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The "Flipped Classroom": What it is, and How it Can Help You Excel

Apr 3, 2014 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

In most traditional classrooms, lectures are delivered in class and homework is done at home. In the “flipped classroom,” however, this is turned on its head: lectures are delivered online, and students perform the assignments in class.

A “flipped classroom” is a new trend in blended learning, typically found in traditional classrooms. Often students use mobile devices to view pre-recorded lectures outside of the classroom, and then come to class to apply what they’ve learned. For many students, the benefit of this is that they get help and assistance from both their peers and their professors during the hands-on phase of the learning process.

One of the benefits of a flipped classroom is that the students come to class with a baseline understanding of the topic, rather than coming in with no or little exposure. When they start the learning process, they’re a bit farther along; they have the opportunity to ask informed questions and get help based on their existing knowledge.

Some schools have their in-house professors record and upload lectures for students to watch online at home. Others, however, use materials from other sources, such as MOOC’s, or Massive Open Online Courses. Under this model, students can watch lectures that other colleges have made open and available for free, then come to class to get reinforcement for what they’ve already learned.

This includes an added benefit to the school—it’s less costly, and saves professors time, to use freely available lectures online rather than using class time to deliver lectures. This way, class time is free for more active learning scenarios, and professors have more time to devote to individual students’ needs.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks to the flipped classroom model. One is that not all students have access to mobile devices or the Internet at home. For those who do, it’s easy to access lectures—but for those who don’t, it may be necessary to make sure students can get to online class materials on school grounds—for instance, in a computer lab.

Another drawback is that flipped classrooms make learning more collaborative. Instead of working on homework and other assignments at home, students work on them in class—often in groups with other students. While some students thrive on group work, however, others learn better in a quiet, more isolated space. The flipped classroom model may work great under many circumstances, but it’s not right for everyone.

In addition, the flipped classroom model relies heavily on the student’s participation at home. If students don’t take the time to watch lectures, they will get very little out of the class. While many students are motivated and never have trouble finding time to do their homework, not everyone is as driven. For some students, the more structured traditional classroom environment is better at keeping them on track. 

In addition, flipped classrooms—unless they rely on outside information—rely on professors becoming adept at filming their own lectures. Performing a lecture in front of an audience is a different skill than performing one for a camera, and making a video lecture interesting is about more than just setting up a camera at the back of an empty lecture hall. Some professors may enjoy the creative challenge, but for others, the format doesn’t bring out their strongest skills.

Flipped classrooms aren’t perfect in all situations. But they do offer some innovative improvements on the typical classroom setup—and they have the potential to be helpful to students. Hopefully, as traditional academia catches up with new online learning expectations set by accredited online programs, both professors and schools will improve at integrating flipped learning into the classroom.



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