6 Myths of the Flipped Classroom

Getting us all on the same page.

May 7, 2014

What percentage of your meetings is the word “flipped” mentioned? 

We seem to have a history of coming up with the most ridiculously bad words to describe what we are doing in higher education. MOOC, blended, hybrid, and now flipped.

In many of these discussions about flipped classrooms I hear the same complaints and the same concerns.  Perhaps if some of the myths around flipped classrooms could be dispelled we’d be able to have more productive conversations.

6 Myths About Flipped Classrooms:

Myth #1 - Proponents of the Flipped Classroom Methodology Dislike Lectures:

Most of us can point back to our own college experience, where some of the most inspiring and life changing courses were lecture courses. The last thing we should ever do is stop a brilliant lecturer from lecturing. 

What flipped classroom proponents recognize is that there is variation in the quality of lecture classes on our campuses. Some classes should be left alone, and some classes could benefit from moving from a pure lecture format to a teaching format that takes advantage of new techniques and technologies.

The choice to move from lecture to any other format should totally be up to the instructor. She is in the best position to know what is the most effective teaching method. If she wants to do some flipping then resources and help should be available to give her a a hand.

Myth #2 - Flipping Your Class Means Getting Rid of Lecturing:

Recording and sharing lecture content ahead of classes online does not mean that you will not be lecturing in your class.  Rather, you will be doing a different sort of lecturing.

Having the content covered in the online lecture gives you the flexibility to do different things in your classroom.

One method that I recommend is to always take the first 20 minutes of class and do a modified lecture.  This lecture might be to address the specific questions that you required each student to ask (in the discussion or blog area of your LMS) after reviewing your online lectures. Or you could tackle problems that were revealed from the low-stakes, computer graded online quizzing that followed your online lectures. Perhaps you could re-enforce key points, make connections with current events, or use that time to relate the material that you covered in the lecture to your own research.

The point is that you have the most attention from your students in that first 20 minutes of class. They will appreciate you lecturing during that time. Once those 20 minutes are up you can switch gears to move active and collaborative work. Or you can lead a classroom discussion. Or bring in a guest speaker. Or you could show some media.   

The last part of class should also be more of a lecture. Time where you synthesize what has been learned, and where you look ahead to the work that the students will be doing once the class time is over.

The beauty of this system is that you no longer need to worry about covering the material. The curriculum is covered in the online lecture. You are free to improvise, be more conversational, and a bit more relaxed in class.

Myth #3 - Flipping Your Class Will Mean That Students Will Stop Coming to Class:

If you do flipping right you should see your attendance increase. Freeing up time in class to do other things beyond lecturing means you now have time for your students to do more. These activities are only possible if students and instructors are together in the same place. They can consist of having students break into groups and create something that can be turned in.  

Having students produce something in class is infinitely easier now that everyone is carrying a laptop or an iPad to class. We have websites and apps that allow for rapid authoring and learning platforms that make it easy to submit this work.

One thing that I often recommend is to create opportunities for your students to present. If you have bought some time by recording your lectures you have more time for student group presentations and student feedback.

All of these activities can be visible, and they can all carry a class participation grade.   

Myth #4 - Flipping Your Class Will Require Lots of Technical Knowledge:

The good news is that rapid authoring platforms are now simple to use and cheap to buy. If your campus does not have a simple recording and publishing system like TechSmith’s Relay then you should ask for this technology to be made available.  

For a system like Relay all you need to do is speak over the content on your screen. This can be a PowerPoint, or you can narrate Web pages or as you work through any application.

All that you will need is a computer microphone. If you want to record video of yourself the built in webcam in your laptop will work just fine.

My strong recommendation is that you move rapid authoring systems like Relay out from tools that only instructors use and into the student toolkit. Every student should learn how to create compelling and concise voice over presentations. Creating assignments where students need to create and share voice-over presentations is a terrific way to diversify your assignments and allow your students to show-off their knowledge (as well as critique each other).

Myth #5 - Flipping Your Class Will Require Huge Amounts of Time:

This is one of those half-myths. Yes, it will require a big up-front investment of time to record your presentations and design the new in-class experiences. There is a learning and comfort curve to go down as you learn how to record your voice over presentations. This will take a significant time investment to create the online materials that will allow you to flip your class.

The good news, however, is that once you create the online materials they can be utilized again.  Don’t put a date on the materials. And don’t refer to a specific class. You will be amazed to the degree that recordings you make can be used for a range of classes that you teach. (At least that was my experience, but maybe I know less than you do).

Having good recordings available means that next time you teach the class you will have less prep work. Yes, you will always need to create new recordings and materials, but you will not be starting from scratch.

The other part of this story is that you may find that it is easier, and more fun, to teach your flipped class. Lecturing is an incredibly energy intense. If you can lecture less, or change your lectures to be more flexible and responsive to student questions and needs, you may find that you are less drained once the class is done.

Myth #6 - Students Will Not Like the Flipped Class, and Your Teaching Evaluations Will Suffer:

Unfortunately, this is not a myth.  Many students will dislike a flipped class methodology.  They are accustomed to the lecture format.  They have thrived in the lecture format.  If you flip your class you are asking them to work harder.  To spend more time before class preparing, and then to work hard during class completing the active learning exercises that you have designed.

We should be prepared for student push back.  How can we overcome student objections?  

First, we should accept that we may not be able to make all of our students happy - and this may be reflected in student course evaluations.  I’d argue that our job is not to make students happy but to provide them with the best learning environments and opportunities that we know how to create.  If moving to a flipped classroom model is conducive to better learning then it is our responsibility to go in this direction.  We need to protect our innovative faculty from worrying too much about student evaluations.  

We should also be taking time to talk with our students about the reasons for the teaching methods that we have chosen.  We should talk about the reasons to move to a flipped classroom model, and be willing to have an open and honest discussion about the pros and cons of this approach.  Get your students to talk about the positives and negatives of this method, but be clear that you will be making the determination of how the class will be constructed.   

What has been your experience with flipped classes?

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Joshua Kim

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