What is a Flipped Classroom?

With the increasing use of technology in education, there has been a lot of buzz about “flipped classrooms”. What exactly is meant by this term?

The Traditional Classroom

In traditional classrooms, the instructor has often played the role of the “sage on the stage” in which they alone possess the required learning and deliver it in a mostly unidirectional, one-size-fits-all lecture format. Other terms for this teaching style are “chalk and talk” or “fill, drill, and spill”.

Following the lecture, students are challenged to complete assignments after having had only one chance to engage with the new material before it passed them by. They may have to jockey with other students for the instructor’s individual attention. They may also be expected to take assignments home to grapple with on their own, often without support. Traditional classrooms may be likened to forcing students who have not fully understood class material to “walk the plank”.

Traditional classrooms can be likened to forcing students to "walk the plank".

Traditional classrooms can be likened to forcing students to “walk the plank”.

The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom concept uses technology to take the traditional lecture and, well, flip it. Instruction is delivered online outside of class, usually the night before. Time in class is then spent doing “homework” on that instruction, with the instructor becoming the “guide on the side”.

laptop on a table

The key advantage of a flipped classroom is that it allows students to read, watch, or listen to lesson material at their own pace. The instructor posts pre-recorded lectures or other forms of content to an online platform that students can access, such as LEARN. Instructors can enrich the lesson with links to resources from other websites such as videos or text which support the learning material. It is also possible for students to collaborate with peers or their instructor throughout the learning process via online discussions or email.

Once students have become acquainted with the new material on their own, it is discussed in the classroom, with the instructor acting as a learning facilitator rather than a lecturer. This allows valuable class time to be spent clarifying understanding or developing higher-order thinking by delving deeper or exploring related topics. Peers are encouraged to work together to solve problems and clarify concepts.

Another advantage of the flipped classroom is that the instructor can spend more time helping individual students engage with material instead of delivering lectures. The approach also benefits students who have been absent from class or need to review material, since lessons are available online 24/7 either at home or on a classroom computer.

The flipped classroom

AJC1 / CC BY-SA 2.0

Dispelling Myths about the Flipped Classroom

There are a few common misconceptions about the flipped classroom.

  1. You need to be tech-savvy. Start small. The process of flipping can begin with something as simple as an email to your class with a link to an online resource. The TLTC also offers LEARN training and LEARN support to help you get started.
  2. No one has time to learn a new method. Flipping is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and can be implemented in gradual increments. Start small and build from there, or ask a colleague for help.
  3. The flipped classroom completely replaces old methods. The flipped classroom is not meant to replace traditional methods, but to supplement them where appropriate. Certain content-dense lessons may still require direct instruction.
  4. Assigning videos every night is just lazy teaching. Flipping is not about assigning videos every night. It is less of a front-load than a way to present a few main chunks of information to promote inquiry. A wiki or LEARN’s Discussion tool can be used for building community.
  5. Not all students have access to the Internet. True; however, workarounds exist such as assigning these pupils to a classroom computer or a peer who has seen the material. The time freed up by flipping also allows instructors to spend more time with struggling students. Paper is still an option as well.
  6. Students have always been assigned pre-reading. Yes, but today’s students are spending a lot of time online. Why not take advantage of the free, rich media and connected learning opportunities the Internet provides?

Flipping Your Classroom: Practical Examples

There is no one-size-fits all model of blended learning or a playbook to follow that will produce perfect results. Instead, some real-world examples of the flipped classroom in action can help provide inspiration.

  • Use screencasting software such as Camtasia or Screen-Cast-O-Matic to make your own narrated recordings.
  • Try having a video conference with your students via a service such as Skype. Out-of-school interaction can increase students’ sense of engagement dramatically.
  • Have a quick follow-up assessment ready for the beginning of class. This could be just one question delivered verbally, or a LEARN self-assessment.
  • Ensure access to a computer lab on campus for students who do not have internet access or were unable to preview the assigned material for other reasons.
  • Remind students that they should revisit material as many times as necessary to achieve understanding.
  • Make a short LEARN quiz or assign a note-taking sheet for students to complete while they watch or listen to a lesson. You could also try incorporating a LEARN Discussion to communicate as a class. This will help to guide their attention as well as hold them accountable for their learning.
  • Make DVDs of video for student without internet access.
  • Remember that students who simply do not want to try will still exist; it is those who do want to succeed who will benefit from exposure to online learning.

One thing to remember is that if it shouldn’t be in lecture form, it probably shouldn’t be in video form. Anything that would make an engaging in-class activity should be left for a face-to-face lesson. The flipped classroom is about actively engaging your class.

Technology does not replace the teacher, but it can do some of the heavy lifting.

More Information on the Flipped Classroom: