Drawing a link between being a practical arts teacher and a mixologist, both are jobs based on relationships: a team job, where the teacher must always look for the best teaching practices to allow the students to learn together. The good news is that by digitalizing our practical arts theoretical content we did not lose that relationship, instead we strengthened it.
The EHL preparatory year (AP: année préparatoire) program started to digitalize its theoretical content in 2018. From the beginning, it was decided to create bite-sized learning animations. Our micro learning animations were produced by external production agencies, lasting no longer than six minutes, varied in graphic design, and were recorded by a professional voice-over person. We externalized everything - but not the content. The heart of it, the essence of the script, was made by our expert preparatory year lecturers. Hence, we digitalized only what is timeless, such as how to make tequila and mezcal, or the functional properties of proteins.
Flipped learning and the role of the classroom
Today, the concept of flipped learning has gone global. Moving to the flipped learning model has inevitably required us to reconsider our practical and expert role in the classroom. Lecturers still need to transfer their knowledge, except that now most of their theoretical knowledge transfer takes place outside the classroom. It is essential for every lecturer to understand that we are not losing anything, but that it is especially in the classroom that our expert profile is revealed. For example, I could potentially give an ex-cathedra pastry lecture if I learned the subject, and I would probably perform it well, but would I be an expert on that subject? Definitely not. Indeed, it’s when the students engage with authentic in-class activities and formulate reflective questions that the expert is needed the most.
The digitalization of our content has modified our teaching practices and what is taught in class. The flipped classroom is an opportunity to reflect on the complementarity between in-class work (synchronous time) and out-of-class work (asynchronous time). Organizing the learning time and learning space are two central components of teachers' activities. This blending of learning style requires redesigning the student learning journey. It’s an endless process, as finding the perfect balance between the synchronous and asynchronous time is key to maintaining student motivation.
The importance of pre-work
Whatever the format chosen to transfer knowledge during asynchronous time (e.g., watching videos, reading articles and texts), it is essential to establish pre-work. A pre-work can be defined as any task that a learner is required to undertake in the asynchronous space before participating in real classroom time. These pre-work activities are what prepare and stimulate student engagement.
In mixology workshops, we have designed a mixology booklet with information to fill up session after watching animations on LMS. We encourage student learning by taking accurate and concise notes linked to the course's learning objectives. This booklet is perceived very positively by the students for two mains reasons: It guides them in their learning by clearly structuring the content, and it prepares them for the class activities and the final exam.
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This is the moment where we must create a trustful and positive learning environment. Class time is student-centered with authentic classroom activities so that active learning can occur. It is devoted to application of the theory content by the students themselves. In brief, it means students are the main actors of their learning. The key aim, from a teacher's perspective, being, of course, to generate critical thinking and reflective discussion within the class.
In mixology lessons, class time is only organized around different daily activities where students can engage together in their learning. As Charles D. Morrison once said: "From 'sage on the stage to guide on the side". A metaphor that illustrates the benefits of the flipped learning approach. No more long hours standing in front of learners with a monologue of teaching content as a sage on the stage. We are now the students' learning coachs, by their side to challenge them and/or help with their previously acquired digital knowledge.
But let’s be honest, developing diverse authentic activities during synchronous time is by far one of the most challenging aspects of flipped learning. To help preparatory year teachers in this approach, an in-class activities handbook has been designed to inspire them and help them design unique classroom activities to engage the learners.
The handbook, made together with learning designers, is an inventory of creative ways to cover everything that needs to be studied in the course. This creation of this handbook helped us to catalog the great and diverse activities that were already being done by the teachers, and also weed out the ones that were quite redundant and less engaging from a student’s perspective. After much research, we selected 10 new activities that could fit in the AP program.
The most challenging part
How can we intrinsically motivate our students to learn on their own by facing a computer? It’s definitely the other challenging part of flipped learning. As we move forward with the digitalization of our content, furthermore, we are looking for new ways to innovate for the students during their asynchronous learning time. This time should not be passive learning that consists of just watching videos. Storytelling and gamification are well-known trends in the educational world. We are trying to merge both to create a unique learning game.
We envision linking all our academic modules with a sustainable cause. This game allows raising sustainability awareness of EHL students across their AP learning journey. The pilot will be launched on a Learning Experience Platform, which will be fully adaptable on our Moodle. This pilot will be tested in the Mixology course at the end of the semester. We are looking forward to receiving the first student feedback on this unique pedagogical asynchronous model.
Finally, the digital vision that EHL has embraced has left us with no choice but to think about how we want to spend our valuable classroom time with students. As we continue our digital journey, we realize that it's been a long and bumpy road, but pretty darn refreshing. It has forced us to look at our courses with fresh eyes, to rethink, to take risks, to try new things, to collaborate, to receive feedback and to learn. This is the kind of recipe that can lead to innovation.