How to succeed in flipping your classroom

In-class activities are online and assigned as homework, freeing up class time for more individualized learning

It used to be that homework was done at home, and classes were devoted to lectures and discussions. But now, thanks to new tech solutions like podcasting and screencasting, university instructors are “flipping” their classroom. Traditional in-class activities are made available online and assigned as homework, freeing up class time for more individualized learning, group work and workshopping concepts.

“We’ve always known that students learn at different rates, but traditionally, it’s been very hard to adapt to this reality in a classroom,” says Kelly Walsh, CIO at the College of Westchester in White Plains, N.Y., and the founder and author of “A major benefit to flipping the classroom is that it allows instructors to make time in class to figure out what students are actually struggling with.”

More and more instructors are switching to the flipped classroom model, where students watch lectures on webcasts, learn the content at home and return to class ready to tackle more practical applications. It’s so popular, in fact, that Educause named the flipped classroom as one of the emerging trends most likely to reach full adoption within a year or less in its most recent Horizon Report for Higher Education. But Walsh, who also runs an online workshop that provides CIOs and instructors with practical tips to help flip their own classrooms, says that implementation still presents some real challenges—a topic he plans to address in his UBTech 2014 session, “Flipped Classroom Success Stories (and How to Make Yours Happen!).”

For a successful flip, all students must have consistent access to online resources, and instructors need to get creative to ensure students are doing the work before arriving to class. “If you are going to require that students consume content at home, you need to make sure everyone has access to bandwidth,” he says. Walsh also recommends instructors create an online forum or interactive activity that students must do out of class to ensure that students arrive prepared.

He emphasizes that the flipped classroom should not be viewed as a wholesale overhaul of traditional teaching, but rather as a tool to improve instruction. “Before flipping a classroom, I always recommend people get a good overview of their options and make a plan to assess their success,” he says. That’s exactly what he’s doing as CIO of the College of Westchester.

Last winter, the school offered grants for instructors interested in experimenting with a flipped model. Over the next year, those flipped classes will be assessed against conventional equivalents to compare the results. Ultimately, Walsh says that instructors should not feel pressured to flip their classrooms immediately. “It’s best to ease in,” he says.

Be sure to check out more on Kelly Walsh’s session Flipped Classroom Success Stories (and How to Make Yours Happen!).


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