An average of 7200 students drop out of high school every day, and 1.3 million every year. Only 69% of students who start high school finish 4 years later (Phillips & Trainor, 2014). What do these statistics tell you as an educator? The traditional model of education is no longer working. Today’s higher education environments are populated by the Millennials born between 1982 and 2005. They represent the largest generation of our time with a population size of 100 million (Phillips & Trainor, 2014). This generation is also known as “tech savvy” and, they have never known a world without computers and the internet. To them these are not just tools but, integral parts of their lives.
Since they began entering the higher education in 2000, it is clear that this generation expects a different approach to learning. In fact, researchers agree that the Millennial students will change the landscape of higher education in permanent and irreversible ways. Many higher education institutions today are re thinking their traditional, lecture – type approach to education to address the needs and expectations of the Millennials (Phillips & Trainor, 2014). Nowadays, many educators are starting to adopted instructional approaches that are engaging and experiential based to keep things interesting for these learners.
Focus on "the learner"
Although there are many techniques that can be used to engage adult learners, the flipped classroom has become has become increasingly popular in today’s higher education landscape. The idea came into being in 2007, when two high school Chemistry teachers discovered a software that enabled them to record learning material like lectures, PowerPoints, etc. and post them online. Students who were absent for a particular class could access the material covered and, this saved time taken for teachers to reteach lessons (Tucker, 2012). Not only did the students who were absent appreciate this but, students who attend class on that particular day used the online material to reinforce classroom lessons.
What began as an approach to help students who missed class stay on top of their learning, turned into and innovative and transformative approach in teaching and learning. It is now used globally, at different levels of education and in a variety of subject areas. For example, some high schools in the USA use websites like the KhanAcademy.org as a part of curriculum where, students view lectures and video clips on a topic at home and, work on activities like math exercises in the classroom. The teacher can log on to her dashboard during class time and view information for the entire class. She is able to determine which students are doing well and, which students need help (The Economist, 2011).
The flipped – Classroom model allows for active learning during class time where instructors facilitates discussions, hands-on application, problem solving, games, and other engaging and collaborative activities (Phillips & Trainor, 2014). Learners come to class prepared to participate as, they have already viewed a video or lecture on the topic or read the learning material posted online on the college’s /university’s Learning Management System (LMS) or other web applications Google Doc, Drop box, etc. The focus of this model is on learning rather than teaching and this increases the interaction among learners and between the learner and instructor.
The Instructor's New Tool Box
So, how can educators implement this model in the classroom? Although this approach is criticized for being time consuming and at times challenging for instructors, I think that instructors have a variety of tools available at their disposable today to implement this model effectively (Tucker, 2012). For example, instructors can record their own lectures using a variety of user friendly tools like SlideShare, Pecha Kucha 20 x 20, etc. Also, there are many videos readily available like on a host of different topics on Youtube, KhanAcademy, etc.
Instructors can develop multiple choice online quizzes Socrative, Google Forms, etc. For example, instructors can also create small quizzes with Google forms to encourage student engagement, reinforce learning of important concepts or simply as a tool for feedback. The instructor can just create a form with a few multiple choice questions, submit the correct answers, input a simple formula into the spreadsheet and let the technology do the grading.
Instructors can also encourage students to post their thoughts on the learning material provided on the designated Learning Management System (LMS) discussion forum. If the instructor uses other tools like social media websites (provided students are willing to use Twitter, Facebook, etc.), they can post the topic for discussion on the class Facebook group or ask students to tweet about one important thing they learnt in 140 characters or, less. This way the Instructor can display the tweets or postings on the projector before the in class activity. The instructor can address any gaps in learning and incorporate interesting posts and tweets in the in class activities.
Instructors can use a variety of active learning techniques for their in class activities like mini debates, Think – Pair-Share, brainstorming, role playing, etc. These learning activities allow them to think critically, collaborate with other learners in the classroom, reflect on their learning on a personal level, and apply the concepts learnt.
Shifting responsibility to the Learner
Although a growing number of educator in higher education have begun using the flipped model in their courses, it requires careful preparation. The out of class and in class elements must be carefully integrated for students to understand the model and for them to be motivated to learn and prepare for class. This model may also require the instructor to develop new skills in terms of using new technology. However, this learning curve could be mitigated by entering the model slowly (Elazab & Alazab, 2015).
Also, some students may complain about the loss of face-to-face lectures if the assigned video lectures are available to everyone online (Elazab & Alazab, 2015). They may also skip classes if, they feel that most of the material was already covered on a topic through the resources posted by the instructor online. This defeats the purpose of the flipped classroom model.
The flipped model shifts the responsibility of learning on to the shoulders of the learners while giving them greater impetus to experiment (Elazab & Alazab, 2015). Activities are student – led, and communication among students can become the determining dynamic of a session devoted to learning through hands – on work. I would definitely consider using it in my class as a future instructor.
The short 10 – 15 minute tutorial videos & other online resources will give my learners the freedom to learn at their own pace (Elazab & Alazab, 2015). I would incorporate the use of social media tools in this model to keep my learners engaged inside and outside the classroom by encouraging students to participate in online discussion forums, post multiple choice quizzes to engage students on Facebook or Twitter, brainstorm using Google docs, etc.
Devoting the time in class to apply concepts learnt gives instructors an opportunity to detect any errors in thinking particularly that are widespread in a class. The in class activities will encourage social interaction among learners if, they are designed to appeal to different learning styles and offer opportunities for experiential learning. For example, in a course on Entrepreneurship the students can be divided into groups to create business plans, or run their own businesses on campus once a week throughout the length of the course. This allows students to apply concepts, develop new skills and fosters creativity.
Elazab, S., & Alazab, M. (2015). The Effectiveness of the Flipped Classroom in Higher Education. Fifth International Conference on e-Learning, (pp. 207 - 211).
Phillips, C. R., & Trainor, J. E. (2014). Millennial Students and the Flipped Classroom. Proceedings of ASBBC, 21, pp. 519 - 530. Las Vegas.
The Economist. (2011, September 17). Flipping the classroom. Retrieved from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/21529062
Tucker, B. (2012). The flipped classroom: online instruction at home frees class time for learning. Education Next, 12(1), 82.