencing? Would that be a way to balance students with time? If there were scheduled times for students to be able to meet, could students also help each other? Would it make the experience more productive and enjoyable for the instructor and the students? Anyone have any experience in this? It’s new to me.

A WebQuest or a Regular Assignment?

I created a WebQuest as a workshop activity for professional development. And when I finished, I realized that it was very much like an assignment in a class! The WebQuest goes something like this:

  1. The “teacher” gives some background knowledge.
  2. Then we are given something to do, a task in WebQuest language.
  3. Sometimes we are given a procedure on how to accomplish our task.
  4. Then we often directed to some links to read more about the subject and perhaps some additional reading materials to download.

Except for building a website to house the lesson plan, a WebQuest looks pretty much like an assignment!

Given the amount of work that goes into a WebQuest, and the fact that it looks very much like a lesson plan, should a website be added to the assignment or is it just busy work? I admit that I like a finished project to look professional and refined. A website can certainly do that. And I might not have created the website if I short on time. Too much to do and too little time.

Working on the Wiki

Wiki work is collaboration work. So far it looks like most of the work on the class wiki is cooperation rather than collaboration. I think Americans are very sensitive about stepping on each others toes. I know I am. I don’t want to offend anyone. Editing work from someone else may be perceived as walking on someone else’s property. Keep out!

I wonder if trespassing on other people’s property is the mentality of why, in schools, we were basically taught to work on our own papers and 99% of the work we did in school (at least in my case) was individual. Most of us aren’t farmers anymore. And most of us don’t work in the same spot on the assembly line. So in today’s world, doing that much individual work in school is kind of dumb when you think about it. Most of the time when we go to work, we have to learn to work with others. A lot of the work in the “real world”  today is collaborative.