HECC 2022

Higher Education Campus Conference (HECC) was held at National University of Singapore (NUS) on 7th & 8th of December 2022. Hosted by the Centre for Development of Teaching & Learning (CDTL), this year’s theme is “Forging Ahead Beyond the Pandemic”. 

HECC 2022

It focused on higher education in the post-pandemic world. While the pandemic has exposed numerous difficulties and disparities in teaching and learning, it has also uncovered positive accounts of adaptability and resilience. Educators in higher education gathered at HECC to share how their teaching and learning experiences have since evolved in a post-pandemic world.  

This was my first time attending HECC. It was motivating to see NUS colleagues, as well as educators from other sectors so vested in discussing, connecting and sharing their best practices in teaching and learning.

This blog post highlights some of the more memorable sessions I attended. 

Key note 1,

Higher education change and blended design and delivery: New technology, new pedagogies

Presenter: Professor Martha Cleveland-Innes

HECC’s first keynote was Prof Martha,Professor of Open, Digital, and Distance Education at Athabasca University, Canada. 

I have mentioned Dr Martha a number of times in my blog already, so you know she is worth her weight in gold. She basically wrote the “Bible of Blended Learning” and readily shares her knowledge of the history, opportunities, and the possible challenges for implementing online and blended learning in higher education. I also had the privilege of attending a MOOC that was facilitated by her.   

Poster presentation: Prototyping an online toolkit to support FM in developing high impact Blended Learning

Presenter: Hafizah Osman

I enjoyed the origin story behind how Ms Hafizah decided to develop this toolkit (as part of her masters programme) stemming from ONL. Her mission was to incorporate more active learning activities into Blended learning. I had the opportunity to be a beta tester of her prototype “Toolkit” and it’s pretty good. If only I had something like this back when I was developing blended learning for TTSH. *Sigh*.

She incorporated COI frameworks as well as instructional design into the toolkit, with a heavy slant towards adult learners in Singapore’s Continuing Education and Training (CET) sector. Her toolkit will be more beneficial to Faculty who already have some idea of blended learning and are ready to push their blended course to the next level. But if you are totally new, she has built a checklist to guide step by step through the ID process.

I also liked that she deliberately designed it to give users (instructors) a chance to really experience a student perspective, not just switching to “student view” within a typical LMS. Her content is a mix of multimedia with some components built on Articulate Rise while others are simple slides, short videos and html pages. 

Here are some entertaining quips from her 10 min presentation:

“BL has long gone beyond flipped classrooms.” 

“Long form video is so passe.”

“Front loading doesn’t work. Many learners don’t read before class.”

“So, how do we solve all these issues?” An audience member heckled, while rest of us laughed nervously. 

Calmly, Ms Hafizah recommended that we can start by chunking the content, to make it bite-sized but keep it well designed. We also have to stop assuming that all young learners are good digital learners. Being savvy with social media does not directly transition to digital literacy. Last but not least, have faith that meaningful engagement can still happen asynchronously. However, it depends on the cohort and how comfortable they are engaging online. Use this toolkit to design a better BL experience!

Poster presentation: undergraduate nursing students’ experiences towards HBL as pedagogy during COVID pandemic

Presenter: Yanan HU 

Any session with a healthcare angle would pique my attention. Coincidentally, I bumped into Dr Tim Barkham at this session. It was fun teasing him during the Q&A as we had our masks on and he was wondering how I knew who he was and able to relate to his teaching experience. I took the opportunity to catch up with my former TTSH Kampung during the tea break.

Ms Hu shared some insight on how nursing students took to Home based learning (HBL) during COVID. While the use of technology was largely positive, the practical f2f hands-on session was sorely missed. Nonetheless, this “lack” of training did not compromise their employability as COVID had caused such a huge nursing shortage, employers had no complaints. 

Afterwards we had a brief but seemingly fruitful discussion together with Prof Soo, who was able to suggest possible solutions to the teaching challenges that Dr Tim was facing with the current Entrada system. In a nutshell, he was looking to have an automated marking system (where the students can share the 4 points available for each question amongst more than one answer if they are uncertain of the best answer) that captures and assigns different points based on the TBL MCQ method. Maybe this chance meeting might come up with a creative solution to his problem? 

Poster presentation: Using Instagram to teach Science Communication in an Ecology module

Maxine Allayne

This was my favourite poster presentation of HECC. Using Instagram for teaching and learning, how cool is that? 

Check out the eBooklet (Pages 228 – 233) to read more about Maxine’s experience in using this approach. Maxine shared how she toggled between using this as a fun activity, before switching back to normal academic activity and then repeating the process. 

She felt that her students were already good at academic writing but may not be as comfortable writing in a clear and concise manner such that the general public will understand. It was a useful skill she wanted her students to have and hence posed this challenge for her students. As Instagram is very visual and relies less on text, it was perfect for training her students on how to present their information differently. She cheekily quipped that in future when her students have entered the workforce and are tasked by their supervisors to post instagram posts (on behalf of the company), they will thank her. 

Unfortunately we will not be able to see beyond what was shared in the eBooklet as published information on water quality in Singapore is monitored by NParks and has to adhere to guidelines. Nonetheless, Maxine found a win-win where her students can continue this meaningful learning (private insta page) while providing useful information to NParks. 

One unique takeaway was how she modified her scoring rubric where students have to give feedback on  other students’ submission. The unique tweak was that instead of giving marks purely for participation, Maxine grades students based on the quality of feedback rather than quantity. E.g. simply commenting “I like your use of graphics, good job!” is not meaningful at all to the author. Instead, if a student instead comments on how the experiment was done, pointing out strengths or weaknesses in the approach, or suggesting an enhancement to how the visual could be better presented… that kind of feedback would be worth so much more.  

Another change in perspective is that this approach no longer just grades students on how well their Instagram post is. Rather, it also challenges students to learn how to give quality feedback to others. FM now assesses the quality of students’ work as well as the feedback they give their peers. Indirectly students learn to make judgements about the quality of their own work. In a way, it’s also a pay-it-forward movement where the more you give others, the more (rewards) you receive. This is akin to “Givers’ Gain” which coincidentally brings us to the second keynote of HECC 2022.

Keynote 2: Relational feedback as a key to student learning

Peter Felton @PfeltenNC

Highlights of his wonderful keynote include: 

  • Higher education institutions should be providing expert personalised feedback that MOOCs, YouTube can’t provide. 
  • “Relational feedback” done right can inspire students. play on FOMO 
  • Giving feedback regularly is good but not sustainable. Higher ed teachers are very stretched. Not enough time. So, we should try to think out of the box and leverage on other resources. e.g. why not get students (to give students feedback), or even get industry partners involved?
  • Feedback traditionally comes in the form of a High stakes test environment. But once the exam paper is over, it gets thrown away. What a waste!
  • Peter then got the audience to reflect and practise with a peer on when was last time we received meaningful feedback and what it meant to give/receive such feedback. His reason for doing so was to give us an experiential experience before talking more about “relational feedback”
  • How much do we all know about “Feedback literacy”? We should not assume that students know how to receive or give feedback properly when coming into higher ed. Not just students, but faculty are guilty as well.
  • Grading is not equal to feedback.
  • Look beyond grades.
  • Feedback Hamburger approach is not effective (e.g. +Ve then -ve, then +ve) and appears insincere.

So, what works? 

Dr Felten shares how using partially automated but customized emails retuned very encouraging results. Basically, using 

template emails with customized feedback was able to give students the “nudge” that they needed to raise their engagement.

What is Giver’s Gain?

Dr Felten shared another example of how he implemented feedback mechanisms in higher education institutions. Roughly went like this:

1. Present the marking rubric to class

2. Choose a paper that is slightly above average 

3. Have students grade that same paper using the assigned rubric

4. Identify the meanest person in the group. 

Dr Felten brought laughter into the auditorium when he shared

“As a faculty, I (peter felten) would give an ok score, but students generally are even stricter than me. So, students in time learn that if they got the meanest person to critique their work, chances are that they will receive good feedback that would lead to a higher score later on.”

I immediately thought of American Idol’s “Simon Cowell”. When Simon compliments a performer, chances are that him / her are moving onto the next round. So, similarly, the meanest student in class would be your “Simon Cowell”.

Concluding Thoughts

Although only 2 half days, I found HECC 2022 conference to be short and sweet, much like how I like my bite-sized learning content these days. I also made some new friends at HECC while bumping into old ones (Dr Tim!). 

Yet another learning and sharing experience coordinated by NUS CDTL. Look forward to the next HECC in Dec 2023!

Benedict Chia

17 Dec 2022

HECC 2022