Flipped Classroom Insights and Tips from a College Biology Teacher

by Mary Fineday on May 29, 2013

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Experienced instructor offers her perspective on how the flip is helping her students and how to make it work.

Classroom flipping is an education technology strategy which involves students watching pre-recorded lectures and coming to class to complete work. The process encourages collaborative learning, more engagement in the classroom, and a class format which fosters active learning over passive material absorption. For high school and college teachers, this tech-enabled teaching method is changing the way they think about education and the way their students learn.

A Biology teacher flips the system

Wendy Riggs, a biology teacher at College of the Redwoods, has flipped her classes for the last two semesters, offering video lectures for human anatomy, human physiology and general biology. In her classes, students watch video lectures on their own time at home and take a quiz on the material online. Riggs has a chance to review their responses, get more info on the material they have questions on, and target activities to their requests and issues.

In class, students come ready to work and Riggs takes advantage of time without lecture, encouraging collaboration over individual study. “I try to have students work in groups as often as possible, so they are TALKING about the material, instead of just listening or taking notes,” she says. “The time in class is usually very fluid and flexible.” Her students, most of whom are pre-nursing, are motivated to master the content and thrilled to get a chance to prepare for class with video lectures they can watch and re-watch over the course of the semester.

Behind the scenes of a flipped classroom

While some teachers use videos from sites like SchoolTube, CrashCourse, Ted-Ed or Khan Academy, Riggs records her own lectures using Adobe Captivate, uploads the videos to YouTube, and posts them on her own website. Students can also access the PDF format of her lectures in a Dropbox folder, allowing easy online and offline viewing. “All students have different ways that they prefer to access the content, and I like giving them lots of options,” she says. Students can access lectures and content on computers, smartphones and tablets.

Positive student response to at-home lectures

In Riggs’ classes, students enjoy the chance to watch and re-watch the lecture material, absorbing the challenging concepts over the course of their study time at home. While most students respond positively to the flipped model, Riggs reports that there are some exceptions. “Some of my really bright students aren’t fond of the flip because the traditional lecture approach really worked for them,” she notes. The new format requires students to put in more time at home, which frustrates students who would prefer to absorb the lecture and take notes in class.

Riggs gets to the students on the fence by pointing out the time they should be spending to master any subject at the college level. “I sell it to them by highlighting the number of hours they are expected to invest in our classes, outside of class time — two to three hours on their own for every hour they spend in class,” she says. “I just tell them that I’m directing how they use some of that study time, and most of them see the logic.”

Riggs’ tips for perfect classroom flipping

Creating a flipped class means some start-up time and basic technical knowledge. Recording, editing, and uploading lectures takes Riggs three to four hours per lecture, though she points out that organizing and storing the lectures will make it simpler in future semesters. Class activities take more prep time, particularly if she wants to address student questions from the lecture quizzes she assigns. For future classes, Riggs plans to record lectures over the summer. “This will allow me to truly spend my time preparing to help students do stuff in class,” she explains. “I’m excited about having more time for this!”

Other tips for class flipping: “Make sure you have assessments in place that will help students motivate themselves to truly participate in the flip,” she says. “If you ask them to flip the content, but then fail to do meaningful activities in class, then the flip becomes pointless, and they will see that.” With videos, Riggs recommends teachers start small and have a clear plan for when you’ll make the time to create your content.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Dozens of Tips & Techniques for Creating High Quality Engaging Screencasts
Measured Results Demonstrate Enhanced Learning Outcomes in the Flipped Classroom
My Flipping Failure

 

About 

Mary Fineday writes about education and technology from Los Angeles, Calif. She is contributor to several websites, including OnlineSchools.com.

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