University College Freiburg (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Page: 7394 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Most university courses set medium- and long-term learning goals: students are expected to acquire skills, knowledge and expertise in specific academic areas, hone their intellectual capacities or learn how to deal with complex issues beyond the academic environment. The module-based structure of most study programs, at least in Europe, on the other hand, encourages a focus on short-term learning goals and rarely attends to the learning outcomes and students’ satisfaction with courses after the exams are passed and routine course evaluations collected. The lack of follow-up on students' achievements and lessons learned beyond the exam date seems to be a yawning gap in the education process.

I suggest one way to start closing this gap and gathering more knowledge about what students retain from individual courses or modules – the method I call “Hi, future me!”, currently being developed and applied at the NNN University. The method requires students to write a message to themselves in the future at the end of the course, with a follow-up several months afterwards. During the last course’s session, students receive time to note important concepts, thoughts, historical examples, or personal impressions from the course, which they would like to remember for longer and hand these to the lecturer. Students are free to choose what they want to remember; they are not restricted by the formal 'learning goals' of the courses or the expectations of the lecturer. After several months, the lecturer / tutor / facilitator gathers the students and asks what are the important things they have in fact retained from the course. After their reply, the lecturer distributes the original messages, and a short discussion follows. Initial runs of such follow-up discussions proved productive as well as enjoyable to participating students.

The technique arguably allows for:
1) self-reflection on the part of the students, asked to recall the course’s material from the last semester or last year, and then able to compare what they actually retained with what they had intended to when writing the original message to themselves in the future;
2) enhanced perception of studies as an integrated process, promoted by an encouragement to think about the learning results of different courses together;
3) at least some feedback for the lecturer on what aspects of the course are most memorable and useful, as perceived by the students at the end of the course and after some considerable time has passed.

In addition to discussing the results of this project, I hope that this paper will also provoke a more general discussion on how other types of follow-up can be designed, how lecturers can achieve a better understanding of courses’ uses the students make, of the match between learning goals and students’ expectations and achievements, and eventually foster a more serious consideration of ways to move study programs in the direction of meeting declared goals of long-term learning.
Learning outcomes, medium-term follow-up on learning, reflexive learning, curriculum development, integration of study experience, feedback.