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Flipped Classrooms – A new era of learning

Bryan Smith
February 10, 2020

There’s no rigidly set definition for a ‘flipped’ – or sometimes called an ‘inverted’ classroom since the term is still fresh and evolving. The flipped classroom model is essentially where students spend their time prior to class going over lectures, and their time in the classroom working through problems.

It’s way better because students all listen and learn at their own pace, and if they get stuck on a problem they don’t want to feel isolated. So most students prefer to take their lectures home with them digitally and do the actual problem-solving work in the classroom where the instructor can coach them.

It’s called ‘flipped’ because traditional classrooms, of course, have their lecture in class and assign homework as problem-solving exercises for students. The only reason why it has to be done this way is because of technological limitations, though. Historically, there was no convenient way to visually record classroom lectures – let alone what’s possible today.

What makes flipped classrooms better?

People gain insights through blended learning – meaning that they retain a concept better if they understand it from multiple angles. Inverted classrooms bring control of the lecture into the students’ hands.

Instead of students being distracted by scribbling down notes as fast as possible to keep up with one real-time traditional lecture that they have in class, they can take the lecture home with them and learn at their own pace, and the ‘notes’ that they take on the lecture are questions that they will ask the instructor the following day.

This class redesign allows students the flexibility they need in order to mostly learn in their own way with the support of a teacher. This results in a deeper, richer understanding of the subject matter for students.

But that’s not the only benefit to the classroom.

The inverted class model is much easier on the instructor, too. There’s far less repetition. The instructor can record one lecture once, annotate it, and keep that lecture for an indefinite period of time, or extend it to a limitless number of students.

Additionally, since the students are there in the class when going over exercises, there are more opportunities for the students to self-grade, efficiently saving many of the tedious hours spent going over each individual paper for the instructor. Consequently, students’ work gets more appreciated in flipped classes.

How do I get started with virtual classrooms?

Flipped classrooms are mainly possible because of technology. Any way you cut it there is going to be some recording going on, and then software involved in order to share that lecture to your students. But be careful, not all software is apt to do this.

There are specialty pieces of software that are available to instructors for just this purpose. The difference between these software providers and using something like YouTube is integration.

You’ve probably seen websites dedicated to online courses, where there are video lectures in a sequential order that are periodically dotted with exercise sessions. These configurations are similar to flipped classrooms but specific to exclusively online courses. The instructional approach here is different.

Inverted classrooms benefit greatly from software that manages attendance, collaboration, and watch-time for its student users. These tools specifically enable teachers to have a way of measuring the progress of each student, as opposed to something like just linking them YouTube videos and hoping for the best. The learning environment is more focused on student learning with a flipped learning approach.

Collaboration software exists that has feature sets built specifically for this application in mind. Samba Live is an example of such software put into practice. Compared to other virtual classroom software, it is very simple to use and allows greater customization to your specific needs.

Advantages and disadvantages of flipped classrooms

Flipped classrooms are excellent options, but in some cases, instructors try not to over-rely on them. Blended learning is best for the student experience, so occasionally traditional lectures during conventional class time can be preferable for some students.

Another potential drawback to flipped classrooms is the dependency on technology.

While the use of technology gets easier and more ubiquitous over time, it is possible that some students are less apt to use the internet at home, or are outright unable to for one reason or another. So while the course material can be comprehensive, it may not be able to actually get to every student under this model.

The general consensus though is that the benefits for flipped classrooms accelerate over time. Technology tends to improve and reach more people every day. Moving learning into the digital media space is a clear and obvious trend that teaching, in general, will necessarily have to adapt to. Young people are going to be more inclined to media-based learning in the future.

Recorded lecture content allows for excellent active learning and student engagement, too.

Consider a demonstration, or chemistry experiment, and the availability or costs associated with conducting that experiment multiple times a day. If that experiment or demonstration is recorded and to be replayed by each student in their own setting, you will definitely get the most bang for your buck if you adopt the inverted classroom model.

So while solely relying on this experimental learning model for teaching probably isn’t something that most instructors will wholly commit to right away, moving courses to the digital media space is a practical necessity over time. The right software can make that process more efficient.

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