Faculty Panel Reflection: Flipped Classrooms

We had a great faculty panel last month on flipping the classroom! Professors Steve Luck and Jesus DeLoera shared their experiences with flipping classrooms at UC Davis.

Before I go any further, it seems worthwhile to define a few terms:

  • Face-to-face course: Students come to a physical classroom for a set amount of hours per week that correlate to the number of units students earn (4 units = 4 hours). If the homework or in-class activities are supported by educational technology, these courses can be called “blended.”
  • Hybrid course: Students come to a physical classroom less often than students in a corresponding face-to-face course; in the hybrid writing course I’m currently teaching, for example, students come to class for two hours per week (instead of four) and the other two hours are “made up” with online activities. Attempting to directly substitute in-class hours with online activities is complicated, though, which is why many online education advocates argue for competency-based education rather than credit hours.
  • Online course: Students do not come to a physical classroom (though they may meet with their instructor or classmates virtually (i.e., video chat)(.

When we talk about “flipped classrooms,” we mean face-to-face or hybrid courses where students learn about course content by reading or watching materials at home, which frees up in-class time for more discussion and collaborative or student-centered activities.

Steve Luck: Flipping PSC 100

Steve LuckAt the faculty panel, Steve Luck, professor of cognitive psychology, shared his experience with developing and teaching a flipped version of PSY 101. Traditionally, the class has two 2-hour lectures per week with some discussion, but as enrollments crept higher over the years, the opportunities for discussion dwindled. In an attempt to reverse this decline, Luck began to experiment with educational technology. He started two years ago by converting one unit’s worth of lectures into videos; with support from the Provost Hybrid Course Award, all of the lectures are now posted to YouTube and he’s transformed the 200-student lecture course into eight 25-student discussion sections (each section meets for an hour a week with either Luck or the TA).

Luck offered several helpful best practices based on his experiences:

  • Videos should be no more than four minutes, and should be interactive. Luck recommends a short quiz after every video; forcing students to recall what they just watched helps the information stick.
  • Lectures tend to be shorter in video format because you can speak more efficiently and more quickly; students can always pause or replay the video.
  • Stand when you are recording your lectures; it makes you more animated and you project your voice better.
  • Leading a discussion section is very different than giving a lecture! Be prepared to learn a new skill.
  • Redesigning a course is time consuming. “Don’t try to completely revamp the course all at once,” Luck advised. “It’s a very different approach to how you teach face-to-face and it’s going to take some work.”

For more information, you can look through Luck’s presentation slides.

Jesus DeLoera : Flipping MATH 114

jesusAfter Luck, Jesus DeLoera  (professor of mathematics) gave an inspirational talk about active learning, which is the true value of flipped classrooms. As DeLoera  put it, “People learn by doing. That’s the important part of the flipped classroom. If technology supports this, then that’s great, but the technology isn’t required.”

DeLoera ’s interest in active learning began with the Moore Method, an old inquiry-based mathematics pedagogy. He has been applying  a variation of this in his 350-student lecture linear algebra course. At home, his students watch MIT videos that complement their textbook and take quizzes in SmartSite. Then, in class, DeLoera  puts a problem on the board and divides the students into teams who compete to see who can solve the problem first.

The benefit of this approach, DeLoera  explained, is that the students have to take more responsibility for their learning at home, and then in-class sessions are much more active. However, the physical space of the classroom is problematic (the students are in fixed chairs that make collaboration difficult), and the MIT videos are not ideal (they are each an hour long so DeLoera  has to direct students to watch particular segments). Furthermore, DeLoera  did not have enough TA support to run discussion sections, which would have increased the value considerably.

These sorts of challenges are important to acknowledge, especially as more instructors look to educational technology to create better learning experiences for their students. If you have best practices or challenges to share, please do so by leaving a comment or filling out the Share Your Story form.

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