Flipping the Classroom


It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase, “flipping the classroom.” You might have heard it has to do with students watching videos outside of class.

But, before you dismiss the concept as yet another teaching and technology fad, you should first consider that the ultimate goal of flipping has nothing to do with technology. 
As Derek Bruff puts it,
“I’m all for enhancing teaching with technology … but it’s not the technology that makes the flipped class work. What makes it work is the fact that it upends the “stand and deliver” lecture model of teaching.” (Flipping Out, April 30, 2012, http://derekbruff.org/?p=2108).

What is it?

“Flipping the classroom” ultimately has students first engaging with content outside of class, then digging deeper by assimilating and extending the information during the class period when the instructor can guide and support students’ higher order thinking skill development.

The key here is that students can initially learn content in a number of ways – reading, participating in an activity, or watching a video or lecture – outside of class. The instructor role becomes that of a facilitator of learning. He/she helps students identify and fill in gaps, correct misunderstanding, and clarify for transfer.

There are pros and cons to the model, and as with any other teaching modification that emphasizes active learning and student engagement during class time, the method takes additional work on the faculty member’s part and students may be resistant. 

The good news is that there are many available resources – from the links below, to consultations available at the Delphi Center, to your colleagues at UofL and across the world.

 For more information, check out these links:

Educause 7 Things to know about Flipping the Classroom covering the basics of flipping the classroom.

Jon Bergmann, one of the first educators to describe flipped learning as such, hosts many resources on his website and blog.

Curated site of flipped classroom articles with basic information, practical suggestions, and evidence-based articles from across the web.

Tell us what you think!

Would you consider flipping a class you teach?  Why or why not?
If you have already tried flipping a class or course, how did it work? What suggestions would you give to others who are interested in trying it?

23 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom

  1. We have started doing this in our Genetics and Molecular Medicine course for first year medical students. We have several of these sessions scheduled, but Steve Ellis did the first one last week and I think it went well. The class is fairly large, 160 students. He used a Tegrity pre-recording to present new material. Students were responsible for learning this material, but could do so on their own time. This is good for medical students who have very full schedules. Then Steve presented a clinical case study in scheduled class time and used the discussion to identify basic science elements that apply to the case, asking the “What would you do next” type of questions. Throughout the class there were embedded questions that students answered with I-clickers. Overall it allowed Steve to show students how basic elements of protein structure applied to decisions that would need to be made by a clinician. This is an application that might not be possible in a lecture only format.

  2. When I have tried flipping, I saw many cases of students who had clearly not done the pre-work being silent observers in the in-class activity. Sometimes this does not detract from the case study or problem solving activity. However, it frequently results in the students who have done the pre-work carrying the discussion.

    I recall one of Delphi’s invited speakers (may be two or three years ago) talking about flipping. He advocated a quick quiz at the start of class to see which students had actually studied completed the pre-work. Students not demonstrating acceptable comprehension were separated and not allowed to participate in the discussion and class exercises. Instead they could use the class time to study the pre-work and be better prepared for the next class.

    I would like to have some your thoughts on this methodology.

    • One thought that comes to mind is something that a graduate school faculty-member required in his hybrid/flipped course, and it seems that there could be a variation that could work in an undergraduate course. Before class each week, we were required, as part of our graded work, to start at least one new thread related to our reading and respond at least once (maybe twice?) to another student’s thread. I know it helped keep people on track with their reading, and we had some interesting pre-class and then in-class discussions. If it’s not an entirely flipped course, something like this could be paired with the particular lessons to help encourage the necessary pre-work. This may be manageable for a small course but not a large one. So perhaps a graded iClicker quiz at the start of the class, or a pre-class quiz in Blackboard, would provide incentive to learn the key points.

    • Tim, I too like the idea of the quiz at the beginning but after reading others posts further in this discussion I can also see how separating learners could cause other problems. I really don’t know a solution about what to do with learners that come to class prepared or not whether there is pre-work, assigned readings or whatever. The bottom line is that some people won’t do the work and others will. I have seen that with class activities there are some who are willing to let others take on the bulk of the work and others that have a need to be in charge and do the work.

      Something I do when grading team assignments (which to me would relate to the classroom part of the flip) is require all work and discussions to be done or posted in a group forum in an LMS. Then, I can determine the quality and quantity of each persons contribution and grade accordingly. I tell them in advance that generally everyone will receive the same grade on a team assignment but I reserve the right to grade differently if I see a disparity or am not able to determine someone’s level of contribution. This may seem a bit off topic but in thinking about the issue of preparedness, I find this works online and face-to-face with activities and may have value in a flipped classroom.

      I will be interested to read others comments too in case someone has found an approach that works. I try various approaches/techniques with in-class and out of class work after I get a feel for the learners and the class. That may sound weird but it seems to work much of the time, thanks.

  3. I have been reading some articles on this myself and REALLY want to put this into practice in my classes. I second Tim’s concerns about the lack of unpreparedness of students and like the suggestion of doing a “quick quiz” at the beginning of the class session. I think the challenge with the suggestion is how you implement the “quick quiz.” For my classes, I can force a quiz in one of the computer labs we use through Blackboard, but then that also takes up valuable time.

    I have to assume (which I really prefer not to do) that the planned activity for those that did prepare in advance could be part of the graded components in the course so there’s the carrot, but is the stick really the preparation? Would the students that did not prepare have to “sit in the corner quietly” while the rest of the class participates in the activity? I can see where some might take this as degrading, but I also understand the intention behind the isolation.

    The thing I could see happening is rather than be embarrassed about not being prepared, they just do not show up to class. I realize that the committed students will prepare for an activity. My question is then, how do you motivate the students that do not normally prepare without having to use a “stick?” Thoughts?

    • Dale,

      I find your last paragraph the most relevant and challenging for me— and I am equally baffled. When I’ve consciously tried to adjust the motivation carrot/stick for the less motivated students, the more motivated ones seem to either get bored or resentful. When I’ve gone more in the direction of the more motivated students, the less motivated ones see me as elitist and “hard”. Further my colleagues and I in psychology have found that no matter what we do, some students just don’t seem to come to class (or log in for DE); worse in the large classes, but hardly absent in the smaller ones. There are some days when I feel like a language instructor trying to teach German and Spanish simultaneously to two different groups of students who happen to be in the same room. This guarantees that in the large classes I teach I inevitably feel that I have “failed” some subgroup— the control I have is which group.

    • I’ve been trying this in one of my courses; assigning a reading prior to class and then using class time to build on the information presented in the text. The class has about 20 students so it’s fairly obvious who has done the reading and who hasn’t. There’s no way I could separate those who are prepared and those who aren’t; the room isn’t large enough and I would consider it to be degrading.

      The best approach I’ve found is to try to make the discussions as relevant and engaging as possible; relating the information in the text to real-world examples to inspire people to want to participate. Of course, that doesn’t happen most of the time but occasionally it does.

    • NIsha,

      I like your take on this issue, namely that “flipping” is as much (perhaps more) a conceptual issue as a technological one. Technology can certainly be helpful in taking another perspective (as described in Steve’s post), but there are other ways as well: role play, having a student debate one side of an argument and then the opposite, etc.

      I have a technical question (to all posters) RE use of smart phones/other digital devices to record interviews, scenes outside of class that are then shared with the class: is consent (of student and non-student) generally obtained in these situations? If so, how is this done? If not, what are the legal risks?


      • Hi Rich – I don’t know all of the legal issues at this point but that is something we’re researching. Quite frankly our lawyers don’t have a real handle on it either because all of this is moving at such an incredible rate that legislation is being dragged behind rather than leading. Unfortunately the proverbial horse has been let out of the barn before we all fully know the long-term ramifications. Technology is a wonderful tool on many fronts (and this is coming from someone who is not particularly fond of technology — I’d be happy with a radio and my “real” books and no mobile phone!) and certainly can better teaching, but unfortunately many try to use technology as a replacement for bad teaching instead of an enhancing tool. As you know, good teaching is good teaching – with or without technology. And bad teaching is bad teaching – with or without technology. The use of emerging technologies has a place but it can never replace effective and engaging teaching.

  4. I am sharing some blogs/articles that address this discussion thread. While I realize the TechSmith blog has a bent toward their products, I am willing to vouch for their products and their capabilities…hence, my subscription to their blogs.

    TechSmith’s Blog post “Flipping Over Teaching and Learning with Technology” http://bit.ly/WVwGaS

    BERRETT, D. (2012). How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 58(25), A16-A18.



  5. Although this is a bit out of my realm (I have taught many f2f classes but am not full-time faculty) the heart of the matter is what Rich said — motivation. Whether we flip the classroom or not, if a student comes unprepared or doesn’t engage in the classroom, the same result occurs. Perhaps one incentive would be to make the out-of-class assignments more engaging. For example, I just heard a prof from Abilene Christian University speak of how he uses mobile technology in his face-to-face course for social work. As one (of many) assignments, he has his students do a brief f2f interview with someone they know who may have been marginalized in some way — race, sex, sexual preference, etc. They record this on their smart phone and then bring it to class, play it, and then discussion ensues. Another way he uses technology isn’t quite the “Flipped” Classroom but what I would call the “Flipping” classroom (not “frickin” but flipping!). While the class is going on, he sends two of his students on a bus ride on one of the public transportation routes and while they’re riding, they’re either taking pictures of things or people they see, or tweet back what their experiences are, and as that is continuing, the class is back in the room discussing these experiences. So bottom-line, perhaps the answer lies in more engaging out-of-class assignments that will provide some additional motivation. I know it won’t work in all cases, but it might in some. Just a thought.

  6. I’ve tried to make my students accountable for their learning by having them the ‘pre-work’ (not flipping, but simply had them do ‘typical things ‘ like reading and assignments prior to the lecture), so I could spend more time on discussions and applications of knowledge in the real life. Some engaged students appreciated this approach, but others simply complained (on the course evaluations, rather than speaking up) saying “She didn’t teach anything.” I suppose if I’ve given them pre-recorded lectures, the response might have been different. What Steve wrote above reminded me that students like technology – smart phones, etc. I think I will change some of the out-of-class assignments so that they get to use their smart phones – I will simply ask them to find and record ‘concepts in action’ and discuss it in the class. Now, I think this will require quite bit of critical thinking. Now, Steve – can I create list of media (video clips and photos) sorted by category using Wiki, correct?

    • Hi Saori — here is Mike’s response to your question:

      The answer is yes, but the sorting will have to been done by the creators of the wiki(s) of course. Also, my eyes focused in on this: “I will simply ask them to find and record ‘concepts in action’ and discuss it in the class.” This sounds a lot like individual based findings, so I can see this project going in one of two ways:

      Method 1: Use a wiki, and as the instructor create pages for different types of categories. Imagine a course wiki on instructional design, and within the wiki, there is a page for using videos, one for using hands-on activities, another for using images, one for using simulations, and yet another for designing/performing a presentation, and so on… Then the instructor would have students post their individual findings within the Wiki in the appropriate category.

      Method 2: Since they are individual findings to be discussed within class, and IF categories are not important, but rather “concepts in action” a blog will work as well. It will be MUCH easier to see the latest postings as the latest entries will show up on top, making the most recent submissions the topic(s) of the week.

      Finally, the big question is whether or not students can add files via their phone. The short answer is yes. Up until last month, students could not only add files, but also post videos in a streaming format natively within Campus Pack. We are having issues with Blackboard blocking STREAMING video content (issues I’m sure you’ve heard from Ron and Linda) from campus pack, but alternatives abound. Students can upload the entire video file taken from their phone to the wikis/blogs. They can also upload to youtube, etc. and link from the blog/wiki in that way. Also, images are not only upload-able, but also able to be embedded within the content.

      Hope this helps and feel free to contact Mike directly at mahoma01@exchange.louisville.edu

  7. Wow… I seem to have sparked some interesting discussion. I appreciate your many comments. I suppose I should have mentioned the domain of my teaching. I am thinking of a 300-level engineering class (80 or 90 students) where the pre-work would consist of solving, or attempting to solve, some basic problems to learn a concept and then spend time in class building on those basics to formulate and solve more complex problems and interpreting the solutions. The goal being not just to memorize equations, but to understand the meaning and make inferences about real world problems. Again thanks for your comments.

  8. Hello everyone – Marie Brown and I invite you to attend a free webinar that we’re hosting in the Delphi Center Conference Room on Tuesday, 2/19 from Noon to 12:45 about flipping a classroom. The title is “From Flipped Classroom to Dual Enrollment: How ENMU Achieved Campus-Wide Capture in 12 Months.” The presenter will be Dr. Mary Fanelli Ayala, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Eastern New Mexico University. Here’s the info as we know it. No need to register, since we’ll be watching it together in the conference room. Come, bring your lunch, and enjoy what will hopefully be an interesting session:

    While Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) is the third largest school in the state, it covers more ground than any other university. The entire eastern part of the state, to be exact. In the dean’s quest to make education accessible to the region’s traditional, non-traditional and dual-enrollment students (high school students taking college courses),
    she had to think outside the traditional classroom experience.

    Armed with a Title V grant, ENMU devised a plan to support graduate programs and other key academic initiatives with Mediasite as the central educational technology to bring it all together. Join Mary Fanelli Ayala, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as she shares how they successfully met their ambitious timeline – from pilot to full-scale, campus-wide deployment in less than 12 months. She’ll outline the process of getting faculty onboard with some of the most ground-breaking initiatives in higher education including:
    • Facilitating a flipped instruction pilot Faculty are exploring pre-recording their lectures for students to watch prior to class, leaving class time dedicated to dynamic discussions and interactions
    • Creating hybrid classes Students in the classrooms and online interact simultaneously via live webcasts
    • Branching out into asynchronous distance learning
    • Helping high school students earn college credits New Mexico’s Dual Enrollment program allows high school students to take college classes, either on campuses or online, to earn high school and college credit.
    • Recording special events and guest speakers, providing professional development online, connecting alumni and more

  9. That presentation sounds interesting Steve. Sorry – I was out of the office last week (was not able to post). I think the closest I have come to flipping is during diversity discussions. In my online course there is an extra credit assignment to have a discussion about a diversity related film (I provide a list). I always have a pre-recorded film for each class session, so I don’t think that really counts as flipping. I think if I had students do a volunteer experience with research and then come to class and discuss that might be interesting.

  10. Hi Margaret – with advising I think it’d be cool to do something like this: have everyone just take a picture of something from their high school days that helped prepare them for college and then come to class prepared to show the picture and describe to the rest of the class why and how this helped them. Or have them all prepare a wordle about how they’re feeling about the college transition before coming to class and then display that during class with a brief oral description. Just some thoughts off the top of my head.

  11. I came across an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning related to this topic. While the article does not directly discuss the “flipped classroom” per se, it does touch on a very important topic near and dear to my heart. I come from the IT industry as a Director of Enterprise IT Infrastructure and I dealt with this issue in my last career position. It is easy for us all to talk about flipping the classroom and pushing work outside the classroom vis-à-vis online. In fact Mark Taylor talked about this in last year’s KY Innovations conference hosted by NKU. I support this notion, but temper that with the understanding the demographic of some of our students. Some students do not have broadband connectivity in the home. I know that may be hard to conceive given our current pace of technology. I encourage everyone to read the article and be thinking about the connectivity issues of y(our) students before insisting a large volume of work get done outside the classroom. Perhaps you can poll your students at the beginning of the semester to identify those that you might need to consider an alternative assignment.


  12. Pingback: Ask Before Class: Using Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) to Shape How and What You Teach | The Teaching Practice

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