the hard work of flipped classrooms

'Flip!!' photo (c) 2005, Scott - license: is a lot of interest in the so-called flipped classroom, or as this recent Chronicle article calls it, the inverted classroom: “Resistance to the Inverted Classroom Can Show Up Anywhere.” Whatever you call it, though, the metaphor of turning the world upside down is clear, and a little frightening (or meaningless if some of my faculty friends are right).

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) new 7 Things… overview of the flipped classroom points out a few of the negatives, the most important for faculty being the hard work of redesigning the course and making sure that the classroom portion is sufficiently rigorous and valuable to student learning. If the classroom portion is not of value and the lectures are available on demand, why come to class? The question of “What do I do now if I’m not going to lecture?” is a real one. If you’re trying to flip a science class, for example, the obvious answer might seem to be, “You do lab work.” But, of course, you already have lab as a course supplement in its own time slot. So, do you do more lab work? Does the science course of the future merge its lectures and labs into one, where the lab component replaces the in-class portion of the course and has work directly related to online lecture content (I’ve heard sometimes it doesn’t). I don’t know.

I think my own face-to-face writing courses have always been more like labs, because from the start, I did not see the value in lecturing to a class that is supposed to be writing. My idea of lecturing is just short presentations of material or ideas that punctuate group and individual discussion and writing work. Even in my literature courses, students worked in groups to find answers to reading questions and presented them for class discussion. And for as long as I’ve worked at institutions with an LMS, I’ve supplemented my courses with online resources and discussions that prepared students for the classroom.

Now that I teach online, I’m wondering if there is such a thing as a flipped online course. I don’t think there is, because from what I see and read, one component must be synchronous. Although I love the student-centered nature of online courses, I occasionally long for just one face-to-face discussion where we have to look at each other and struggle with ideas on the spot. (If you read the Chronicle article above, you might see that I made that comment there, as well.) I’ll be keeping my eye out for that sort of flipped course.


Categories: course design, online learning, pedagogy, teaching

1 reply

  1. Yes. Many science teachers already merge lab and lecture. I am glad I found your blog. I think there are many students who will always need some form of the old fashion lecture. That “face-to-face” discussion is psychologically stimulating. People need to feel and touch other people. They also need a pat on the back every once in awhile. I imagine that this is what makes the difference for some students, no matter how old they are.


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