Flipped Learning

Flipped or inverted learning involves introducing new concepts to students in “individual learning spaces”, that is, outside of the classroom. Traditionally this was facilitated through textbook readings though more recently online tools such as videos, presentations, slides, podcasts, transcripts, formative assessments, and brief learning activities have taken hold. Once students have achieved a basic understanding of the material, the classroom, or “group learning space” then becomes a dynamic, interactive learning environment dedicated to the exploration and application of concepts. There are obvious benefits to this approach including optimizing valuable face-to-face time between students and faculty. Classrooms become active learning environments where the instructor is the guide or mentor inspiring curiosity amongst students.

**The concept of a flipped classroom can be applied to a fully online teaching and learning context. The individual learning space exists outside of live class time. The group learning space is the live webinar-based class experience.**

There is a large body of research investigating the effectiveness of flipped learning, often focused on the design of active learning (i.e. in the group learning space). Though the concept of flipped learning is decades old and the body of research is vast, there is variability in the quality of these studies and much depends on the specific context of the investigation. Freeman, et al. (2014) conducted a meta-analysis of 225 existing studies of flipped learning effectiveness in STEM subjects. Their results concluded that students in traditional lecture-style courses were 1.5 times more likely to fail compared to those in active learning courses. Additionally, exam scores were measured to be 6% higher in active learning courses versus traditional ones.

Key Benefits of Flipped Learning #

  • Allows faculty to showcase their expertise in dynamic, responsive learning environments.
  • Propels a constructivist teaching and learning paradigm.
  • Encourages learner development of higher order thinking skills (e.g. analyze, evaluate, create) in a group setting.

Technology Available at Rotman (under normal circumstances) #

Individual Learning Space

Rotman’s AV department and LMS (Quercus) are well-equipped to create a variety of online learning vehicles:

  • Podcasts
  • Video
    • Screen and audio capture (voice-over)
    • Green screen
    • Light board
    • Interview
    • Limited on-location capability
  • Online quizzes
  • Simulations
  • Third-party app integrations

Group Learning Space #

Group learning happens in the classroom and often does not require sophisticated technology. The slide below lists several Active Learning activities organized on a continuum from simple to complex, most of which require no digital technology at all.

Group Learning Activities

Culture #

Perhaps more important than the various technologies available for content creation is our institutional attitude toward flipped learning. For this method to succeed we need to foster a culture that supports and encourages flipped teaching and learning.

Students #

Students are not accustomed to learning so extensively on their own and often find it frustrating to be asked to teach themselves concepts online. Students need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and should be motivated by both intrinsic (e.g. love of learning, interest in the topic, etc.), and extrinsic factors (e.g. grades tied to preparation, being able to speak intelligently on the topic in class, etc.) to ensure they are prepared for class. Students sometimes raise concerns about flipped learning. Several objections are outlined below alongside ways to address them.

Student Objection Response Concepts
“You’re not teaching the course!” · This objection is rooted in the traditional schooling experience.

· What is the role of an instructor? To effectively pass on knowledge and prepare learners for employment, or simply to lecture?

“I’m having to teach myself the concepts.” · Differentiate between basic and advanced learning objectives.

· Ask student(s) whether it’s possible to learn concepts on their own.

· Ask student(s) how they learn. Via curiosity and trial & error, or via lecture?

“I learn best when I’m lectured to.” · This is highly unlikely.

· There is an increased cognitive load to learn actively (in the individual space) versus passively listening to a lecture.

· Define learning goals: facts and simple tasks versus higher order thinking

“It takes too much time outside of class.” · Instructor needs to design with completion times in mind.

· Avoid “course-and-a-half syndrome.” Reduce classroom hours.

· Emphasize the importance of efficient study habits.

“I don’t have a way to ask questions before class.” · This is a very valid objection and needs to be addressed

· Self-teaching and self-regulation include seeking help.

· Instructors must offer varied opportunities to ask questions.

Faculty #

Similarly, faculty who have invested significant time and energy into creating online learning materials can be frustrated by students’ lack of preparedness when they get to class. There are at least three ways to address this phenomenon:

  1. Create guided online learning experiences. As mentioned above, students need an opportunity to ask questions when they are learning new concepts. A guided learning experience is one where students feel supported and safe to ask questions at all levels of complexity, including very basic ones. Without this support in place, students can feel lost and discouraged, quitting before completing their online work.
  2. Incorporate a graded component in the individual space. Students often need this type of extrinsic motivation to work through online material and ensure they’re prepared for class. Grading in this case should be very straightforward given the fact that students are learning concepts for the first time. Complete/incomplete or simple multiple-choice assessments are recommended.
  3. Ensure group learning (classroom) activities build upon the online experience. Well-prepared students do not need a classroom lecture that reiterates the same content covered online.

Opportunity for AB Testing #

Instructors of multi-section courses have an opportunity to AB test the flipped model, employing it in one section and keeping to traditional teaching methods the other(s).

References #

Freeman, S. et al. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (23) 8410-8415. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/111/23/8410.full.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Talbert, R. (2017). Flipped Learning: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.