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Rochester Institute of Technology Embraces the Flipped Classroom

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He flipped his class this past fall, recording short lectures with screen capture software so that he can annotate his presentations as he talks. “I used a webcam because it is important for the student to have a connection with the professor. I try to make it more personal,” Romero says.

Like Palanski, he also has his students complete a short quiz before coming to class, a common tactic with the flipped classroom method.

While his videos free up more time for activities in class, Romero says that the change is more transformative than that. In the videos, “I am explaining concepts and maybe I do a (mathematical) exercise,” like he used to do in lecture. Now, the flipped classroom “allows for me to be in the learning process, at the time when students are thinking about how to solve the problems.”

In the past, students’ first attempts at solving problems would happen when they were completing homework assignments, outside of class. The flipped classroom now “allows me to be there when they have a key question, when they start to fully understand (the concept).”

Results

With one semester of flipped classes under their belts, both Palanski and Romero are enthusiastic about the method, and they plan to use it again. “It energizes me,” Palanski says, “then it flows over into class.”

Romero says that student grades in the flipped class were “about the same” as grades in the previous, traditional class. “At the beginning it was a little disheartening for me,” he admits.

Then he realized that his flipped classroom section was also the first one in the newly adopted semester system, after the university transitioned from the shorter quarter system. In many other classes, this caused grades to go down slightly. On top of that, Romero says that none of the students in the flipped class were math majors, something that he would otherwise expect to depress grades slightly.

Thus, he views the grade stability as a positive. Plus, “I didn’t have any withdrawals,” he says.

Student Response

Romero acknowledges that “some students were really against this change,” because they concentrate on “the fact that they are paying for somebody to teach them something.” Romero is sympathetic to that notion. However, “The problem is they think teaching is just lecturing.”

Still, “More of the class got it, that the instructor is with them when they’re solving problems” in class, rather than going it alone at home. He received encouraging evaluations from students.

One student wrote, “The video tutorials allowed for class time to be much more efficiently used, and the quizzes due before class provided a good incentive to stay on schedule.”

Another wrote, “I liked the way that he made us watch lectures at home and then got to work on problems in class so that we had a chance to practice the material with him there.”

Palanski asked his students to provide anonymous feedback. “In general the response was pretty positive,” he says. “There is a small core of students who would prefer a traditional lecture, but 3 to 1 the response was positive” for the flipped method.

Future Flipping

For his next semester, Palanski will take more advantage of the flexibility it affords. “We’ll be working with a not-for-profit NGO that does water purification and sanitation training in developing countries. As a class we’ll be doing this hands-on case study,” he says. “I think this is where we’ll see the power of the flipped classroom. Because the bases will be covered online with the videos and the readings, the pressure is off for having to cover it in class. We can get to the good stuff.”

The “good stuff” is Palanski working closely with student teams in person. Also, “It’s a great time to have a phone conference with the CEO of that NGO.”

Hearty Recommendations

Palanski says he “definitely” would recommend the flipped classroom to other teachers.

“It takes some thought and preparation,” he notes. “My advice is to start small, take one chapter and do it one at a time.”

Besides freeing up class time, there’s another payoff to creating flipped classroom videos. “Provided your content doesn’t change too rapidly, you do this once and you don’t have to do it again for at least a year.”

Romero says he “absolutely” recommends the method, saying it’s more personal. “The teacher becomes more like a guide than a prophet,” he says. “That’s the way I think it should be.”

This article appears in the 2014 Streaming Media Sourcebook at "The Flipped Classroom."

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