Advice for Embarking the Flipped Classroom

What is the Flipped Classroom?

This video describes the Flipped Classroom model in 30 seconds and was created for my INTE 5680, Producing Media for Learning course. The tools used to create this video were: Articulate Storyline Camtasia The song excerpt is from "Finally Moving," by Pretty Lights.

The Flipped Classroom is a growing trend in education. It’s a blended learning method that swaps the traditional model; teachers dispensing information in the classroom through lecture, and students processing the information at home through homework. Instead, the Flipped Classroom invites teachers to present their lectures online, commonly by video, and the students process the information during classroom activities. Meanwhile, the teacher can monitor, coordinate, and support students with fast help and reinforcement. The Flipped Classroom model offers teachers the opportunity to intervene quickly with struggling students, and provides students more chances to build collaborative skills through group work.



What are the Challenges of Flipping the Classroom?

Producing Videos

Flipping the classroom requires careful planning and a lot of preperation. It also may not be well received by your students. Before overhauling your entire curriculum, give your curriculum a sprinkling of the flipped model. Flip your classroom once a month, or once a unit. Evaluate how it’s received by your students, test their performance, and check if everything goes smoothly. If flipping was a success, try expanding it into other areas of your curriculum. Gradually build your flipped classroom rather than investing all your time renovating your whole curriculum, and then finding out it doesn’t suit you or your students.

At first, you will definitely spend extra time and effort planning, and producing your online videos. But eventually, your effort will be well worth it as your content can be re-used over-and-over for several years. You may need to invest in a camera and a microphone, so be prepared to spend some money. Moreover, if you’re a little hesitant on how you want to create the videos, you can start by using a screencast application, like Jing, to record PowerPoint presentations. Or you can use Microsoft Movie Maker. If you feel like investing in a more advanced video editing tool, Camtasia is one of the best.

Once your videos are complete, upload them to a YouTube account. If you’d rather not use YouTube, an alternative is Vimeo. Then ask you students to subscribe to your channel and watch the videos required for next class.

If availability is a problem, and you cannot find the time or resources to develop you own lecture videos, you can utilize videos provided by the Khan Academy, YouTube’s #Education series, TED Talks, CosmoLearning, or LearnersTV. Of course, finding the videos you need to fit your curriculum will still require time, but it does not necessitate as much time and effort as developing your own.

Verifying Students Watch the Videos

At first, the Flipped Classroom model seems to eliminate, or at least reduce, the pesky burden of homework for students. You might expect that because information processing is now occurring in the classroom, students will no longer procrastinate the at-home learning experience. Nevertheless, the same type of procrastination, or other interference, occurs for watching lectures online. How can you make sure your students are watching the videos?

Evidence of whether the students watched the videos will become evident in the classroom. If they did not, consequently they are unprepared for the day's activities. To incentivize students to watch the videos, you can start each class with a short quiz for each student. Chris O'Neal, Director of Faculty Development and Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA, adds that after you quiz the students individually, quiz the students in teams. Students who are behind or struggling with the content can be brought up-to-speed by other students in their teams.

You can also build online quizzes in Google Forms, or in survey tools, like Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo. Using online quizzes allows you to verify your students are watching the videos at home, and also saves classroom time for activities. But remember to ask for the students’ names in these online quizzes so you may track who is engaging with the materials and who is not.

If pressuring your students with quizzes isn’t your style, you can ask your students to come to class with an interesting fact or and interesting question about the videos. You can ask that they form an opinion about the content and discuss it in class. You can also save class time for activities again by setting up discussion boards on Google Groups or ProBoards where students can post their questions or opinions about the video’s material.

Finally, you can also ensure student interaction by publishing your videos in PlayPosit or Zaption. Both allow you to pause the video at a selected time and present pop-up questions. They also provide analytics of who watched the video, for how long, if they skipped any parts, and how they answered each of the pop-up questions.

Tips for Making Lecture Videos More Engaging

Keep‘Em Short

Aside from coercing your students to watch the videos with quizzes or annotation, there are more subtle ways to making your videos more engaging. Some of these methods are outlined in John Medina’s book Brain Rules, which uses neuroscience to support its claims. In his book, Medina says that people only have a ten-minute attention span. So, divide your lectures into 10-minute segments (or as little as six minutes according to microlearning theories). This may help prevent your students from glazing over, checking their Facebook or Instagram feeds, or gaming while your videos play.

Furthermore, a 2014 study by Philip J. Guo, Juho Kim, and Rob Rubin found that shorter lecture videos were more engaging in the MOOC environment. They found that around the videos’ six-minute marks, engagement dropped off considerably. Therefore, part of your video pre-production should be dedicated to planning and segmenting videos into shorter chunks. Best practice is to segment each video into about six minutes each, but do not let this guideline ruin the integrity of your lectures. Try to stop them at 10 minutes at most.

Tell a Story

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to engage an audience. Stories place the audience in new paradigms, fosters emotional relevance, enhances connectedness, and assists in building concepts. Furthermore, stories can include an element of mystery. Mystery sparks people’s natural curiosity and can compel your students to investigate.

Add Music

Information recall (or 'memory' to put it simply) can be boosted by as much as 75% when multiple senses are engaged. Videos require the visual and auditory senses; the text and images on screen, and the audio narration coming from the speakers. But one basic way of including more sensory engagement is by adding music! Whether in the intros and outros, or underlying the entire lecture, the right kind of music can inspire concentration, motivation, and creativity.  But don’t overdo it. Music can become distracting if it’s inappropriate for the context, if it’s too loud, or if it’s used too often.

Include Motion and Visual Flow

The 2014 study by Guo, Kim, and Rubin also examined how much more engaged audiences were between videos of the instructor standing in front of a whiteboard, the instructor's “talking head," PowerPoint presentations, and digital tablet drawings (popularized by the Khan Academy videos). Of these styles, the Khan-style videos were the most engaging. Based on this evidence, the authors of the study recommended motion and continuous visual flow in instructional lecture videos. Best practice would be to use a digital drawing device, if you can afford one. If not, you could film yourself drawing on paper or a whiteboard. If you are unable to do that, make sure your presentation does not turn visually stagnant. As said, include movement and flow. As an example, images and text can swoop in and out of the screen.

Speak Extemporaneously

Additionally, Guo, Kim, and Rubin recommend more ad-lib, unscripted, extemporaneous speaking. You do not have to script your lectures and read them out loud. Instead, prepare yourself to talk about the content, and speak as you would in front of your class. The study also found the slightly faster and enthusiastic speaking is more engaging. So, bring energy to your videos. Don't worry about slowing things down too much. If the students missed something you said, they can pause and rewind.

Use Good Design

Design is one of the most overlooked and underrated aspect of instruction. Somehow it takes a backseat to theory and methodology. But, please, please use good design! Don’t be reliant on text. Use quality images. Maintain the CARP design principles (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, Proximity). Be creative! Do not use fonts that are difficult to read. Make sure the text, images, and information you use are cohesive. Look into the psychology of colors and use them appropriately. Design and presentation has as much an effect on engagement as does the actual content.

More Insight about the Flipped Classroom

If you’d like some more insight about the Flipped Classroom model, I suggest you check out these videos:

Mitchell WollComment