To Flip or Not To Flip?

My goal as a teacher is to help students learn better and become independent learners. Flipped classrooms are gaining popularity and many educators across the country seem to be experimenting with it.

A 'Flipped' classroom is a teaching approach in which students watch video presentation before coming to the class. In this model, most of the content is delivered to students outside the class and class time is used for solving problems and/or discussions. Many educators, rightfully, feel that there is really nothing new in flipped classroom. It is like a reading assignment that students do at home and come to class for discussion.

I, however, like the concept of flipped classroom because it combines a traditional face-to-face model and the use of technology. In flipped classrooms, students are responsible for reviewing the content, which means they spend more time outside the classroom and come prepared to class. More time studying outside the class is certainly better and therefore the class time is spent more productively solving problems and discussing applications. Overall, students take more responsibility and are engaged and active in their classroom.

Unfortunately, this is all in theory. This works only IF students review the material before the class. This will happen only if the content is interesting. Posting a boring lecture that puts you to sleep is not going help. Since this is all happening outside the classroom student will promptly disengage and do something else more interesting. There is nothing you can do if students come unprepared to class.

So, as an educator, how can you make flipped classroom a success?

  • Believe it or not, even though students are more responsible, flipped classroom will require lot more work from you. If you are trying to reduce your workload, this is not for you. It is easier to give a lecture and get it over with.

  • You will need good content. This is the hardest part. Finding engaging and appropriate content for your class is not easy. Many MOOCs such as Coursera is a good place to start. It is better if you can create your own content because it is easier for you to relate to it.
  • Before flipping your course, first ask yourself: What are you going to do during your face-to-face time interaction? If you are going to continue lecturing, then you should be better off going back to your old fashioned lecture. It is ok to recap what the students reviewed. It is ok to clarify if you are dealing with difficult to understand concepts. It is ok to step back and even revisit previous material. However, if this takes a bulk of your time, then your flipped classroom is flopping.
  • In the flipped model, face-to-face session must be productive and engaging. It can be activity based, experiments or problem solving.
  • Finally, you don't have to flip an entire course all at once. You can do it gradually. Just flip one or two sessions focusing on some important concepts. See how it works for you and then add more flipped session. Keep in mind, it may take several iterations before you to get comfortable with flipped model so be patient - it's worth it!