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Flipped Classroom Model Taking Off, Thanks to Online Video

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In the "flipped classroom," students view pre-recorded lectures before class so that classroom time can be dedicated to interactive learning. A new survey conducted by Sonic Foundry and the Center for Digital Education shows that adoption of this method is growing in higher education. At the same time 83% of faculty surveyed said they agree or strongly agree that their attitude towards teaching has changed positively after using a flipped classroom.

"The flipped classroom model is intended to increase educational quality and student retention," says Sean Brown, senior vice president of Sonic Foundry. The company cites statistics showing that college enrollments are down 2.3% this spring compared with last year, while the cost of higher education has nearly doubled since 2000.

Brown says the flipped classroom "is seen as a countermeasure to declining enrollment." Yet he observed that "there aren't a lot of large studies dedicated to measuring the efficacy or the attitudes about it. So we saw an opportunity to use our resources to catalyze a research project."

For this survey 309 senior level education officials—including full- and part-time faculty, adjuncts and instructional technologists—were polled on their use and opinion of the flipped classroom. More than half of respondents said they are using or plan to use this model. 57% of those currently employing it agreed that their efforts are "successful" or "extremely successful."

The ability to provide a better learning experience was the most cited reason to adopt the flipped classroom, with 84% saying it was a "significant" or "very significant" influence on the decision. The availability of the necessary technologies was important for 66% of respondents, while 61% said that positive results from initial trials of the model was a "significant" or "very significant" influence on adoption.

Survey respondents say the top advantages of the flipped classroom for faculty include allowing more classroom time for "activity/discussion/collaboration," the "ability to adjust instruction styles on a per-student basis," and "better student performance / grades."

Prof. Ralph Walsh has flipped his Introduction to Public Health Sciences class at Clemson University. Students viewing lectures ahead of time permits him to spend more time "making sense of the content" and responding to questions during class meetings.  Walsh uses analytics to see "if students are watching multiple times... I can see spikes (in a video) where some students are rewinding." He says it helps him identify concepts students may be struggling with that he can then address during class.

"Once I have the content prepared, I can slowly bring in more education for them" in the classroom, Walsh explains. "That may be practicing small group or critical thinking skills, then relating those to course material."  His course evaluations indicate that "the majority of students do like it, and the overwhelming response is that I should keep (doing) them."

When she was a high school senior University of Cincinnati undergraduate Gretchen Kellerstrass had the opportunity to take a college-level engineering course using the flipped model. Kellerstrass says she watched the university lecture at home, then attended a class section at her high school where they would discuss the video. Then "we would proceed with proceed with projects that would relate to it... like building a spaghetti bridge or a hydraulic robot."

While watching the course videos at home "was just a little bit of extra homework," she says "it was nice because you can replay it, rather than having to take notes live." Kellerstrass says she preferred spending class time working on projects and would like to take another flipped class.

“Based on both our research and actual use cases, the flipped classroom model is critical in shifting our educational approach from a passive one to an active one that better prepares college students for their careers ahead by engaging them in the material,” says Joe Morris, Director of Research and Analysis at the Center for Digital Education.

Yet there are challenges. 79% of faculty say that preparing for a flipped class takes more time than a traditional class.  60% of respondents also say the availability of professional development to support flipping the classroom is a significant or very significant challenge.

More information is available at the Sonic Foundry website.

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