More on classroom flipping in colleges

Flipping the classroom is in vogue.

The idea is to take the standard lecture and put it online or in some other format that a student can review on his or her own time — hence the term “flip.” Then students and instructors have classtime free to work on seminars, projects, homework or whatever. Or they can listen to a guest lecture.

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Last month, I reported the example of Philip Zelikow at the University of Virginia. His lectures in modern world history are now available to the world via a free online platform called Coursera. That means his U-Va. students in his flipped class at Charlottesville spend more time interacting with Zelikow and less time passively listening.

There are many examples of this phenomenon. Here are a couple more.

At the public Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, professor Deborah A. Mathews said the Social Work Department puts much of its lecture material online.

About two weeks before a semester begins, Mathews said, the online portion of the class goes live.

“We don’t want to use lecture time in class,” Mathews said. “We think it’s boring. Some students need to hear lectures multiple times, whereas other students need just one time. We post the lectures, and we often post readings materials, and then we use the classroom time to do more in-depth exploration of that material.”

Mathews dated the change in approach to about 2008.

Before then, she said, “We were very traditional — ‘chalk and talk.’” But faculty have learned, she said, that “is not an effective mode of teaching.”

At Stanford University, a lecturer in electrical engineering named Aneesh Nainani wrote a detailed analysis of an experiment last fall in flipping a class on nanomanufacturing.

“For each week I posted around 10 short screencast videos totaling 60-90 minutes of content on the class Web site (nano.class.stanford.edu) and YouTube...,” Nainani wrote.

“Through the course of the fall quarter I produced around 100 of these videos for the class, each ~10-15 minute long. Use of these videos freed up the classroom time, which we used to have interactive sessions and guest lectures from leading engineers in semiconductor startups, big companies and venture capital firms focused on nanomanufacturing/nanotech.

“Each of the guest lectures was deeply tied to the class content. We still used ~40% of the class time for lectures which supplemented these online videos. We also recorded and produced all the guest lectures and tried to make them available by Monday for the previous week. We chose this format as it best suited our class goals, one of which is to generate enthusiasm among students towards the field of nanomanufacturing and semiconductor technology.”

Nainani said the experiment was a success.

“I have been trying to promote the use of this blended/flip-classroom model to other colleagues in Stanford,” he wrote. “So far the most interest I have received is from the junior faculty, who are often more keen to get their hands dirty in exploring this new medium.”

Nainani added: “There used to be a time when professors had to just deliver lectures in class and crack a few jokes. But with the advent of these online teaching methods they have to become creative screencasters, sound good in front of a microphone. There is a new skillset required, and those who will quickly to adapt to it will prevail.”

 
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