Sunday, May 15, 2016

Monday May 9, 2016 -- The Flipped Classroom

prepared by Macarena Farcuh

Invited guest, Dr. Luca Comai spoke about his experience in using the flipped classroom concept in BIS 101, as he wanted to improve the fact that some concepts could not get across to students. He had observed that most of the students stay in the lower level of the pyramid of ‘Bloom’s taxonomy’, meaning they just ‘remember’; thus the goal now was to take them to the higher levels, aiming to make the students ‘evaluate and create’. 

The overall idea of the flipped classroom is based on making the students run their own learning process, by coming prepared to the class, and then facilitating class activities that reinforce the model. Among the advantages of the system we can include: deeper learning, more retained material, less failure and a clearer path to success. Regarding the disadvantages for the students we can highlight that they feel uncomfortable (mainly to have to learn before class and participate while in class); they feel that they are put under pressure continuously and face high workloads. From the point of view of the instructor, the disadvantages include: high amount of work involved, high administrative load, as well as risk of getting a lower evaluation/rating from students.

Dr. Comai was funded by UIIP (US$18K) in order to implement the flipped classroom system. In Fall 2015 he hired a Graduate student to help him implement the system using Canvas, and in Winter 2015 he was using the flipped system to teach two sections of 200 students of BIS 101 class.  He organized the class in modules: each module had their well-stated objectives as well as their sub-modules, and he reinforced the learning by having an online practice quiz (the students could take the quiz however many times they wanted and he provided the right answers: this made up what he called the activity points). Finally, at the end of the module they had a fixed-time exam (which created a lot of anxiety in the students): this made up what he called the exam points). He also implemented online discussion questions and by using Piazza instead of Canvas because it was simpler and allowed the instructor and TAs to respond in an efficient way to the students. Additionally, each module had resources including videos, textbooks assignments, podcasts from instructor, etc. (Ideally the videos had to be short to give the main message but not to lose the engagement of the student; they were edited in Camtasia). Overall, although this was a lot of work, it allowed establishing a ‘relation’ with the student. The final grade of the course was composed of 25% activity points and 75% exam points.

Regarding Canvas, he started to observe that there was a lag of time between when he edited something and when it effectively was received by the students, leading to a serious problem of information distribution.


His overall assessment of the flipped classroom model was that things that really worked well included the online quizzes, videos, screencasting, etc. Things that somewhat worked were class discussions. He emphasized the high workload that this system imposed to the instructor at the front end but acknowledged that with each new iteration of the class, the initial investment of time will ultimately pay off.

Lastly, Dr. Comai suggested the following website https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/teaching-guides/ for those who are interested in more.

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