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How flipped classrooms make learning more productive and fun

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In a flipped classroom, instructional content is delivered outside of class, often in an interactive, e-learning environment. Students view course material in their own time to absorb key concepts and get prepared for class. Class time is then devoted to exploration and other activities traditionally considered to be homework.

Studies show that students experience significant learning gains with active learning, when compared to passive learning. This is backed up by a series of University of Queensland (UQ) case studies that demonstrate how flipping the classroom can help students develop higher cognitive skills.

Kevin Saide, training manager for the Centre for Training in Social Housing, started using this approach more than a year ago.

“We prepare learners by sending materials out beforehand – not wads of paper but short fact sheets, links to videos, case studies, etc – then use the classroom to engage and discuss,” says Saide.


Educators can be more hands-on

The change to a flipped classroom approach has caused a significant positive change to class productivity in Saide’s cohort.

With better-prepared students, Saide’s instructors have been able to be more interactive in class. Rather than going over set material, they can dive into more engaging activities, such as experiments and role play.

For Saide, role play, in particular, has been an effective method for triggering real responses and learning from students.

“When we do a role play, although it is hypothetical, we can get the learners to react to different scenarios by asking quick, short questions,” says Saide. “This elicits more real responses as to how they deal with situations because they have to bring into play their memories, knowledge, values, ethics, and morals.”

By tapping into their long-term memories, Saide’s students also utilise emotional intelligence and self-awareness in their answers.


Learning takes on a life of its own

Flipped classrooms promote active learning in students. Active learning helps students engage in discussion, presentation, and problem-solving, often in a cooperative environment. It’s more interactive than passive learning, which promotes absorption of content. As active learners, students can better explore, share, create, and interact with class content.

New learning technologies help break up content into manageable, bite-sized, rich-media segments that are easier to absorb and remember. Content is also delivered through a variety of mediums, including text, video, and audio.

For Saide, the interactive components in flipped e-learning, in particular, help keep everyone engaged. “Learners tend to be more interested when there is an interactive option in their e-learning module and trainers also tend to be more engaged,” says Saide.


Deeper learning occurs

With active e-learning, students engage in a deeper exploration of content.

Online homework paced at regular intervals, with a mix of reading, writing, tests, and assignments, helps students retain information for longer. Educators can also set up automated triggers at important junctures in content, to prompt further inquiry and deeper analysis.

Sam Mifsud, an academic tutor at Charles Darwin University (CDU), blends traditional learning with online e-learning to improve class focus and performance.

“Lectures and lecturing improved as the content remains on-focus and no questions get asked,” says Mifsud. “The interaction time is also more productive with deeper learning for the students and clearer goals for the teacher.”


Educators have more transparency

Educators can also continue to monitor student progress outside of class, and offer guidance in more personalised ways with new technologies.

RMIT University lecturer Christine Barker makes great use of this new level of interaction. Online group discussions, email communication, and survey results all provide rich avenues of data that help Barker adapt her teaching methods to what individuals may need at the time.

Flipped learning has also helped her, “evolve how the material is offered to the students and how the information is presented to them”.


Student scores go up

With longer exposure to content and group discussion, Barker has seen an increase in performance results. “Students that participate in the weekly discussions often achieve higher marks,” says Barker.

Mifsud’s experience also supports the view that flipped classrooms lead to increased performance. “Active learning produces better grades than passive learning,” says Mifsud.

Quizzes, writing assignments, and other online tasks help students actively prepare and contribute to final assessments and exams. Saide also sees the benefits of this approach on student results. His students utilise outside e-learning to contribute to their academic scores.

“We encourage learners to take short videos on their smartphones and upload these as part of their assessment,” says Mifsud. “This reduces the amount of time they need to write and they enjoy doing it.”


Everyone gets what they want

By flipping the classroom, students get more out of class time and learning.

Learners can get a better grasp of course material, engage more with peers, and stay one step ahead in class. Educators also get more time with students and can make their lecture more engaging, interactive, and fun.

The end result of this is happier students, more effective teachers, and better academic results.

And that’s a win-win for everyone!

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