Flipped Through Design

Using Instructional Design to “Flip” the Classroom

Flipping” the classroom has proven to be a positive force in higher education. Despite this success, a “flip” must undergo the process of design in order for a successful transition from the traditional classroom and it must be done for the right reason. A course should not be “flipped” because “flipped” is a buzzword right now.

In education new buzzwords and styles are constantly changing. Moving from one style to another in a course too often will only create a discombobulated course. A course should not be “flipped” because an educator is tired of lecturing in the classroom and wants to alleviate some of their duties. Although content delivery will happen outside of the classroom in a fully “flipped” model, the educator is still active in the classroom facilitating discussion and activities.

A course should be “flipped” because the course lends itself to a delivery where hands-on activities, discussion, and case studies can occur in the classroom and build upon the basic content that students could learn independently. If a course is at the point where face-to-face class periods are full of lecture and reciting of text-based language that students could read or watch outside of the classroom, it is time to “flip.” Today’s learners do not want to come to class to hear what they can learn on their own time. Today’s learners want to learn from the expertise of the educator and use this expertise to further their learning.

This may seem like a role reversal for many educators because in the traditional classroom educators dispense their expertise through lecture. In today’s world content is readily available for students outside of the classroom. The educator’s role and expertise have migrated to how they put their own persona on the content and allow the students to interact with this content. This interaction takes place through activity and movement in the classroom. The learner today has access to content anytime and anywhere. It is the educator’s role to make sure that they can interface with the material.

Not all educators and courses are ready to make the transition to a “flipped” model. A “flipped” model requires buy in from the instructor as well as the students, and requires careful design. If a course is ready to be “flipped,” ADDIE can be used to facilitate the design process.

By choosing to “flip” a classroom, the Analysis phase has already begun. To start the design process, the learning goals and objectives must be designed for the course. These goals and objectives will be the same as the goals and objectives designed for delivering the course in the traditional classroom.

Although the delivery format of the course may change, the goals for the learner should not necessarily be different. The goal of the change is to make the course as effective as possible in ensuring that the learner meets the objectives. Certainly, the goals and objectives for the course should be created if they have not been created in the past and should be reexamined to ensure current relativity or relevance if they already exist, but the underlying goals and objectives should not change for the course no matter the delivery format.

When constructing a performance objective it is best to look at what the learner should be able to do at the end of the course. If the course in question is an entry level economics course, then perhaps stating the underlying principles of economics will be an important objective. In order to meet this objective, students will have to first understand economics before they can understand the depth behind the term. Objectives should be worded with the student in mind, such as “At the end of the course, students should be able to…” In this way the student as well as the educator will be able to instantly know what the expectations are for the learner. In examining the goal for the course “stating the underlying principles of economics,” multiple levels of objectives may be required. For example, starting at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy and progressing through the levels, objectives to meet this overarching course goal could be:
At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Define economics.
  • Explain major factors that influence economics.
  • Demonstrate the underlying principles that influence economics.

In those objectives, the key words are the action words, “define, explain, and demonstrate.” These action words each correspond to a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and therefore a deeper level of understanding of the topic. Having a learner “define” a topic is the baseline for learning, while “demonstrating” a topic shows a much greater depth of knowledge. This is an entry level economics course, so perhaps application through “demonstration” is the highest objective for this course. However for a higher level course, an objective might reach the “Creating” stage of Bloom’s and an objective could resemble:

  • At the end of the course, students will be able to construct their own theories about the factors that influence economics in the modern world.

By “constructing” their own theories, students are bringing all of their knowledge together to accomplish this objective and are therefore demonstrating a complete mastery of the subject matter.

After the course objectives have been developed it is now time to move on to the Design phase of course development. The course format has already been chosen for this course. This course will be using a “Flipped Classroom” model of delivery. Since this has been determined, using backwards course design, the next step is to design course assessments. Because this course is using a “flipped” model, assessments in this course may be different from the traditional delivery model. A “flipped” model thrives on varied and multiple types of assessment.

“One of the most common fears surrounding “flipping” the classroom is the educator’s fear that students will not complete the content outside of the classroom and come to class unprepared. This can be solved by frequent low-stakes quizzing before students come to class. These assessments do not have to be long or strenuous, but they will ensure students come to class prepared. Many schools of higher education have some type of learning management system (LMS) in place, such as Desire2Learn or Blackboard, and these are the perfect places to put these low-stakes assessments. Each week before coming to class have students complete a brief five question multiple choice quiz online and ask questions directly related to the required content. Due to the fact that the quizzes are online in the LMS and all multiple choice questions they will be graded automatically and provide instant feedback for the student. After the initial setup the work for the educator is done. Cheating can be minimized by putting a time limit on these assessments so that students do not have time to look up answers. Beyond the time limit, having a question bank of ten questions for the five question assessment ensures that even if students try to collaborate they will end up with different questions. If these frequent low-stakes assessments have meaning for the student’s final grade, students will come to class prepared.

Beyond these frequent low stakes assessments, assessment will also occur in the classroom. Students can no longer sit passively in class. “Flipping” the classroom allows for more interaction in the classroom, which should be factored in as a part of student grades. This formative assessment will ensure student interaction in class. “Flipping” the classroom also opens the door for more innovative summative assessment. In the “flipped classroom” a formal midterm and final can still be given as the summative assessment, but also feasible are presentations and group case studies. Assessing students formatively during the course will guarantee student interaction throughout and ensure readiness for the summative assessments.

After the assessments have been designed, the next step of the Design phase is one of the most innovative parts of designing a “flipped” classroom: deciding where students will learn the material. The objectives for the course have been defined and the assessments have been created, but how will students reach these goals? In general, basic knowledge should be learned outside of the classroom and application should happen inside the classroom. Considering the four objectives for the economics course that were created as samples during the Analysis phase, the action words used for these objectives were “define, explain, demonstrate and construct.” The baseline content associated with “define” and “explain” can be given outside of the classroom and the higher level areas of application “demonstrate” and “construct” should happen in the classroom.

For content outside of the classroom it is possible to create recorded lecture models for students through programs like Camtasia Studio and to assign reading from the text for all of the content, but this would not be utilizing the numerous learning objects already created and available for student learning. Recorded lecture modules and readings from the text can certainly be a part of student learning, but there are many other resources that can be used to supplement this baseline. The Khan Academy offers thousands of free video lessons on numerous topics that can be linked to course content. Sophia Learning offers many custom lessons on a variety of topics with objectives, videos, and activities. Although sometimes forgotten as an educational resource, YouTube contains educational videos beyond count. One of the greatest assets of the “flipped” model is utilizing all of the educational resources already created and available and making them available to students. The three collections listed above are some of the most well-known, but learning objects are being created every day and textbook publishers have started to create content of their own that is linked to their publications. These resources can be invaluable in enhancing student learning.

In the classroom, students will come to class ready for application with the baseline knowledge acquired outside of the classroom through a variety of materials. Lecture based classes will not work in a “flipped” model. Having discussions with students, breaking students into small groups, examining case studies, hands-on activities, and presentations are all possible in class activities in the “flipped” model, but the options are limitless. Students have baseline knowledge when they come to class; it is the job of the educator in a “flipped” model to bring that knowledge to the next level of understanding for the student through experience and application.

Once all of the assessments have been created, it has been determined what objectives students will learn outside and inside the classroom, and the course has been mapped out into modules of learning, the Development phase begins. During the development phase all of the course materials will be created and gathered. If this is the first time an educator is teaching in a ”flipped” format this will mean more time will have to be taken in the Development phase to create learning models for students through the creation of educator video lectures, the collection of learning objects linked for students, and the creation of in-class activities to enhance student learning. Even if a course has been taught in a “flipped” design before, all content should be assessed to ensure continued validity.

In general, all content should be recreated every three to five years, especially recorded lecture models. Although some educators will argue that their content has not changed, students will notice. The examples used in the content may not be relevant to today’s students, the recording devices used were most likely not up to the recording standards of today, and the educator has aged and will appear differently in the videos versus in the classroom. Overall, when collecting and creating content for a “flipped” model remember that educational learning objects are being created every day and that these can be linked to the course.

After all of the content has been collected and the course has been completely mapped out, Implementation begins. This is when an educator and the students can come together and immerse in the learning experience. The most important aspect of this phase is communication. An educator can never communicate with their students enough in a “flipped” model. The educator must always ensure that students know what they are expected to accomplish, inside and outside of the classroom. These expectations should be communicated in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Outside of the classroom these communications can take place asynchronously through email or an LMS, but an educator should never assume that students know what they are expected to accomplish because they have the course syllabus.

When beginning each new phase of the course or learning module, make it clear to students what course objectives will be covered in this section, what content is required outside and inside of the classroom, and what assessments will take place and when. This information can be given orally in the classroom but should also be provided to students outside of the classroom through email, in the LMS, or ideally both. Students want to be sure they know exactly what they need to do to accomplish the objectives. It is the educator’s job to make sure there are no hindrances. This includes providing information about what needs to be done and where students can find help if needed. The Implementation phase is where educators and students can come together to create a memorable learning experience; increased communication can help make this a reality.

The Evaluation phase of ADDIE is happening throughout the course. Ideally in a “flipped” model students are being evaluated during the course through low-stakes frequent quizzing and through their participation in class. Another formative assessment technique that can be used throughout the course is student polling. Polling is a perfect way for students to voice their feedback about how they feel the course is going. Students will tell the educator if they need more communication or if the amount of content they are expected to cover is overwhelming. An educator should ask students how they are doing at least once during the course.

At the end of the course, the summative evaluation begins. This means assessing the student learning as well as the student experience. After the final exam is given, whether it is paper- or presentation-based, educators will have hard data available about student learning. Educators will be able to see what course objectives students mastered and where students did not meet the desired outcomes. The ultimate success of a course should be measured by whether students were able to reach the desired course objectives, but also the process in which the students reached the objectives. Therefore, beyond the exam, a final survey should be given. Students should be asked about their experience. Students may have fallen short on one course objective on the final exam, but through the surveys the educator can discern that the lesson and activity for that course objective was confusing for students. The combination of the summative exam and survey will provide the educator with the needed data to rethink and redesign parts of the course where students found issues.

A course structure and content should never be stagnant. Especially in a “flipped” classroom, learning is an active and engaging practice. For a course and the content to sit stagnant would counteract the design and philosophy of the “Flipped Classroom” as a whole. After the summative assessments are completed for the course and the course ends, ADDIE begins again. The educator should start back in the Analysis phase and ensure that the objectives are the same for the next course delivery. Even if they are, assessments, activities, content, and course structure can all change from course to course depending on new content or the new group of learners who will be taking the course. Constant revision and evolution can help create a course ready to adapt to the changing education environment.


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Flipped Through Design Copyright © by Jacob Bane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.