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Seven Advantages of a Flipped Classroom (and three possible downsides).

A flipped classroom is a course in which what is usually done in the classroom is done at home and homework is done in class. Students watch videos about the theory and answer quizzes at home, and then in class we have time for active learning activities (experiments, applications, peer teaching, etc.)

Flipping my Principles of Macro class has been life changing. I used to be frustrated after many classes, having spent a lot of time on the theory and not nearly as much as I wanted on active learning activities and real world examples. With the flipped classroom, I know have plenty of time for active learning in class and the students love it. And there are many more advantages.


The Seven Advantages of the Flipped Classroom:


1. Students can learn at their own pace.

As Sal Khan explains in his famous TED talk, students sometimes prefer the video version to the real person. They can stop and start, rewind when they didn’t get something, go back as often as necessary without feeling bad. You can also slow down the pace of the video, or accelerate it if it is easy for you. With YouTube, you can also have the transcript, particularly important for our non-native speakers.


2. Students can learn where and when they want.

With mobile technologies, students have access to the content when and where they want, so that learning can fit into the otherwise busy schedules of working or parenting students. Videos should be less than 10 minutes (best for student attention), so they are perfect for a bus ride, or while exercising on the treadmill.


3. The presentations are not a one off event, but always available for review and later reference.

Once a professor has finished the lecture, that is the end. You cannot go back to check out a fact, or correct your notes. An online video is there for the long run, to check out a point when doing an application, to review for the exam, to go back to when you need to check out a concept for another class in the following year, or when you want to use it in the workplace.


4. The quizzes are a first recall exercise, proven to help with long term retention.

Recall is important for long-term retention and asking students to recall what they have heard, just after watching a video is a first step towards reinforcing memorisation.


5. The quizzes tell the teachers what the students didn’t get so s/he can focus on just the difficult parts, and the students who are struggling.

After looking at the quiz results, teachers can focus the following class on exactly the points students missed in the quiz. With such a focused approach, you do not lose time on concepts already well understood, and students listen as they know you are answering a question directly relevant to them.


6. MUCH more time for active learning in class when the teacher is there to help overcome difficulties.

Active learning is well documented to be the best way to learn, so we want as much time as possible with students being actively engaging with the material. After a few straightforward applications you can include a more difficult case, and you are there to help the students work their way through it.


7. More time for a wide variety of in-class activities: real world examples, application exercises, group work, presentations, discussions, etc. that lead to deeper and more authentic learning, but also transferable skills.

With more free time in class, you can know chose from a range of activities and make sure that the important transferable skills are also developed: critical thinking, creativity, group work, presentation skills, etc.


There are, of course, some downsides to the flipped classroom:

  1. The initial time investment in preparing the videos and quizzes is high, although not much higher than preparing new course material from scratch.

  2. The system breaks down if students don’t do the prep-work. It is very important to make it clear that the prep-work is not optional. If some students haven’t watched the videos or done the quizzes, avoid the temptation to go over the content in class. This would mean that next time no one would prepare as it would be a waste of time. Some professors give points for the quizzes, orthers may ask the student to go and watch the videos and answer the quizzes in another classroom.

  3. There can be technical issues if your students don’t have access to computers and good internet connections.

I started by choosing just some chapters I thought would work well in a flipped format. I chose classes for which the theory wasn’t too complex and for which I had some learning activities that required more time. I now try to flip as much as I can.


Do try it out and let me know what you think about it. In my next Blog, I will discuss the practical side of flipping the classroom.

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© 2018 by H. G. Carbonel