Flipping Out for the Flipped Classroom

One of the biggest obstacles to deeper learning in our classrooms is the fact that, in a traditional face-to-face semester course, we only get about two and a half hours of contact time with our students per week. That’s not very much time at all. So how can we balance covering important course content with the types of (usually fairly time-consuming) in-class activities that promote active, engaged learning? Something has to give, right? 

One solution to the too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time dilemma is the flipped classroom. Instead of taking class time to lecture over content and have students do assignments and projects out of class, flip this conventional model. If you think about it, this model reserves class time and instructor presence for the times when students will actually need them. Traditionally, we’ve often asked students to do the real heavy lifting-reading, analyzing, applying concepts, making connections-on their own, while using the time we spend with them to do things like lecture and review, which don’t really require much intellectual support at all. What if we decided to have students do reading, watch videos, and “do the content” outside of class, and reserve our valuable class time for hands-on, active learning-things students can’t get on their own, or need our presence and guidance to complete. This can take many forms, but think of the science lab model—students come to lab with the basic content knowledge they need, and they spend lab time applying that knowledge with the guidance of the instructor. Why can’t that work for History, or Literature, or any other field?

Flipping the classroom involves a discernment process that can be really useful; and this is true even if we decide we don’t want to go the flipped route after all. Successful flipping involves looking at everything we ask our students to do in one of our courses and determining if it is essential that we and their classmates be present for students to successfully complete each of these activities. For example, do students really have to be in a classroom, all together at the same time, to listen to a 10-minute lecture and view the accompanying slides? Or can they watch a video recording of that lecture and view the slides online? “Offloading” the material and activities students can do on their own leaves us more time to spend on the stuff they can’t do by themselves: discussion, peer review/writing workshops, hands-on applications, debates, role-playing exercises, and the like. Moreover, our own discernment of what is essential for our actual class sessions, and what can be accomplished via other means, can pay big dividends when it comes to pedagogy and course design.

This methodology has much to recommend it, and we also have technological resources (especially Blackboard and Panopto) to help you “flip” the content outside of class. If you’re looking for a new pedagogical direction, or want to open up more time for student engagement and interaction during class, you might want to investigate flipping your classroom.

For a great introduction to the flipped classroom, the Flipped Learning Network is the place to go. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of flipping, or are looking for ways to think about getting started, this site is a great first stop. Additionally, there are a ton of resources and first-person accounts that are invaluable resources for more advanced “flippers.” Another good collection of introductory resources aimed specifically at a higher-ed audience is Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Excellence’s page on the flipped classroom.

A lot of the conversation about flipped classrooms is actually based upon misconceptions, and Joshua Kim looks to set the record straight in his discussion of the “6 Myths of the Flipped Classroom.” Robert Talbert, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Casting Out Nines” blog, answers some of the questions most often posed by skeptics.

What might this model look like in action? Brian Sztabnik tried it in his English classes and started “A Reading Revolution.” Even though this was in a high school, his ideas-especially students’ use of blogs-are intriguing for college-level classes as well.

At Grand View, we have an excellent set of tools to begin building videos and other online resources for at least a partial flip of your class. Our “lecture capture” system, Panopto, is software that links directly with Blackboard to enable you to easily create videos and screencasts and then quickly load them into your Blackboard course space. Even if you’re already familiar with Panopto, there may be some wider uses of the tool that you might want to consider:

  • Did you know you can record from home? Your office? Or your classroom?
  • Did you know you could make audio-only recordings? Or video recordings that capture both Powerpoint slides and the instructor? Or that you can attach a PDF to the recording?
  • Did you know you can do basic editing on recorded videos?
  • Did you know you can record anything on your screen while, for example, you teach students how to use specific software?

Click here for our Panopto resource page, which has a basic overview and instructions on how to download the video recorder software for your computer. But you should definitely feel free to come and see us in CETL for any assistance you need in taking advantage of this versatile, robust teaching tool.

We also have several resources in the CETL Library, including the classic overview of Flipped Learning by Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day
(International Society for Technology in Education, 2012). [Rasm LB 1044.75 .B47 2012]

Finally, here’s a visual reenactment of me confronting my deadlines:


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