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Flipping the Online Classroom – One Professor’s Unique Approach

by Kelly Walsh on August 3, 2014


Technique for Flipping Online Course may Provide Glimpse into Online Learning’s Future

In my ongoing reading and research into flipped teaching and learning, I occasionally come across references to the concept of flipping online courses. Often, these references are in the form of a question – can it be done, and if so, how? Sometimes, they are stories about how teachers have done it. This is still a very new concept and only time will tell what types of effective practices arise around it.

I recently had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Professor Helaine W. Marshall from Long Island University Hudson. Along with her role as an Associate Professor of Education at the LIU Regional Campus located on the grounds of Purchase College in Westchester County, New York, Dr. Marshall also serves on the board of the Flipped Learning Network. In addition, working with colleague Andrea DeCapua, Ed.D, she developed the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm, a culturally responsive teaching model for struggling language learners, and authored a book about the model in 2013, “Making the Transition to Classroom Success”.

Dr. Marshall and I got together to chat about flipped teaching and learning, and I discovered that she has recently flipped two of her online courses. I thought her approach was unique and intriguing and should be shared.

HelaineMarshall-KWalsh-FlipCon14Dr. Marshall and I at FlipCon14

Dr. Marshall started flipping her on-campus classes back in the spring of 2012. She had decided to learn more about instructional uses of technology a few years prior, after having felt challenged to answer some questions about the topic in an interview, and she dove headlong into learning more about it. She soon came across the concept of flipped teaching, and as happens with so many educators, thought it really made sense. Before long, Marshall had flipped her first course and she has continued to use the approach, continuously looking for opportunities to refine and enhance it.

Flipping an Online Graduate Course

The successes she experienced with her flipped on-campus courses encouraged Dr. Marshall to try flipping an online course. She had some hard data showing that students had achieved better grades, and she knew she had been able to get into more challenging topics and deeper learning. She was already leveraging Adobe Connect and its rich digital environment to facilitate flipped teaching and learning for her on-campus classes, and wanted to use it to flip online versions of her Graduate TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses.

The Adobe Connect software provided an ideal platform for both the delivery of content and the synchronous sessions that Dr. Marshall incorporates in her flipped online delivery modalities. This strikes me as a particularly original but decidedly logical part of what it can mean to ‘flip’ an online course.

Most online course offerings are still predominantly asynchronous. Dr. Marshall chose to employ Adobe Connect to create a robust set of weekly synchronous working sessions, and a truly dynamic digital classroom. By having regular synchronous sessions in the Adobe Connect online classroom environment, the class became effectively and uniquely ‘flipped’, to my way of thinking.

Students were assigned lectures she had recorded as their out-of-class work, which is common in flipped on-campus classes. Marshall’s recorded lectures were often rather lengthy, in contrast with common recommendations, but it is important to remember that this is also a graduate course. In some cases, they were split into two parts and/or students chose to view them in two parts, as there was usually only one lecture per week.

During the synchronous meeting sessions, students would log in and complete a “sign in” activity, based on the material from the lecture, while also serving as a record of attendance. Within the Adobe Connect platform, students would break into groups, each working on activities in their own digital breakout rooms. Marshall can ‘roam’ for room to room and observe or participate. Each group also has its own online collaborative whiteboard, and its own chat functionality. Everyone returns to a main meeting room to work together afterwards.

How Well did it Work?

This was Dr. Marshall’s first attempt at flipping the online classroom, and she is quick to admit that it was a struggle in various respects and was not a total success. Some students were a bit resentful of the amount of time they had to devote, between the lengthy lectures they had to consume, and the time they had to devote to being present in the synchronous meetings. She is thinking about how to keep the best elements of this approach going forward, and has since flipped a course in each of the following two semesters and reports better results with shorter, fewer lectures and more accountability.

Dr. Marshall presented on her work at FlipCon14 in Mars, Pennsylvania in June, 2014.

Are we Seeing Elements of the Future of Online Learning in This Practice?

I think that increased use of synchronous elements is going to become more common as online learning continues to evolve and applicable technologies become more commonplace and affordable. Emulating elements of the live structure of an on-campus classroom can strengthen the engaging social aspect that is often challenging to replicate in distance learning formats reliant solely on course management systems.

Being able to collaborate online in groups is also a case of taking an element that can be very effective in the traditional classroom and replicating it in the digital space. I find this to also be a very forward-thinking idea and would not be at all surprised to see this sort of thing also become increasingly common in the online classrooms of tomorrow.

My thanks to Dr. Marshall for her time and for collaborating with me to share her work here on EmergingEdTech!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
7 Essential Techniques to Increase Engagement and Enhance Online Learning Outcomes
2014 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: Flipped Classroom Will See Widespread Adoption in Next 2 Years
7 Ways That Social Networking Tools Can Yield Social Learning in the Classroom



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded As an education and instructional technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, regularly running Flipped Class Workshops online. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Kelly also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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