The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Classroom is an interesting concept in blended learning, focussing on literally ‘flipping’ the traditional model of education…

As Karl Fisch identified, regular homework requiring students to apply theory to problems/activities, highlights three groups:

  • A proportion who completed the work with no problems and who probably didn’t need the practice;
  • A second segment who wouldn’t even attempt the homework (didn’t want to; not enough time; lack of understanding);
  • A final group in the middle who would attempt the work, but become frustrated because they couldn’t do it or had done it incorrectly.

So instead of ‘lecturing’ at the front of a class for an hour, this ‘chalk & talk’ ‘transmission’ element is recorded (short videos, podcasts, screencasts, etc) and given to students (on CD or online) to watch beforehand. What would be homework i.e applying that information to problems, group work, etc, is now done in class – potentially overcoming the two ‘problem groups’ discussed above.

The original ‘founders’ of the Flipped Classroom suggests that ‘flipping’ increases Teacher to Student, and Student to Student interaction, since ‘the role of the teacher has changed from presenter of content to learning coach‘. Having said that, and as Doug Belshaw highlights, it is based on certain assumptions about our education system in which “we’ve commoditised learning to such an extent that it’s becoming indistinguishable from training”.

To this, and many of his other points, I agree. We should challenge core assumptions about how we teach, and importantly, how we assess students. However, in the situation we are in today, I think the Flipped Classroom is a great idea: it could be the starting block for teachers to begin to innovate, and an opportunity to engage students through the VLE (VITAL), provide interactive online content, and free up class time to run more engaging and interactive classes. Subsequently, I think this can lead to increased personal interaction with students, increased formative feedback, and importantly, increased understanding and student satisfaction.

There are a number of services to help support this notion of the Flipped Classroom, whether that be existing videos from the Khan Academy (a library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to medicine and computer science), YouTube or Open Content (i.e. free with some restrictions) from MIT OCW or the Open University’s OpenLearn site. Closer to home, we have a new tool which is in development to capture our own materials and make them available through the Institutional systems such as the University Streaming Server – Stream.liv.ac.uk. People can also use Camtasia (paid for) or the likes of ScreenrJing or CamStudio (free) to record screencasts, or the well established Audacity to record audio only.

To give you a better idea on the Flipped Classroom, see the video below. The images I used above were also taken from an interesting infographic from Knewton.com.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and for those interested in implementing this approach, I’d be happy to help. Also keep your eye open for workshops and posts about the benefits of using multimedia (video, podcasting, screencasts, etc), to enhance learning, teaching and assessment…

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