In the world of higher education there is a trend towards a flipped classroom. In this educational model, prerecorded lectures are viewed or heard before coming to class. The actual class time is spent on group projects and interaction with the professor. The learning and testing takes place outside of the classroom, and the lecture hall or lab is used for reflection, discussion, and hands on learning. I want to explore how we use a flipped learning style in AIM and where I think the concept is headed. Is it a fad or is it here to stay?
Because the AIM program is online, we have no physical space. We prepare lectures and readings ahead of time and those are available to students at their convenience. That part is similar to an onsite flipped classroom environment. We differ from a traditional flipped classroom because our discussions and meetings are also online, enabling us to maintain our “anytime, anywhere” learning model that fits the schedules of working adults who are distributed around the world. The discussion topics are designed to be relevant to the lectures of the week and useful to students in their present careers. In courses I teach, we often end up discussing details of particular tools that are effective to each student or management techniques that students might be struggling with. Because my students are all mid-career professionals, they share experiences that can help other students; the students get not only my expertise and experience but also that of other professionals. Being able to apply this wisdom could be worth the price of the course in saved consultant fees. Of course, we sometimes veer off topic a bit, like the time we had a lively discussion on who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman. There must have been a Hollywood executive in that class, as evidenced by the new film that asks the same question.
New Classroom of the Future
Unlike AIM, many classes still meet in a traditional classroom or large lecture hall. If flipped learning becomes standard, how would you design the next generation classroom? No longer will you have all 20 or 100 or 500 students focused on one lecturer. You need a space where teams can work and individuals and groups can move about from one station to another. With the lecture they have already viewed in mind, the students are ready to discuss the topic and debate and explore available options, whether they are in earth science or information technology. The classroom can become a rich environment for exploration and testing of new ideas. The instructor now becomes a facilitator instead of the lone knowledge keeper. Large theater style lecture halls are not conducive to this new flexible learning so we need to start rethinking the layout and flow.
One of the great things about flipped learning is that it gives a student time to process and ponder new knowledge and consider how they can personally apply that information. They can then test their thoughts with others who have come up with similar—or wildly diverse—ideas. Together they learn and grow as a team and as a class.
Let me know your thoughts on the flipped classroom. Is it here to stay or is it just a fad?
Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.