MU joins trend in higher education for ‘flipped classroom’ model

A new trend is emerging in higher education to “flip” the traditional classroom structure, and Marquette is not far behind.

A flipped classroom is a structure where the professor makes videos for their lecture introducing new concepts and assigns these videos as homework. This frees up class time for instructors to work directly with students on projects, exercises or problem sets – things that students usually do at home.

Essentially, it means instructors can focus on the practical side of learning in class.

According to a 2013 survey from the Center for Digital Education and Sonic Foundry, flipped classrooms will be implemented by half of university faculty throughout the country within the next 12 months. Though this new method of classroom only became popular in the last few years, the Flipped Learning Network has grown to more than 16,000 members  – including some from Marquette.

At Marquette, Anthony Pennington-Cross, who is a professor of finance in the College of Business Administration,  implemented the flipped classroom style. Mark Eppli, interim dean of the College of Business Administration, said Pennington-Cross presented his experience with the new model to the Dean’s Council of Excellence earlier in the month.

“Given Pennington-Cross’ positive experience with in-class student engagement from the flipped classroom, I expect that we will expand the offer of such courses in the future,” Eppli said.

William Henk, dean of the College of Education, said the approach is not currently implemented in the College of Education and he has no plans to adopt it on any formal scale.

Henk said he does, however, see the value when it is used thoughtfully and selectively.

“Its primary advantage would appear to be in increasing students’ time on task with the content by essentially demanding attention to it in lecture from beforehand and then spending class time in ways other than lecture to expand and deepen learning potentially,” he said.

The Center for Digital Education and Sonic Foundry reported in its survey that 57 percent of faculty who have already flipped a class said it was “extremely successful.”

Some of the top reasons the survey lays out as reasons instructors implement the method include the ability to provide a better learning experience and greater availability of technologies that support the model. The greatest advantage that they address is that a flipped classroom has more activity, discussion and collaboration in class. This structure allows the instructor to adjust for specific students and improve student’s performance or grades.

Although there are many advantages to this method, Henk said the disadvantages of it make the method seem too easily imbalanced.

“Presumably, it would also allow students to replay parts of the lecture that are not understood and repeatedly so if necessary,” he said. “Even then, there is no guarantee of comprehension at that point, because videotaped lectures allow no real-time interaction with instructors either to ask for clarification or make comments.”

In addition, he said many educators would argue this type of learning would be more passive, as students would only be able to receive  information delivered by a “talking head” from an online video.

“In some circumstances, I could see how some full courses might be taught this way; although, the approach is more likely to be used on a periodic basis I would imagine as least in the new future,” he said.

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