Professor Veerle Fack runs a variety of courses at undergraduate and masters levels in computer science with a focus on informatics algorithms. There are 40 students in her masters’ course and 25 across her undergraduate course.
The foundations of Professor Fack’s courses are problem solving and computational thinking, which are demonstrated in the classroom with programming tasks.
“I am teaching the background of how to develop ideas and solve problems. There are many practical elements to my teaching, but students need to understand the theory first and foremost,” she explains.
Professor Fack spared no time in using the Brightspace platform to pursue the flipped classroom model, an ultimate goal for the University as a whole.
“In the first semester of the rollout, I did an experiment with a flipped classroom and active learning model. I asked the students to watch videos before they came to class, and then during class we would discuss the problems and undertake programming exercises.
“Brightspace is a real help for me when it comes to building a course like this. I don’t have traditional lecture notes for my students to read, but I have videos and exercises and website links. Brightspace allows me to utilise this rich content in a coherent system that guides students to the materials they need to learn. So far, my students are reacting very positively to the flipped classroom approach, and this wouldn’t be possible without Brightspace.”
At the outset of the pilot, Professor Flack also began experimenting with other features of the Brightspace platform, such as the assignments tool—although she admits she’s not yet using it to its fullest potential.
“The way I use it now is relatively simple. I see it can be useful for more advanced grading and feedback methods, but I’m still a little unfamiliar with it. That said, it is still the first stage of the rollout, and I’m enjoying experimenting with all the functionalities so far.”
However, she praises the Brightspace platform’s ease of use.
“For me it is easy and intuitive. The video tutorials are very helpful. If I want to experiment with more advanced functionality, I simply look at the Brightspace videos and they’ll have the answers I need. As a user, you can definitely find your own way around with Brightspace. It is very consistent in the way things are done. Once you’ve mastered the skill to implement something more advanced, it’s easy to do it in another part of the system.”
As her knowledge of the systems and features within the Brightspace platform grows, Professor Fack has ambitious plans for using even more of the functionality, including rubrics which allow a lecturer to establish set criteria for grading assignments, display the number of points students were awarded for each criterion after an assignment, and to provide customised feedback.
“I plan to start using rubrics to providing feedback for my students. I am also in the process of creating a new bank of quizzes that I can use across my courses. I’ve already been passing my knowledge onto other lecturers who are not currently on the pilot programme. This has been through demos, but I also recently gave a talk on the active learning approach. I’m intrigued to see how my colleagues will use Brightspace to push forward the flipped classroom approach.”
Although a university-wide initiative for active learning and the flipped classroom is an ambitious project, Professor Fack is confident that the Brightspace platform will help UGent and its lecturers achieve it.
“Brightspace helps me easily build an overall learning path and then link the different content and topics and so on. I have used a lot of learning environments in the past and this is the first one I’ve used for a full year and thought, yes, I want to continue with this one. I’m still scratching the surface of the functionalities, but I have the feeling that I can continue and make things better. Brightspace helps me both in terms of what I would like to achieve with my students and the way in which I would like to teach. This makes me very happy.” — Professor Veerle Fack, Ghent University.