Flipped Class Explained

What is a Flipped Class?
The flipped class is a relatively recent model of classroom learning popularized over the last 20 years by teachers such as Professor Eric Mazur of Harvard University, Colorado high school teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and Salman Khan of the online Khan Academy. Flipping means turning the traditional classroom model upside down. Instead of lecturing in class and assigning students exercises to do at home, teachers of flipped classes record instructional videos, post them online on YouTube or their respective school portals, and tell their students to review the video lesson at home.

The next day in class, students work together to solve exercises based on what they learned in the video lesson. Teachers encourage students to work with each other in class to solve problems or complete exercises, and intervene only to provide guidance or to answer questions. The model is that of self-guided student learning rather than traditional top-down, lecture-based classes.

Tips for Online Courses
Teachers who use the flipped class model can make the most of its strengths by:

  • Keeping the end goal in mind at every stage of the course design
  • Explaining the concept and benefits of the flipped class model to students at the outset to avoid confusion
  • Utilizing video from news sources or from other teachers, especially if they’re experts in the topic or if they’re recording a site visit relevant to the course material
  • Setting up social media sites such as Facebook or Google Groups pages to encourage students to meet and continue the class discussion after hours
  • Experimenting with different technologies to see which work best. Teachers may choose to “screencast,” or record the activity on their computer screen, accompanied by voiceover narration. This technique is useful for making video lectures or for giving feedback to students about their electronic assignment submissions over the Internet, suggests the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy
  • Flipping the teacher, suggests the New York Times. Have students create their own videos about the course topics and post them on a school blog.

Some proponents of flipped classes report that they inspire students to take ownership of their own education. They are no longer the passive recipients of a lecture, but rather active participants in learning. They’re encouraged to discuss problems and exercises with each other before coming to the teacher, which sparks lively student debates and encourages deeper involvement with the subject matter. If students have questions that are too hard for their peers, the teacher steps in and provides guidance, but then steps back again and allows the class to resume its brainstorming.

The result in many schools is a dramatic improvement in test scores. This model ensures that when students have questions about homework material, they are in a classroom where they can ask the teacher instead of their parents or roommates. It gives teachers more time to answer those student questions and to interact with them one-on-one.

Some college students have voiced criticism of the flipped class model, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Students say that they feel cheated, especially when they pay thousands of dollars for tuition only to find that sometimes their course lectures are available online for free. This model makes heavy use of the Internet and can make students feel isolated and robbed of a truly collegial experience with classroom peers. It has also been criticized for penalizing lower-income students who don’t have ready access to the Internet.

About the Author: Allie Gray Freeland is Editor-in-Chief of CollegeOnline.org. Connect with Allie on Twitter @educationonline or Facebook.com/CollegeOnline.org.