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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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'Flipped' classroom takes lectures out of school (02/27/2013)
By Emily Buss
Imagine a classroom with less lecture time and more productive group discussion. Now, introduce pre-recorded sessions to watch between classes and the possibility of less homework. The latest method of teaching called the "flipped classroom model" is literally turning traditional eduction on its head.

To keep up with the rapidly growing world of technology, college professors across the country, including some at Winona State University (WSU), are experimenting with the flipped classroom method, and spending less time lecturing in the classroom and more time working with students on exercises and assignments. Teachers are introducing online discussion groups and lectures for participation and viewing by students at their convenience so that the class period may be used for homework.

“The biggest thing about flipped learning, I think, is my role as an instructor changes,” said Chad Kjorlien, faculty development coordinator for teaching, learning, and technology services at WSU. “When you enter a flipped classroom, [the professor is] there to talk but also to be an observer, an assessor. My role is going to be a much more active listener and to help students who are having trouble with the content.”

Designed in 2007 by two Woodland Park, Colo., high school teachers, the flipped classroom model introduces online lectures and frees class time for collaborative work. Teachers create several short videos detailing the week’s lecture. The videos give students the opportunity to pause and rewind, which allows them to master the material at their own pace.

Amy Hermodson, associate professor of communications studies at WSU, said reserving class for assignments allows the students to dig deeper into the material.

“It gives us, as professors, the flexibility within the classroom to do constant assessment of the students' skills,” Hermodson said. “[We] know which students are familiar with the material and then we can work with those who are maybe struggling to grasp a concept. You are going to see that even if students didn’t participate in the pre-session, they will still be able to contribute something to the class discussion.”

Students are able to participate in the in-depth classroom conversations whether or not they have engaged in the pre-sessions. Therefore, Hermodson explained, accountability is still a concern. Several ways Hermodson said professors could keep track of which students are actively participating online is by administering weekly, or even daily, quizzes. “We want to make sure that students come to class prepared," she said, and are taking responsibility for the pre-class content.

Another way professors are tracking which students are actively participating outside of class is with a software that allows them to see which students are clicking on posted links and actively participating in online discussions in the Desire to Learn, or D2L, module.

Since the inception of the flipped classroom, the number of learners using online educational videos has increased from 15 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2010. Online learning has become a "go to" resource for working parents wishing to further their education, younger students working a full-time job, schools transitioning to the implementation of hybrid courses, and others.

Still in the beginning stages in higher education, the flipped classroom model has been integrated into kindergarden through high school, and Kjorlien said it has proven to be a positive transition.

“There is such a wide range of opportunities that allow these students to work outside of class and get the necessary content,” Kjorlien said. “It has taken education to a whole new level. Taking assessments in class to correct what isn’t being understood closes loopholes and really focuses on helping students master the content.”

While both Kjorlien and Hermodson agreed that lecture still has its place and that the flipped method is not intended to occur every day, they said it is important to stay vigilant to the needs of the constantly changing, 21st century student.

“This is a very responsive way of teaching that allows us to constantly be in the process of finding out where students are at,” Hermodson said. “One thing to always be thinking about is finding more interesting activities to incorporate into class that engage all our students.” 


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