Flipped learning – the inversion of the ‘traditional’ model whereby direct instruction takes place in face-to-face classroom sessions and questioning and problem-solving are usually set for homework – is rapidly gaining momentum in post-compulsory education and training. This is in part due to emerging evidence that shifting content delivery outside the classroom (e.g via video/audio/screencasts) and introducing questioning, peer discussion and interactivity in the group learning space – is leading to improved results, better retention and higher levels of student engagement. This week I went along to a one-day Flipping Project Conference organised by my old institution the University of Bath. Seventy-five people, mainly academics, attended a series of workshops, knowledge swap-shops and a keynote given by Dr. Julie Wintrup from the Centre for Innovation and Leadership in Health Sciences at the University of Southampton. Although ostensibly about flipping, the conference touched on a number of issues relating to technology-enhanced learning including student engagement, audience response systems (clickers) and online/blended learning.
In the morning I went along to the Technologies for Flipping workshop led by Giles Martin from the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office at Bath. As well as covering some of the tools and methods that can be used when flipping (Camtasia, Panopto, Present.me, Xerte Toolkits, Padlet etc.) there was some useful discussion of Eric Mazur’s concept of just-in-time teaching, the need to explore alternatives to video for delivering flipped content (web tours, peer annotated PDFs etc.) and the importance of a consistent experience for students in a flipped environment. One question that generated some lively debate in the room (as well as on Twitter) was the extent to which academics should be expected to create their own flipped content or pass this on to others e.g Learning Technologists. Some academics in the room felt they lacked the expertise and know-how to, for example, edit and share video. Someone pointed out, however, that Learning Technologists wouldn’t be expected to create lecture slide content for staff so it would be unreasonable to expect them to create flipped content for academics although other forms of support would be appropriate.
The afternoon kicked off with three parallel knowledge swap-shop sessions and I attended the one focused on Education. Dr. Polly McGuigan from Bath discussed how she flipped a core unit Introduction to Biomechanics in order to provide more support and problem-based learning to students who lacked strong Maths skills. Using the Panopto lecture capture software Polly created weekly narrated slides of between 5 and 25 minutes which was set in ‘homework’ time, along with supported reading. Students were then asked to complete a series of multi-choice quizzes via the Moodle VLE which were credit-bearing (1% each). The answers to the quiz questions then provided the basis for discussion and problem-solving during class time. Polly warned against the possibility of “flipping fatigue” setting in if attempts are made to flip everything on a unit – next year she will be picking and choosing what to flip based on what has worked well this year and this will involve reducing the amount of flipped content by about 50%.
Helen Boulton from Nottingham Trent’s School of Education followed Polly and talked about her School’s implementation of the SCALE-UP project to support a flipped approach, following a senior management visit to North Carolina State University. The project aims to “establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large-enrollment classes.” Initial data from the U.S has highlighted large gains in attainment, improved attendance, better problem-solving skills and higher levels of student engagement. At Nottingham Trent new classrooms were designed with round tables and laptops/tablets on each table to encourage peer learning. An Apple TV connected to a large screen enables students to easily share their work with the rest of the class and Helen noted that presentation skills particularly among less confident students improved markedly. On top of this Helen described how students like the fact that they get far more one-to-one support in a flipped approach and lecturers get to know individual student needs. Although there have been some issues with the technology set-up in the classroom (specifically some staff found the Apple Macs difficult to get to grips with) the gains in terms of higher levels of student engagement have been significant and staff are confident that this will be reflected in improved results at the end of the year.
The final session of the day was the Keynote given by Dr. Julie Wintrup from the University of Southampton, entitled Engaged Pedagogy: The radical potential of the classroom. Julie’s focus was very much on student engagement and how academics must be willing to think creatively in terms of what happens within the classroom (which is seen as a unique, special place). Julie has posted detailed notes from her talk so I won’t go into too much detail here. A couple of things that stood out for me from Julie’s talk were (a) more evidence of growing momentum behind the ‘Students as Change Agents/Producers’ agenda as a model for student engagement and (b) the idea that there is something inherently radical about flipped learning in that in theory it actively challenges the power relationships characteristic of a more traditional ‘didactic’ teacher/student model.
I found #BathFlip to be an enjoyable, well organised and thought-provoking event and liked the fact that it addressed wider themes of student engagement without losing sight of the potential of a flipped approach to teaching and learning. It was great to catch-up with old colleagues at Bath and I am looking forward to helping to spark more interest in flipped learning at Solent.