The flipped classroom model takes traditional ‘input’ (e.g. lectures, demonstrations) out of the physical learning space and replaces it with activities completed by the students prior to the session, so that when students and their lecturers meet face-to-face, the focus is on interaction resulting from the prepared learning.
The main benefit of the flipped classroom is that learning becomes student-centred and can be tailored to meet individual needs. The flipped classroom model is not necessarily new—indeed it is the basis for learning situations like traditional seminar groups where students are expected to do reading outside of the classroom and then to meet for discussion around the reading. The ease with which students can now be provided with a plethora of multi-media resources online, however, means that the ‘seminar’ model can be applied to a wide range of teaching contexts. This can both free the lecturer from repeating the same content year after year, and allow students to access and engage with content in times and places that make sense for them. Most importantly, however, the flipped classroom model means that in-class time can be devoted to active application of the learning, including: questions; discussion; group work; and short- and long-term projects.
Best Practice Tips
- Before you begin producing your online materials, ensure that you know how the out-of-class resources fit in with the in-class activities, and how these relate to the module assessments. Students should be able to see clear connections among these three components, i.e. the pre-class input should relate directly to the in-class activities, which in turn should be integral parts of the formative and/or summative assessments.
- The flipped classroom model does require early planning, especially if content like live lectures or demonstrations will be replaced by video or podcasts. In this case, here are some things to consider:
- Are the current resources fit for purpose? (e.g. are your PowerPoint slides sufficient, or would you need a way to record free-hand writing and drawing as well? how easy will it be to film the lab space you usually use for a demonstration, or will you have to find a different space?)
- How will you break the recordings up into manageable chunks? (i.e. people generally find it more difficult to keep their focus on video, but breaking a long session up usually helps students to manage their attention better.)
- Is your content likely to need updating in the near future? (e.g. is it contingent upon research that may change fairly soon, or upon current economic/political situations?) If so, you may wish to make a ‘cheap and cheerful’ recording rather than spend a lot of time on something that you may need to re-record regularly.
- Will you produce everything before the start of teaching, or will you set time aside to produce it as you go and perhaps learn from its initial use?
- Also consider other ways of getting your content across. For example, there may be Open Educational Resources (OERs) that deal with elements of your module, or professional videos that present topics well or offer examples to complement your content. Your current text-based lecture notes could be enhanced with images and hyperlinks, written out into a narrative (in text or in a podcast), or turned into a simple e-learning package to create engaging pre-sessional work.
- Provide detailed guidance for students about what is expected of them, both in preparing for each face-to-face session and in the sessions themselves. The flipped classroom is a very different experience for students than a traditional lecture and, while they may be used to active learning in seminars or labs, they will probably need explicit guidance on their role in this scenario.
- Plan how you will evaluate the flipped sessions before you begin, especially the first time. This could include quick polls using post-it notes, an online tool or short surveys, or informal chats with students after the session. If students are working on ongoing projects, this could also include reviewing their work regularly.
- Plan how you will deal with issues such as learners not understanding or not engaging with materials supplied before the face-to-face session.
Resources and Further Reading
Guo, P. J. (2014) How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos, Proceedings of the First ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference, 4-5 March, pp. 41-50.