Innovative Teaching

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The Grenoble Hy' School Project (Sciences Po, The Polytechnics Institute, School Management), December 2012: proposal for a pedagogic revolution.
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  27/08/14 10:56Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project) | Italian Political SciencePage 1 sur 7…ovative-teaching-for-tomorrow-the-grenoble-2012-hyschool-project/ ( Towards a Hyper Campus:Towards a Hyper Campus:Innovative teaching forInnovative teaching fortomorrow (the Grenoble 2012tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012Hy’School project)Hy’School project) By Yves Schemeil ( For those who dream of a university with no exams, no too-large lectures to passive if notinattentive audiences, yes, the current ways of teaching are obsolete. Confronted with achanging environment in which technology upsets campuses’ bonding and bridging pro-cesses, teachers are confused about their future. Off campus events, social networks, andpermanent connectivity may be opportunities to improve their working conditions and theeffectiveness of their teaching; alternatively, if uncontrolled, this changing environmentmay become a threat to their self-esteem.This is the very context in which the “Hy’ School project” was released in December 2012(for a “ high ”, “ hybrid ”, and “ hyper  ” campus). Designed by a group of professors from threedepartments (political science, management, and engineering) to accommodate the newneeds of master’s and master’s + 1 students, its main aim was to turn existing processes up-side down. It relied on flipped classrooms (or reverse classrooms); remote teaching (via videoconference); hybridization of learning processes that would combine e-learning, simu-lation games (to rehearse real-world negotiations with potential customers or partners), andsometimes personal development (drama, music, eloquence week, festivals). Student-teacher interaction passes through various channels, with less face-to-face meetings, andmore opportunities to greet outsiders. Tutorials substitute for class attendance. Auditoriumsonly bring several groups of students together for special events (inauguration and gradua-tion days; guest speakers; organizational work and planning sessions). On-line instanta-neous debriefing and evaluation with follow-up measures is active from day one.To reach these ends, five pillars were imagined, they are listed here in the very order inwhich they are depicted in graph 1, although to understand their interactions one must pri-oritize them differently: the tribune  and the barometer  ; the  platform , the  fabric , and the stu-dio  – not to speak of the unavoidable control tower, an administrative division in charge of the whole process. It is of note that to be successful, such a project must rely equally oneach pillar. 1  27/08/14 10:56Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project) | Italian Political SciencePage 2 sur 7…ovative-teaching-for-tomorrow-the-grenoble-2012-hyschool-project/ ( Figure 1.  The Organizational Structure of the Project. THE   FABRIC . Let us start with the core of the system: this is the place where studentswork together in small multidisciplinary groups of 4 to 6 persons, some being far away andworking online, or through videoconference systems. A modular open space office in a dedi-cated building is attributed to them at the beginning of each semester; they can make anymaterial arrangements they like, and are free to decide on their schedule since the place isopen 24 hours a day.Their mission is to complete a report assigned to them by subscribers of the program, allknown as members of a particular club, the Tribune. To this end, they will have sufficientdiscretion to combine a variety of tools at will. Their mandate stems from a real life cases(“ cas vivants ”) that Tribune’s subscribers must address (e.g. opening a new department,launching a MOOC, designing a CATI survey, shortening a bureaucratic process in a localpublic administration, reforming an organization or an NGO, campaigning for a politicalparty, improving the efficiency of a governmental branch, evaluating a business model be-fore it gets financed, selecting a humanitarian aid project, sending troops abroad, and soon).Within the Fabric, students will assess the challenge to face, select the appropriate meansto succeed, and turn to professors for guidance and support at various points in time (eitherduring office hours; using interactive applications like Skype, Line, Google Hangouts, etc.;or intranet systems such as Moodle, Chamilo, etc.). Facts and worksheets, as well as anynecessary data and documents will be posted on demand on these platforms. Once the con-tract between the School, the students at the core of a single group, and their Professor(s) issigned, the goal endorsed by academics, and the project approved by each partner, teachersjust have to respond to student’s queries, feed the platform with appropriate materials, re-frame the process whenever it is appropriate. In exchange, students commit themselves toreading any text or document posted by the professor(s). A supervisor belonging to the Divi-sion (see below) assesses and dispatches the related financial, credit, and time resourcesthat will accrue to all participants, including those outsiders from whom money and orderscome (a public administration, a private firm, an association, an academic group, etc.).  27/08/14 10:56Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project) | Italian Political SciencePage 3 sur 7…ovative-teaching-for-tomorrow-the-grenoble-2012-hyschool-project/ Students opt for a strategy, and then design their own agenda. Weekly tutorials help themstay on track, deepen their knowledge on specific aspects, and test their arguments. In or-der to improve their performance they may focus on drama, participate in public speakingcompetitions, and use any means to stay focused, control their fears, master their stress –dreams that come true within the Studio. The closer they come to achieving their ends andcompleting their report, the more supported they are by their professor(s) and their supervi-sor. Lagging behind schedule, conversely, means they will receive less attention from theteacher and less assistance from the supervisor. It may also imply that the “course” will notbe credited or, still worse, that the end-user will pull out from the project, with the financialconsequences that will impact the School.Of course, agenda, timetable, and self-organization of teamwork or lack of it, the possibledivision of labor or the absence of specialization – all these are left up to students. Counsel-ing and coaching may help them avoid likely waste of time, possible inefficiency and redun-dancy, as well as temporary breakdowns. Here again, professors and supervisors matter.They may verbally encourage students, carefully review their mid semester achievements,give adequate advice all along the way, etc. They set the countdown and deadlines and helpstudents meet them.Once the report drafted, then reviewed, revised, and resubmitted to the professor(s), as in apeer review, the end-user rehearses their future defense behind closed doors. Selected at-tendees (the academic staff? Other students’ groups?) may all react and comment, suggestadditional readings, experiments, or surveys, and give a grade.This is what is now called a reverse class or a flipped class, with students preparing lecturesand delivering them while professors listen. Evaluation comes from outsiders (they “buy”reports, ask for modifications, or express their disappointment, and reformulate their re-quest for the next session). THE   PLATFORM . A prerequisite of this new teaching framework is the availability of vari-ous course materials needed to help students complete their work: selected textbooks, offi-cial documents, Internet links, articles and book chapters on the one hand; a high perfor-mance videoconference and Web 2.0 flux of connections with peers all over the world; soft-ware for modeling architectural or technical projects, simulating decision-making process-es, and playing serious games.Of course, the first component of this platform – a database accessible via an Intranet link –is now a classic: Moodle paved the way to similar stockpiling and interactive systems fordata finding. Such websites have flourished in every single university over the globe. Thenovelty here is the tailored-to-the-needs aspect of this data tank, permanently filled and re- vised by professors – a lot of work for those who hoped that machines could be good substi-tutes for personalized advices and once and for all recommended reading lists updatedfrom one year to the next! The corpus made available to each group of students may overlapwith what other groups may need, but not necessarily so. Beyond the basics of each disci-pline (remember: teams are multidisciplinary), such welcome overlaps may occasionallyhappen, but nothing is certain when the class first meets.The second component of the Platform is the Game Center. To experiment, simulate, and re-hearse, students may pick out tools that are available to them, although this requires seri-ous and constant monitoring to allow time slots, authorize the use of costly software, be-sides watching the discussions run on the Intranet. Students from the school of engineer-ing, architecture, or medicine, may build prototypes and test them to give some guaranteethat the real size project is workable. 2  27/08/14 10:56Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project) | Italian Political SciencePage 4 sur 7…ovative-teaching-for-tomorrow-the-grenoble-2012-hyschool-project/ THE   STUDIO . One of the most exciting innovations of this project is the invitation made tothe students to improve their argumentative capabilities through crash training in rhetoricand body language: drama, opera, dance, public speaking – all these “arts” are henceforthadded to “science” to boost the convincing impact of the projects presented to various audi-ences.In collaboration with professors and supervisors, students also invite guest speakers, orga-nize special events, and even request the planning of additional courses (such as summerschools), even though some may have little explicit relevance for their tasks. THE   BAROMETER   AND   THE   TRIBUNE . To establish and consolidate the relationshipswith outside stakeholders –such as public administrations, research centers, think tanks,international organizations, and firms– among which sponsors, the press, and end-users,these two bodies are essential. Firstly, they collect yearly subscriptions, registrations forspecial events, grants and scholarships. Secondly, they give on-line and nearly “live” evalu-ations of actual progress, criticism, requests, and comments made by partners. Thirdly, theyconduct periodical satisfaction surveys. Finally, they organize face-to-face meetings towhich every registered person or institution may participate.To put it briefly, the Barometer gives instant assessments of scores and deadlines, whereasthe Tribune offers a unique place to make supply and demand meet, and give maximum vis-ibility to private projects. How does this work? Suppose a regional authority of a developing country is assessing the feasibility of a partici-patory democracy experiment, modeled after the 2004 British Columbia one, with the par-ticular purpose of training candidates and voters to play the game by the rules. The requestis to devise the steps and the calendar required, design the appropriate framework, and alsoevaluate the costs and benefits expected as well as the risks taken. Once the “participatorydemocracy” team of professor(s), supervisor and monitors, as well as students of varioussrcins is composed, it has access to a stock of data imagined for its special needs. Its mem-bers may test their ideas on a reduced sample of other students or outside volunteers whowill simulate a public debate on any issue of the real life agenda; they may organize video-conferences with experts worldwide to collect their views and listen to their particular expe-rience with participatory designs. They may reshape the architecture inherited from the18th or 19th century to make it better suit the particular context in which the project will beimplemented, imagining dedicated buildings, improving electronic votes, facilitating dis-cussions with experts during the hearing sessions that will help participants to make uptheir mind about the technicalities of the problem raised, etc. This would require skills in various fields: communication technology; comparative politics with a special stress on thehistory of voting and/or the theory of democracy, and a good knowledge of possible assem-bly venues (from a local market to a national Parliament building). Psychology may alsohelp students arguing sincerely, with no hidden agenda, and finding out the appropriatetiming (coming to a close neither too early nor too late is of the essence when the legitimacyof a decision is at stake), as well as identifying possible allies to rally (and adversaries toblock) before making a joint decision on the issue at stake. Since the project may be imple-mented in a developing country, anthropologists or specialists of the area are helpful. Be-cause it has a cost, an economist may inform the group of the appropriate business model tomake the experiment routine and sustainable in the long run, without further assistance ormonitoring. Finally, students trained to address international organizations topics will be  27/08/14 10:56Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project) | Italian Political SciencePage 5 sur 7…ovative-teaching-for-tomorrow-the-grenoble-2012-hyschool-project/ welcomed, because such schemes would inevitably be developed and followed up by one orseveral intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.When the semester starts, each team will identify its special needs, and organize its timeschedule (an excellent opportunity to learn about scoreboards, logical frameworks, andgrids that are extensively used in management). Supervisors will provide the resources. Assaid, professors will tutor the students once or twice a week, instead of teaching severalhour-long classes in front of dozens of people who are more or less focused on his or her lec-ture. At some points, participants might feel underequipped to confront professional ex-perts and “sell” them their work: support would be expected from the Studio, with its cata-logue of on-demand performances and training sessions.Day-by-day, progression towards completion to the satisfaction of all participants in aproject will be watched out by the Barometer’s people; additional facilities and funding maybe raised via the Tribune. Eventually, defense day brings together all the stakeholders in asingle room (some via a videoconference system), and credits accrue to the team. In theend, semester-by-semester, students graduate from the program via the pedagogical Divi-sion, and their achievements are posted on the program’s website (once the embargo on thedata collected is waived). How to make the best use of this frame-work? It is of note that teams may (should?) be competing on the same project – although re-sources available for the same purpose will be reduced. Awards could gratify the bestprojects, either among rival teams, or across students’ groups working on different projectsat the same time. Moreover, professors will share the fate of their tutored students: evaluat-ing their pedagogical achievements will no longer be necessary.Within such a framework, innovators are awarded with symbolic as well as material bene-fits. Teaching is improved; the least involved soon emulate pioneers’ work. Autonomygrows because learners, teachers, and people who manage the support system are on anequal footing – and are paid accordingly. Relevance also increases, as partnerships multi-ply. Funding expands, due to the inclusion of outsiders at an early stage of research. Peda-gogy and research are linked to an unknown extent.Though this is not yet paradise, it very much resembles a brave new world. At the very leastthe professors’ nightmares (decline in academic authority, possible irrelevance of the fieldinvested, lack of attractiveness, and lack of resources) will be bygones. Notes  The author wants to thank Sylvie Bianco (from the Grenoble School of Management, GEM, who also designedthe graph), and Sylvie Humbert (from Grenoble Polytechnic, INP) for their contribution to this innovativeteaching project. E-mail contact: (; webpage: ( and ( What is the Flipped Classroom ( A problem that has many solutions, like increasing tuition fees, imposing compensation in such forms asworking for the library, or offering the frustrated end-user another free trial with a different group of students. *12
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