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Flip That Classroom?

Time is almost always short. Training is expensive. Quality interaction between learners and instructors is at a premium. How can flipping the classroom help?

10-25 Ginko

What is it?

Blended learning with video lectures online (first) and practicing in class (second).

  • Schools. Students watch online video lectures at home and then do their homework in class, where their teachers can help them. See Khan Academy for a great example.
  • Organizations. Learners watch presentations online, either at home or at their desks, and then work with an instructor to practice new skills in class.

The idea is to increase practice time, with excellent feedback from a qualified source. We hope this increases competence and confidence—and therefore, transfer of new skills.

Key Questions

If you’re thinking about trying this approach, first: There’s no question that learners can learn in a flipped classroom. Given good design, they can. Second: Here are some key practical questions to consider:

  • How much time can people be in class vs. studying on their own?
    If there’s enough time for both lectures and study in class, do that (if cost isn’t an issue). Learners will have more time to ask questions and get help, if they need it. Caveat: If the material is difficult, being able to watch or listen to sections of a presentation repeatedly can help. One solution: Record live lectures as backup. 
  • How expensive is it to provide classroom space and instructors for your learners?
    With many learners, mediating instruction can help. Fewer classroom and instructor hours x many students = big savings. Can you create savings by providing presentations online?
  • What kind of support will learners need for which part of their learning?
    Are there motivation issues? Sometimes the only way to get people to attend to training is to physically send them to class. As for learning issues, when do they need to ask questions? Are there parts of the material that they can learn via self-study?
  • Do your learners have access to the Internet, and is their connection fast enough to support video?
    Yes? Great. No? How about sending a DVD or just providing audio and/or a workbook? 
  • Do you have the ability to create compelling (enough) videos?
    For video we’re all pretty spoiled, but will accept decent vs. broadcast-quality video if the material is important to us. One hint: Keep the videos as short and to-the-point as possible. Also: Visuals of talking heads get old quickly. 
  • Will your organization’s management/culture support self-study at home or in the office?
    Some will, but some won’t. Make sure people will do the outside-of-class work before investing too much in this approach. 

Not so new. Sam Postlethwaite started recording his biology lectures for students at Purdue University in 1961. He developed the audio-tutorial system, which included self-study (first) and group sessions (second). This was a practical way to help students learn. When I was in college, we had adaptations of this system for botany and art history classes.

Today, with the ease of providing video online, “flipping the classroom” by providing self-study modules with group work sessions may be easier to implement. Whatever we call it, and whatever the components, we still need structure: sequencing, objectives, practice, and feedback. Flipping the classroom can be a practical way to encourage learners’ self-reliance and to provide the support they need, as well.


Wikipedia | Flip Teaching

Site | Khan Academy

Book | J.D. Russell (1978). The Audio-Tutorial System

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