Flipping a Classroom in Online Education

Flip teaching (or flipping a classroom) is showing up in schools across the world, but unless you’re doing it, few understand what it actually is. A flipped classroom uses technology to leverage learning. In turn, the instructor creates an experience where they spend more time interacting with students, rather than lecturing to them. For example, the student may learn a topic via a video series, then work through problems in class with the instructor acting more as a one-on-one tutor. This flip increases interactions and puts the focus on students applying knowledge to problems (rather than memorizing stats).

This method has started to show results, as it appears to lessen the drop-out rate among students and increases the information they are able to learn. In a traditional college classroom setting, this switch may not be too difficult to achieve – for example, here is a great classroom flipping guide. However, what about online education, where students rarely meet face-to-face with their professor or other students?

As you read through the 6 points in the article above, perhaps online education isn’t that far off? Let’s walk through them:

#1. Use existing technology to ease faculty and students into a flipped mindset.
This change should be easy. Online education is leading the way in offering user-friendly classroom technology.

#2. Be up front with your expectations.
Every instructor can follow this step and show students that their class will act differently from the expected norm of higher education.

#3. Step aside and allow students to learn from each other.
Online education often offers chat rooms and interactive materials that allow students to move forward without an instructor walking them through the details.

#4. Assess students’ understanding of pre-class assignments to make the best use of the class time.
Our first problem truly shows up here. Online education doesn’t have a traditional “class time;” however, it does provide a standard schedule. So, if new materials are provided on Monday, “class time” can be on Wednesday and Thursday. The instructor can track student progress on materials and answer questions to keep them moving forward and submitting work by Friday.

#5. Set up a specific target for the flip.
This one is easy. Any instructor who is committed to it should be allowed to move forward with creating an online flipped classroom, so long as they will adjust to maximize its impact.

#6. Build assessments that complement the flipped model.
Again, this task is up to the instructor to create prior to launching their online flipped classroom. Ideas like Learning Catalytics are a great start.

It appears a flipped classroom isn’t that different compared to online education. In the article, a professor of physics at Harvard University, Eric Mazur, probably best states the reason to explore a flipped classroom. He says, “Learning is a two-step process. First, you must have some transfer of information; second, you must make sense of that information by connecting it to your own experiences and organizing the information in your brain.” He continues, “About 22 years ago, I realized that we professors were focusing on the easy part--the transfer of information--rather than on the harder part, on helping students make sense of that information.” As instructors, no matter if you’re in a traditional or an online setting, wouldn’t it be smart to look at step two of the learning process and try to implement it?


Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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