2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 3: Flipping the Classroom

A Report from the Trenches

We’re continuing with our reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences. Next up is “Flipping the Classroom: How to Do It Conceptually and Technologically” presented by Michael Falk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering  and Brian Cole, Senior Information Technology Specialist, Center for Educational Resources.

Please note that links to examples and explanations in the text below were added by CER staff and were not included in the breakout session presentation.

Instructor with students at computers

For the past several years Professor Michael Falk has “flipped” his course EN.510.202 –Computation and Programming for Materials Scientists and Engineers.  [See the recent Innovative Instructor post on Flipping Your Class.] The purpose of Falk’s class is to teach algorithm development and programming in the context of materials science and engineering.  The class size ranges between 20 and 30 students, and Professor Falk has one Teaching Assistant for the class.

Professor Falk outlined the logistics for the students taking the course. They are required to watch a video of a lecture-style presentation he has posted on his Blackboard course site, and then take a quiz on the content presented in the podcast, before coming to class. The quizzes ensure that the students will watch the lecture and are held accountable for the information presented. Once in class, Falk has the students engage in an interactive experience, such as writing a mini-program, based on the material from the presentation. He noted that he has not found making the podcasts difficult, but creating in-class active learning experiences for his students has been more challenging. He spends a great deal of time developing in-class exercises that will build cumulatively. He also wants students to be able to get enough from the classroom activity to continue work on their own.

For assessment purposes he has students take a survey at the beginning of the semester and at the end of the semester to determine learning gains. Preliminary data indicate that the class increases the ability of students to program, that students showed increased perception in their abilities, as well as an increased intention to use programming in the future.

Brian Cole discussed and demonstrated the technology behind the flipped classroom.  Falk uses the software application ClassSpot, which allows students to share their work on the classroom’s main projection screen, to edit common code during class.  Cole described using Audacity, Adobe Connect, Adobe Presenter, and QuickTime on Macs to create the video recordings.  He mentioned that a faculty member could also use an appropriate pre-recorded lecture from a trusted source. Falk uses ScreenFlow to make his presentations; however, Johns Hopkins does not have a license for this software. Adobe Captivate is another possibility. It is very powerful but has a steeper learning curve.

The follow questions were raised and answered during the session:

Q – Could this method be used to flip a few modules as opposed to the entire course?
A – Undergrads don’t like change, so it would probably be better to do the whole course.

Q – Can students watch the podcasts over and over?
A – Yes.

Q – Where is the textbook in all of this? Could you replace your podcasts with readings from a textbook?
A – There are reading assignments in addition to the videos. In my experience, students prefer a human face, a talking head, over reading a textbook.

Q – How do students reach you if class time is dedicated to working on problems?
A – I encourage students to use the class Blackboard discussion board. [Note: The flipped class structure  doesn’t prevent students from talking to the faculty member, and Falk also has office hours.]

Q – Did you scale back student work [outside of class] since more time spent watching podcasts?
A – Yes – most of the traditional homework is done in class.

Q – Are there tests?
A – Yes.

Q- How important are quizzes to making the flipped course work?
A – Very important. Students are very grade oriented so having quizzes, tests, and exams matters. Quizzes are great motivators for getting students to watch the videos.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art