Technology-enhanced Education

In 2008, Professor Andrew Ng of Stanford University started the Stanford Engineering Everywhere programme to distribute free online education. Last year, he taught a Machine Learning class with an enrolment of more than 100,000 students from all over the world. Subsequently, Coursera was born with the intention of bringing materials designed and taught by world-class professors to every part of the world.

MITx was launched at the end of 2011 to deliver MIT courses online and free-of-charge. Later, Harvard and MIT each contributed US$30 million to form a new venture EdX, with the same aim. EdX runs on an open source platform, which provides videos and interactive software to engage online learners. Certificates of completion will be awarded for a modest fee, but at present, there are no plans to award college credits as yet.

Technology has enabled distant and online learning, even of degree courses.

Online courses have been around for some time. This trend started at the turn of the century. Many ventures had sprouted, but most of them lost momentum and direction after some time. NUS was previously involved in an online venture with the Universitas 21 group, but the venture folded due to financial non-viability. What is different this time with Coursera and EdX is the level of technology, and the high caliber of universities joining this bandwagon. 

The world was a different place just a mere decade ago. There was no YouTube or Facebook then. Technology has advanced to a stage where interactivity with students can be so dynamic and this can make learning much more effective. Take a look at Khan Academy’s videos and assessments of pre-college and college mathematics (the academic content is similar to what our students have to cover for the A levels in Mathematics) and you can see the power of technological advancement. 

Some colleagues (especially those of us who did not grow up with these gadgets) may be quite skeptical about technology, and view it as a fashion trend that might become passé in time to come. Some are perhaps wary that technology may displace teaching jobs in the future. Let me try to quell this misperception. In the words of John Hennessy, President of Stanford University, “the biggest way IT-enhanced education could go wrong is if we assume that we can fully automate education, if we think that we can throw students in front of terminals, that we don’t need any live instructors anywhere, that students can be totally successful without ever talking to anybody.”

Even with the best textbooks and good quality online resources, the role of the teacher remains critical. In fact, the teacher’s role will become even more important. I think the teacher’s role will shift from solely delivering subject content, to actively facilitating, and directing learning and interaction within a classroom, so that students are probed and prodded at the right time, with the right questions, to stimulate their thinking and learning.

Technology has revolutionised every part of our lives and surely, it will also impact teaching and learning. The Singapore Prime Minister, in his recent National Day Rally speech, provided many examples of how technology has and will impact our lives. Today’s students are more technologically savvy, and they respond very quickly to new innovations. We know that most young people are adept at using technology, and are completely comfortable, for instance, with watching a video online. They like the fact that they can hit the pause button at will; they know how to speed it up a little bit, to watch it 20% faster, and to personalise the experience, making the process of learning more efficient for themselves. We know some students prefer collaborative learning and habitually take and share notes using Twitter. Many are also familiar with crowd sourcing to complete their assignments and projects. The list just goes on and the possibilities are endless.

Should we then continue doing ‘business as usual’ and labour on in a large lecture theatre, earnestly endeavouring to deliver the same subject content, to 300 students with varying abilities and powers of absorption, year in and out, without change? Our aspirations have not changed – we want to deliver a high quality educational experience. Just as we urge our students to question and to discover, we lecturers too, should continually seek to explore how we can leverage on advances in technology, for what it’s worth, to enhance the learning process and its outcomes. 


‘Flipped Classroom’

Some of you may have read about the ‘flipped classroom’ concept. It is a fairly new look at the learning process, facilitated by a new space configuration that has been shown to be successful. The classroom is ‘flipped’, because there are no in-class didactic lectures – students instead access online materials to learn the basic concepts.

The ‘flipped classroom’ rests on a very strong scaffold of well-constructed online materials and the use of interactive learning platforms that further augment and reinforce understanding. In-class tasks and discussions allow for collaborative co-construction of knowledge. Again, learning effectiveness is predicated on well-designed assessment tasks that engender higher order learning outcomes. Effective ‘flipped classroom’ learning environments must also be facilitated by an appropriate learning space design that promotes collaborative learning.

The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) successfully employed the ‘flipped classroom’ concept in its TeamLEAD (Learn, Engage, Apply and Develop) approach. Under this learning structure, there are no hour-long lectures, but students watch videoed lectures or access online materials that disseminate basic content knowledge. The in-class time is devoted mainly to discussions and problem-solving activities. At the start of each TeamLEAD session, students are individually assessed about the material they were to learn prior to class to assure that they have come to class prepared.  During the first in-class discussion session, students are put in teams and answer the same set of questions (as the ones they had earlier individually answered). The only difference is that they now have to provide a team response. This is where further and deeper learning take place; and the active class dynamics surfaces – a student in a team must convince the others of his/her answer, or be convinced by others of their answers.  The next phase is applying that knowledge to more realistic (typically clinical) problems.  The students are then given another set of problems to solve as a team.  This phase is open resource/open internet.  The teams now must apply what they learned in the earlier phase, and not simply regurgitate a set of basic facts.  Simple questions which test only memory do not work in this instructional method, as it is too easy to just ‘Google’ the answer.  Instead the faculty must work hard to create questions that make the students think and apply facts and key principles that they have learned. 

One might ask, how have the students performed in such a learning environment? Duke-NUS students take the same national tests in basic science (i.e. the US Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE Step 1) as students in American medical schools. Since its inception, Duke-NUS has year after year, performed significantly better than the US national average. What is most striking however, is the fact that the Duke-NUS curriculum devotes only 1 year to basic science instruction, rather than 2 years which is the norm in the US. Duke University is suitably impressed with TeamLEAD that it ‘transported’ the learning strategy back to Duke University, to be implemented at the School of Medicine and several courses in the undergraduate campus; this learning strategy was touted as one that would revolutionise medical education.  

With the success of TeamLEAD, NUS will be piloting the ‘flipped classroom’ strategy with a number of modules. We hope to harness the active engagement enabled by the ‘flipped classroom’ concept and good use of technology to maximize and personalise learning for our students. We do not advocate using technology for technology’s sake; but we do need to align the way we deliver education with how our students experience today’s technology-driven world in general, and life at the university in particular. Let’s all keep an open mind and see what this new technology-enabled learning strategy has to offer.



  1. I have faced both technical and non-technical education. The most technology based education was powerpoint based teaching which I feel is similar in concept to the online teaching. However, personally I have found teaching where human interaction was highly involved to be the most useful of all. Unfortunately, that trend is disappearing, maybe because of the lack of good teachers or because of the general mental disposition that someone who is a good teacher is a bad researcher. Personally, from my limited teaching experience, have found that if someone has to teach perfectly, so that the group of people sitting in front of the teacher understands the subject perfectly (by perfectly not only it means the information but also the the reason for it, the motivation and trying to understand what motivated the original pioneer to proceed in that direction), the teacher needs to have an exceptional grasp of the ideas, a transparency which comes from years of working with that subject in the full depth of it. This technology based education can be useful for disciplines where it is more information based, for example medicine or engineering in the basic levels, but when it comes to research, such an education can lead to a loss of insight and the questioning ability of the students. One cannot asks questions to a computer screen and again from personal experience, I have found that it is much more effective to clear ones doubts immediately when it arises that waiting to clear them later, because it can often lead to the loss of chain of thought.
    In short, I feel that the best teaching model would be a very interactive teacher who encourages the class to participate by asking quick questions in the class and encouraging the students to ask as many questions as he wants coupled with rigourous and synchronised assignments. We have to remember one thing- this model of teaching has served humanity for centuries and have produced some of the best minds known to human civilization. Just because something is new doesnt mean it is useful.
    Once again, the above statement is holds true if one is aiming for research and discoveries. For following protocol kind of fields, technology based education can really save a lot of time and lead to greater time for actual hands on experience as has been rightly pointed out.

    1. I mentioned in my article that for effective technology-enhanced education, the role of a teacher remains critical. This changed role requires more facilitation on the part of the teacher, rather than content delivery. Some colleagues also opined that humanities classes traditionally rely less on content delivery, and more on class engagement, and it may be harder to leverage on technology.

  2. There is definitely potential in putting more emphasis on technology in our learning environment and to keep NUS ahead in the field of education, it is something we must explore.

    Currently, the situation is quite saddening. E-learning week is only implemented once a semester as a counter-measure to national crises like SARS etc. Most lecturers also seem to speak of webcasts with disdain.

    There are definitely benefits to using technology. With the traditional approach, a single lecture tends to be repeated over a number of years and be conducted in a single location with limited capacity. The limited resources are also a reason why we need this bidding system. If we use webcasts as the primary way of delivering information and giving of lectures, and devote teaching staff purely for consultation and in-class activities. This can help in doing away with the bidding system and allow everyone to take the classes they want to take without any issues. Students will also be better able to customise their timetables as they are not that limited by lecture timings. Such an operating method will give NUS a clear edge over other universities (at least locally).

    Benefits of technology and of our excellent teaching staff need to be balanced so that the optimal teaching experience can be achieved. Considering how Singapore is considered one of the top countries in technological development and education, it is an avenue that we should naturally go in to.

    1. Mindset change is important, both for staff and students. The e-learning week is an initiative to encourage staff and students to learn and leverage on IT, and as you have pointed out, there is still resistance. We may have to encourage, as a first step, more webcasts as the technology and infrastructure are already present.

  3. Dear Provost, without comparing money issue or fancy technology at this moment, why not simply grant students free access to all modules’ schedule, lecture notes and homework first, rather than lock them in a unopened system IVLE? The fact now is that when a student want to quickly pick up something without fully commit to a registered module or simply to browser the contents, he or she has to turn to other university’s opencourseware, while indeed NUS offers the course in the same title.

  4. There are definitely some benefits of using technology to improve the efficiency of teaching. However, I believe that a balance between tech-enabled and conventional classroom teaching methods is essential.
    First of all, education has to be thought of on a more holistic basis. One of the main advantages of classroom teaching methods is on the softer aspects of personality development. While online education can be interactive, it is still quite limited in scope. The camaraderie that is automatically developed in a typical classroom set up is difficult to replicate in the e-learning scenario. Social skills are an important part of education and conventional teaching methods definitely score higher from this perspective.
    Another related aspect is the ability of students to develop team work and leadership skills. A completely tech-driven teaching approach will probably result in students with limited abilities to work in the real world where these two aspects are critical. In fact, these are some of the key personality traits that most employers try to guage while evaluating candidates. By this measure, can we really call e-learning methods effective?
    Having said that, I do agree that technology has revolutionized our teaching approach. It has increased the reach of education and made it more customizable. However, a balance between the conventional and tech-enabled methods would probably be key in getting the best out of it.

    1. I should emphasize that we are not advocating technology for technology’s sake. Our approach must be guided by learning outcomes. I agree with you that “balance between tech-enabled and conventional classroom teaching methods is essential”. You made a point on developing team work and leadership skills – the TeamLEAD programme described in my article promotes teamwork while leveraging on technology, and is far superior than a lot of e-learning programmes that we often see. There are many ways to leverage on technology to enhance learning, and we should keep our minds open.

  5. I believe that some faculties are already introducing components of the “flipped classroom” model such as student-led discussions, problem-based learning e.g. case study analysis. From my experience, these methods have helped my learning and challenge me to think critically.

    However, I would say that the “flipped classroom” is not for everyone. Due to personality and cultural factors, some may learn more effectively by note-taking as the lecturer speaks. Also, it may not be appropriate for some subjects that are heavy on hard content, such as engineering and medicine I would presume.

    Also, implementing a “flipped classroom” would require facilitators who are substantially trained and attuned to the essence of this new pedagogical method. More specifically, they must be effective and committed to their roles as facilitators, and thus be able to make use of class time well. Class time should not just be “extra time.”

    Thus, a good flipped classroom would be one where participants, both students and facilitators, are spontaneous and eager to share, and the content should also be appropriate for sharing in this manner.

    1. Indeed, the “flipped classroom” pedagogy has been used elsewhere in NUS. It is true that lecturers must be attuned to the pedagogy which focuses on setting good problems to promote thinking and discussions, and good facilitation. Our colleagues at Duke-NUS told me that an initial challenge in using the “flipped classroom” pedagogy was getting our professors not to speak too much (i.e., not to give the solutions too soon).

  6. I second the flipped classroom concept as more time is devoted to what I hope is fruitful discussion rather than knowledge transfer. Recorded lecture offers the flexibility for students to restructure their time management and students can do more learning from home rather than spend hours packing up the public transport system. There will be less incidents where a student misses a lecture due to sickness or the random unfortunate occurrence along his/her way to lecture. It is also possible for the students to learn at their own pace, either faster or slower. The students can also choose to skip discussion sessions altogether if they feel that their understanding of the subject matter is adequate. Thumbs up for the flipped classroom model. Though the caveat is that one must have the self-discipline to finish viewing the lectures at a reasonable pace and not wait till the day before exams. Then again, it happens in the traditional model too, so why not try something new?

    1. Good point – one of the problems for the “flipped classroom” pedagogy is that students do not prepare themselves for the discussion sessions. Getting students motivated enough to make early preparation for a discussion can be a challenge.

  7. I second the idea of the flipped classroom as well, but not because it is an online learning platform. Rather, the TeamLEAD approach employs an extremely heavy amount of peer-based learning, which is, in my opinion, indispensable to higher-level teaching. At secondary schools, generally teachers are able to completely grasp topics and hand down the understanding accordingly. At a university level, data comes out all the time, new theories come out all the time… it is practically impossible for every lecturer of every module in every specialisation to attain complete mastery of their subject, especially when they also have research commitments to attend to.

    They, however, have for the most part been able to attain mastery of a level way beyond that of the student, which is why them teaching us makes sense. However, there will be cases where students may be able to offer perspectives that even the lecturers may not have had before. Also, in teaching different people learn in different ways; in peer-based learning, the chance that someone can learn in the way more suited to them is much greater than in top-down learning, where 3-4 lecturers have to cater to hundreds of students, all with different life experiences and/or learning styles, so even in the rare case where students have no perspective or information that the lecturer does not possess, they can still assist in the process of teaching.

    While many of us are very impressed by the quality of teaching in NUS (and the quality of the lecturers, with few exceptions), we have noticed a great lack of peer-based learning. Projects and practicals are the main platforms by which students interact, and there are also groups of students who study subjects together, but time set aside for peer-based instruction (not just graded assignments) have been rare even in modules that incorporate them, and nonexistent for the most part.

    Language modules are perhaps the only exception I’ve experienced to this rule, because conversational practice is a critical component of the learning process there.

    I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but there has been a module (PR3104) in which the lecturer last Semester approached the CA review with a very interesting method. Instead of handing out the answers (or more commonly, uploading answers to IVLE), she had us all come for a specially prepared CA review lecture session, where we were broken up into groups, and we were re-tested on the exact same questions again – except, this time with the ability to discuss. But without the TeamLEAD’s ability to do online research.

    The module also had tutorials in which we were given questions beforehand which were situationally unrelated to the ones given in lectures, but were conceptually related, and using a combination of online research and conceptual understanding, we had to answer those questions.

    It goes without saying that the amount of work that obviously went into the conceptualisation and execution of these assessment/learning methods is greatly beyond that of a standard regurgitation test, where questions are known to even be repeated from previous years’ papers – especially because final examination papers with answer keys are not available to students. However, the quality of learning such an approach will bring is greatly beyond that of simply reading a textbook.

    Whereas for some other modules, reading a textbook may even be better than being present for lectures as they contain more details, more illustrations, and more material can be read per hour than said in a lecture, making that approach largely counterproductive.


    If you’re serious about online learning though, as another commenter has pointed out, E-learning week is too limited, and in my opinion too staged as well. Because everyone knows in advance when it will be, it completely fails to assess the school’s actual readiness in an emergency situation, where nobody will have prior warning that school may have to be temporarily halted. For it to be effective E-learning week should be dropped on random faculties at random times, and nobody within the faculty should have advance notice. Affected modules will have to halt all lectures and come up with their own way to compensate for the loss.

    Also, few, if any modules have dared to make their final exam an online-capable one, even if an open-book test. If we were to simulate conditions where someone had to understand the topic but has the full range of information resources at their disposal, the truly capable students can be separated from those who only memorise; in the real world, memorisation is of little use since technology (and thus, information) is now everywhere, and grading based on that ability will only give people (students and employers) a false perception of their actual productive capabilities.

    To combine both peer-learning and informational resource usage within the time constraints of an examination, a final exam could be held where all students will have to bring laptops (or may borrow them with advance notice), will be provided an internet connection, and a series of questions that must be solved with any means necessary within, say, a 3 hour time limit. They may discuss with each other (and even so, this won’t guarantee they’ll agree with each other, so there will still be variance here), and the resultant answers graded. Every student must submit answers in their own wording (which can be checked via the anti-plagiarism systems already available to NUS).

    Students can then be marked on their abilities to:

    1. Give a reasonable answer backed up by research and/or logic. This tests information acquisition abilities, regardless of whether from internal, social, or research sources.
    2. Relate the answer effectively. This tests students’ ability to communicate their understanding, if (1) was achieved.
    3. Consider different viewpoints (or anticipate them, if the student in question did not discuss with coursemates), and address the concerns of different viewpoints accordingly. Whether to admit that that concern is valid but one’s answer is still the best possible working model one could come up with; to show reasons why those concerns can be addressed given the answer that the student submitted; to show reasons why the concerns are irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

    This kind of approach will test students’ abilities to:

    1. Understand the situation given in the paper, along with all its complexity (understanding).
    2. Use the information they have already been taught in context (application).
    3. Acquire more information as necessary to solve the situation (research).
    4. Come up with a coherent plan addressing the situation (understanding, application, synthesis).
    5. Relate with other students (social).
    6. Attempt to convince other students verbally of their view (verbal communication).
    7. Address relevant disagreements, eventually agree to disagree amicably (social skills, conflict resolution) or even to abdicate one’s original viewpoint in favour of a superior one by a classmate (humility, flexibility).
    8. Convince the examiner of their final proposal (written communication).

    With this number of factors all involved, the differentiating capacity of such an assessment method will exceed that of current assessment methods, while also training students in how to actually use the information taught in a scenario simulating real-world conditions. It will also highlight the importance of cooperation in the solution of actual problems, not just competition, which is what is more emphasised by the current style of final examinations (and what commenters on previous posts have highlighted is a problem with Singaporean students).

    I am confident that this will still lead to a normally distributed result curve due to the variance in people in each of these characteristics, but even if the normal is to be, say, negatively skewed because the students who knew the correct answers were able to convince the others, the current moderated bell-curve system you’ve elaborated on prior should be able to accomodate for outstanding batches like these (if necessary, to raise or lower the proportion of As in the cohort depending on how skewed the curve is).

    To deliver the same content, year in year out to 300 students in lecture theatres is easier on the lecturers, and to quite a large extent easier on the students as well. Past year papers, seniors’ notes, and all that. But that is what most educational institutions do; breaking away from that can distinguish NUS from others.

    Initially, there will be resistance to the implementation of any plan, whether it be the one you elaborated on or the one I suggested, or what other commenters may suggest thereafter. It is simply more convenient to keep the status quo. The popularity of the scheme will go up in time if it proves to produce higher quality graduates, since employers will thereafter give NUS degrees a higher standing, and students seeking education for employment’s sake will then want to go through this in order to achieve that. Needless to say, anything improving learning will instantly be popular amongst the students who value learning for learning’s sake, but I’m sure by now most people are aware that population is a very small minority.

    1. Thanks, Jack, for sharing this lengthy piece. There are some excellent suggestions too. I will certainly share your thoughts with my colleagues. Peer-based learning is of growing importance, and we could have more opportunities for our students. The primary format is through group projects and/or practicals, but something more structured like the TeamLEAD pedagogy is not common across the campus. Making e-learning week random – yes, but at a later stage, as I need to get most of our staff familiar with the IT tools for e-learning.

  8. Although, the idea of distant learning and excessive use of technology has gained currency in the recent decade, however, still, i think that technology would never be able to take the important position of teacher in the class. My observation and experience reflects that it is not only academic aspect, which is covered in class, but also there are many other angles from which we should look at the class environment. For instance, one interacts with other class fellows and learn from their thoughts and actions, especially when the class is consisted of people from diversified educational, practical and ethnic backgrounds. secondly, one can not improve interpersonal, intra-personal, communication and leadership skills by only taking classes online. Infact, it demands active participation of students in the class from different dimensions. Most of the above, the school, college or university is not meant only for lectures, rather there are many other motives and attractions involved, for example, sporting activities, participation in seminars and other different events etc. Hence, in the final analysis, i am of the opinion, that whatever be the technological advancement, the value and importance of human as a teacher and pupil will remain intact.

    1. I agree that technology cannot replace the teacher, at least not yet. What we need to embrace is a new role for the teacher, moving from a primarily content delivery role to one of engagement with the learners and between the learners.

  9. Dear Sir,

    I concur with the idea that technology has a very important role education and learning these days. Students these days must navigate heavy workload across disciplines and faculties while handling CCAs, events and possibly even work. Technology provides a cheap and effective mean to help students better manage their time and help us in higher learning such as group problem solving and mutual collaboration.

    However before we even consider higher level technology aided learning such as the “flipped classroom” concept, I was wondering why simpler means of technology aided learning are not widely implemented in NUS such as Webcast.

    We have vested significantly in technology in NUS for Webcasting of lectures through installation of cameras, background support staffs and webhosting infrastructure . Yet out of the 5 modules that I am attending this year, not a single module has got webcast. In past semesters webcast lectures are typically less than half. This causes significant disruptions to my time management, juggling my role as a student, a sole proprietor and a full time sales related position outside of school. While I may be exception to the rule, however I’m sure many students will appreciate better control of them time, lost of lecture time due to vagaries of life or simply learning efficacy through repetition with webcast.

    There may be various reasons for the lack of webcast lectures such as small size class, seminar style lectures focusing on interactions, difficulty in administration etc. Yet I find these reasons hardly excusable in view that these technologies have already been vested in yet not brought to its full potential to facilitate learning. From a social point of view it may even create inequality of learning opportunities in our student body, especially the less well off who may concurrently be breadwinner of their family.

    I hope that in the future, webcasting of lectures would be by default, rather than an option.

    1. Well, for certain modules with lectures in classrooms rather than lecture theatres, the webcasting ability is not available. But the majority of lectures are held in lecture theatres, so for those, I also wonder the same. Out of 5 modules, only 2.5 modules are webcast for me. The .5 is because said webcast lectures are not from this workyear, and also not a complete set from the previous time it was recorded.

      Also, IVLE forums. It’d be good if they can just be enabled by default… the current default-off system means that if module coordinators don’t activate them, the potential of peer-based learning as well as another channel by which questions may be asked of the lecturers is lost.

    2. I agree with you that we are not fully leveraging on the infrastructure to maximize learning. We have been encouraging our colleagues to webcast their lectures but some are still reluctant to adopt. Maybe we need to nudge them more.

  10. It is heartening to hear the thoughts of the provost on this issue. This shows that NUS has the management support to catalyse change in its teaching methods.

    The next step is to convince our fellow educators to try and adapt their teaching styles. You have highlighted excellent examples on how well the new methods work. And this will serve as a good reference point for those who may still be skeptical.

    Technical support must also be adequately provided when requested. While NUS provides excellent infrastructure for lecturers to leverage upon, they should be free to select what technology will best suit their teaching needs. Afterall, lecturers are given the academic freedom to teach the way that they think is best.

    Lastly, due recognition and rewards must be in place for pioneering educators who take risk, implement and achieve positive results with the new methods.

    1. Good points – tech support, promotion of best practices, recognition and incentives are all critical for a culture change.

  11. I’m not so much enamoured with the technology/online classroom learning thing (because I like to talk to people and LOVE classroom interaction) BUT I do completely agree that the way NUS engages pedagogy needs to CHANGE.

    I’m an alumnus from NUS Arts (Philosophy) and it is truly a wonderful department, with many professors realizing that they are not there to “impart” information but to facilitate discussion and tease the ideas out of students themselves. Kind of like in Meno where Socrates “teaches” math to the slave boy but he arrives at the knowledge ‘by himself’ [i’m sure my professors there will know what I’m talking about]

    In an age where dissemination of information could easily be done by some online lecture, I do think that NUS professors need to rethink their approach.

    However, I think such a pedagogical method requires alot more work and effort from professors, a lot more lesson planning and design. And while many professors do engage their students as such, this tends to be in the higher level (year 3 and year 4) classes rather than in the 1101 and level 2000 classes.

    To be honest I think it is going to take a really long time, the older professors and generation in NUS are a bit more resistant to change and it is going to be hard to push them. I’d feel bad pushing them anyway they are very respected and also probably have “more important” things on their mind like publishing really profound articles etc.

    But I’m glad that this post was published, it shows at least that the leadership of NUS recognizes the changes in the wind and while the big mothership takes time to turn, at least we know which direction we’re headed towards. <3 <3 <3 much love !!!

    1. Well, you have highlighted some challenges. I am confident that NUS is resilent enough to adopt these changes and head in the right direction.

  12. I think it is a good idea for NUS to embrace Technology-enhanced Education.

    One suggestion is to have a version of MIT’s Open Courseware, where videos of lectures are posted on the internet for students to learn during their spare time, for interest.

    Currently, not all of NUS’s lectures have publicly available webcasts, which is a pity, since physical lectures can only benefit as many students as the lecture theatre holds, while webcasts have the potential to benefit thousands of students.

  13. I think, with the incoming emergence of even newer technologies such as Augmented Reality in the near future, what we are seeing here is but the beginning of a new trend in learning. The day may come where a Lecturer may speak to a live audience of thousands, not merely through just the monitor of a screen, but through the descendants of the Google Glass. It may well come soon.

    The transition though may well take a generation, yet it is indeed a good sign that NUS is riding upon the trends. It seems that in this rapidly changing world, all organizations, even and especially Institutes of Learning must always be prepared to undergo continuous reform.

    1. Well, I think Google Glass is a cool idea. I just wonder if telcos can support the huge bandwidth required for large audiences.

  14. A few months ago, I read a book “Back of the Napkin”. Click on It teaches people how to draw pictures, mind mapping and break down complex problems and eventually comes up solutions.

    To some certain extent, it helps people decide on the proper route to take and helps people see the overall picture.

    One of my course mate went to University of California Berkeley and some of them still use chalkboard to draw rather than just flash some lecture notes on the screen. Generally, she said that by drawing it out, it helps people to visualise better, understand deeper and thus allows people to have that “Eureka” moment in coming up with creative novel solutions.

    In Youtube, RSA Animate specialises in this area. Click on

    You will find that this animation somehow does clear things up better than other methods of learning.

    Perhaps technology enhanced education should revolve around this way so that every student or academic can learn how to draw on the whiteboard.

    1. Thanks for your many suggestions, Edmund. By the way, the flipped classroom pedagoy was infused with the PBL in the Duke-NUS. Medical schools have used the PBL pedagogy for about 30 years, since it was introduced in McMaster.

  15. Collaborative learning and Flipped Classroom can also be promoted to employers and organisations through NUS CET Centres or NUS EXtension.

    I think students are very privileged and pampered in a way that they get to enjoy these new methods of learning, training and knowledge creation processes.

    I hope that students would understand that in the real working world, you may be disappointed in a certain way.

    In the real working world, many employers still prefer the same method of training – watch-and-learn linear top-down process. This is especially true if you are in a job that doesn’t involve knowledge creation but just follow the SOP protocol.

    Even if you are working as a researcher in the R&D sector, many employers do not know how to engage their staff through human interaction and through collaboration.

    My previous boss preferred individual performance rather than teamwork or collaborative learning. She would prefer each one of us to submit our work. If you have questions or doubts, she doesn’t like us to ask questions or ask your fellow colleagues questions because she feels that it is all common sense.

    1. It’s true enough that the commercial side in Singapore may not currently have caught up yet, but for one thing, just because their practices are not as good doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement here.

      And for another, NUS students don’t just end up working in Singapore, and some companies worldwide have already adopted new methods of training, productivity assessment and whatnot. Google, among others, have some relatively innovative employee policies; those who move over there may not really be disappointed.

      I feel it is important to look towards improving whatever area of the world we can work at. For the rest of the world that is currently beyond our control, other people can handle that; if they do not, then we’ll just have to get used to whatever systems are in place there. But if nobody dares to try new things, then things will never change.

  16. One way for Flipped Classroom is to adopt Open Innovation Platform as well.

    It is a bit like Problem-Based Learning (PBL) which is a keystone for Republic Polytechnic.

    Perhaps Flipped Classroom can also adopt PBL as a way too? has teamed up with InnoCentive to offer its readers the opportunity to participate in research and development challenges.

    As a Solver, you can apply your expertise to important problems, stretch your creative boundaries, and win cash awards.

    Problems can also be uploaded for readers to troubleshoot.

  17. I read about how some organisations harness InnoCentive to reward people with new ideas to solve social problems.

    Click on

    Procter & Gamble, has actually found a way to tap into them; it now gets many of its ideas for new Swiffers and toothpaste tubes from the general public.

    One way it has managed to do so is with the help of InnoCentive, a company in Waltham, Massachusetts, that specializes in organizing prize competitions over the Internet. Volunteer “solvers” can try to earn $500 to $1 million by coming up with answers to a company’s problems.

    Procter & Gamble’s the company has discovered a creative, systematic way to pay for ideas originating far outside of its own development labs. It’s made an innovation in funding innovation, which is the subject of this month’s Technology Review business report.

  18. This may be an antithesis to the “Flipped Classroom” concept and online sharing or collaboration.

    In Susan Cain’s book Quiet which talks about Introverts and the Power of Being an Introvert, she wrote that concerning the workplace, there is an overemphasis on collaboration: brainstorming leading to groupthink, and meetings leading to organizational inertia.Cain would like to see (the workplace) less focused on online collaboration and sharing but more conducive to deep thought and solo reflection.

    Cain says that the more creative people tend to be “socially poised introverts, solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity, and office designs and work plans should allow people to be alone.

    Cain advises that students need more privacy and autonomy, and should be taught to work together but also how to work alone.

  19. Another thing to add is “Mind-Wandering”.

    Once a group has been exposed to a difficult problem but given 12 minutes of mind wandering and relaxation, they can perform better after the 12 minutes rest.

    Flipped classroom can also be done that way

    Why great ideas come when you aren’t trying

    From an evolutionary perspective, mind-wandering seems totally counterproductive and has been viewed as dysfunctional because it compromises people’s performance in physical activities. However, Baird’s work shows that allowing the brain to enter this state when it is considering complex problems can have real benefits. Zoning out may have aided humans when survival depended on creative solutions. A study now suggests that simply taking a break does not bring on inspiration — rather, creativity is fostered by tasks that allow the mind to wander.

  20. I think some lectures have already started using the “Flipped Classroom” model in 2005.

    I remember I took one TR subject on Technopreneurship. The academic staff dished out many reading materials and case studies and if you didn’t read them, you will not be able to troubleshoot the materials and he will shoot many questions until you may fail the module.

    Students who fail to read them, understand the concepts or do not understand them will do badly because some of the questions he posed are very tricky and requires deep thinking. After that, we have to write a report.

    This inquisitive, open learning concept may not necessarily apply to the working world.

    I was warned by my boss yesterday because I asked too many questions about lab procedure to one of my colleague.

    Think that question was meant as a joke but the colleague thinks it is a challenge to her authority.

    Most colleagues don’t like newcomers to challenge their authority or ask too many questions so they CCTVed to my boss.

    Most of us still prefer subordinates to follow orders blindly without questioning them. Will have to watch my behaviour.

    Think you can inform students to apply there if they have specialist skills.

    I was warned by my boss yesterday because I asked too many questions about lab procedure at work to one of my colleague.

    Think that question was meant as a joke but the colleague thinks it is a challenge to her authority.

    Most colleagues don’t like newcomers to challenge their authority or ask too many questions so they CCTVed to my boss.

    Most of us still prefer subordinates to follow orders blindly without questioning them because it saves time and ensures that the boat is in the same direction. Will have to watch my behaviour.

  21. I second the sentiment below. Provost, I was declined access to the materials on IVLE for an elective in the law faculty (I am a law student myself). If there are copyright issues, perhaps students requiring access to modules they’re not enrolled in could sign non-disclosure agreements.


    Dear Provost, without comparing money issue or fancy technology at this moment, why not simply grant students free access to all modules’ schedule, lecture notes and homework first, rather than lock them in a unopened system IVLE? The fact now is that when a student want to quickly pick up something without fully commit to a registered module or simply to browser the contents, he or she has to turn to other university’s opencourseware, while indeed NUS offers the course in the same title.

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