‘Blended’ and ‘flipped’ sounds more like a request for a Sunday breakfast than a method for learning in a higher education institution. But the ‘flipped classroom’ is growing in importance as digitisation of our campuses takes hold and our learning experience is both ‘traditional’ (on campus) and digital (access from anywhere) – or ‘blended’ as it’s more commonly referred to.
I have to admit; the ‘flipped classroom’ is terminology I wasn’t familiar with until speaking with a US colleague recently. But having better understood it and its implications, I can see how the growth in technology used by students, smartphones and tablets most notably, is fuelling it.
The flipped classroom is defined as a "model of instruction whereby students watch recorded lectures for homework and complete their assignments, labs and tests in class." Essentially, the homework is done before class, often by watching videos on what we would traditionally have learnt in a lecture theatre, so that the bulk of discussion and learning is done in class afterwards Most importantly, the class is collaborative with student peers – there is more analysis - and teachers can better facilitate discussions that lead to better learning. Essentially the traditional model is flipped so that homework happens before class, not after it.
The obvious benefit of this is that the student has the opportunity to stop, reflect and review the lesson as often as they like without frantically taking notes, missing sections they didn’t hear properly or having the time to understand what they’re listening to. Students have already had the opportunity to preview and question material before it is presented more formally to them in class.
This is being driven by the adoption of smartphone and tablet use – making learning accessible from anywhere on any device at anytime. At least that’s the utopia universities are working towards. Technology is increasingly providing the ability for students to be able to prepare for learning by watching short lectures at home and considering questions or areas of discussion before actually reaching the classroom door. If they didn’t ‘get it’ the first time, they can re-watch the video and make better use of classroom sessions to drill down into the topic areas.
The flipped classroom also puts peer collaboration at the heart of learning. This allows students to enhance their skills and knowledge, but it also creates ‘communities’ online and improves student engagement, which is of benefit to the institution itself. Those students with greater engagement tend to succeed.
Of course, this still relies on one thing: a student that is motivated to do the work before turning up for class, and I’m not sure there’s a universal solution for that just yet.