Flipped Learning

In this blog, I’ll explain how I have become so interested in and enthusiastic about the potential of flipped learning. This is a moderately adapted report I wrote for my current corporate training centre (the PTC) within the British Council in Bangkok.

Flipped Learning image

Flipped Learning by Deirdre2 @ Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

It’s a report on e-learning innovation and it’s split into four sections. In the first section, I provide a definition of innovation in e-learning. In the second section, I discuss the PTC’s current context and detail three e-learning interventions that might be positively employed within the department. In the third section, I detail some concerns while the final section will consist of a brief conclusion.

Innovation in E-learning Definition

At the core of innovation is change. Change can be the development and implementation of new devices or practices to replace or complement existing tools and operations. However, innovation is defined by the context in which it exists. A familiar process in one context used for the first time in another to affect change would constitute innovation. In e-learning, a central consideration would be whether the introduction of a new technology positively affects or facilitates a change in pedagogy within that context or whether it is a new tool used in the continuance of traditional styles of instruction.

PTC Context

The British Council Thailand’s PTC is responsible for providing corporate clients from a variety of sectors with corporate training and English language instruction.

At the time of writing, sales were low with few new classes opening and the team and to meet management utilization targets, the numbers of trainers had been contracting. Market research had yet to be undertaken to ascertain why. However, informal anecdotal evidence suggests that though the PTC could capitalise on the British Council’s prestige as an educational provider, its price-point for its products is perceived as too high when there is little differentiation in products from cheaper competitors. This, to my knowledge remains the same today.

In relation to e-learning products, while the British Council develops and provides online e-learning products, but at this point the PTC offers no e-learning products or services to clients.

As a result of the above, I felt that the department required attractive differentiation from its competitors while also providing a more inexpensive solution for clients. But to safeguard the department and the wider organisation’s reputation as a high quality provider, any shift had to be based on solid pedagogical principles to ensure learning goals were achieved.

So what is Flipped Learning?

A flipped classroom is a rearrangement of how and where learning takes place. In contrast to a traditional classroom, the focus is shifted from teacher-centred instruction to student-centred learning. Direct instruction no longer takes place in the classroom with the teacher. It occurs online. Class time is dedicated to more collaborative, project-based learning.

Flipped Learning process diagram

Flipped Learning process diagram

Online instruction does not necessitate the teacher to be present and the materials, once designed can be used again and again in later classes. This decreases the cost of courses for the PTC, resulting in a more inexpensive product.

How can this be facilitated?

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a necessary technology to implement new methods of instruction in the information age. An LMS is a software application that allows a user to automate the administration, assembly, and delivery of digital learning content. If flipped learning is the goal, the LMS is what facilitates the online delivery. There can be the application of structure to specific courses with modules of online instruction culminating in modes of assessment to ensure understanding before in-class components.

It is the experience of many educators that some learners fail to understand some concepts and therefore flounder in freer activities. This is often true in English mixed-ability classes. However, with online learning facilitated by the LMS, Students can as Vygotsky put it ‘theoretically pace their learning….using student-centered pedagogies aimed at their readiness level or zone of proximal development, where they are challenged but not so much so that they are demoralized’. For example, if an instructor provides a video giving instruction on a particular concept, learners with lower aptitudes can pause and rewind it or choose to read captions or transcripts if available. Another benefit from the teacher’s perspective is that less focus is applied to ensuring lower-level learners are up-to-speed, giving more time to focus on feedback and the individual needs of all.

Also, as educators in the field of corporate training, our responsibility is to enhance learners’ ability to operate in their context with the training provided. In the information age, engendering a more connectivist approach to learning would potentially address this. Connectivism relates to how learning is now a process of making and maintaining connections to nodes of specialized information sources to facilitate continual learning. In the traditional classroom instruction model, information is imparted in a one-size-fits all manner. In contrast, in a flipped classroom course using an LMS, this approach can be replaced by a greater emphasis on active learning where it is the student’s responsibility to understand the content and solve problems. The student learns in a way that best suits them individually. This factor and incorporating tasks into the learning designs where information can be specifically gathered outside of the course framework from websites, their own experience, or from a peer group online or otherwise, might result in the learner making those connections that will benefit them in future.

Flipped Learning Research

Research by the Flipped Learning Network in conjunction with ClassroomWindow found the following for teachers:

  • Associated Flipped Learning with improved student performance and attitudes, and increased job satisfaction
  • 66% reported increased standardised test scores
  • 80% perceived an improvement in students’ attitudes towards learning

The Flipped Learning and Democratic Education survey in 2012 reported the following in relation to students:

80% of students agreed that they…

  • Had more constant and positive interactions
  • Had greater opportunities to work at own pace
  • Had increased access to course material and instruction
  • Had more choice in how they demonstrate their learning
  • Viewed learning as a more active process

70% of students agreed that they…

  • Were more likely to engage in collaborative decision making
  • Were more likely to engage in critical thinking and problem solving
  • Teachers were more likely to take into account their interests, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Were more likely to have a choice in what learning tasks they engage in

Learning Analytics

Learning analytics is, says George Siemens ‘the use of intelligent data, learner-produced data, and analysis models to discover information and social connections, and to predict and advise on learning’. They can function to make sense learners actions achieving their learning goals and aid institutions in improving their learning designs.

So, through the analysis of learners habits, actions, interactions, failures and successes in their use of the LMS, the content, devices used, and data from social networks, and semantic data, the PTC could make predictions of learners’ requirements, and how to best adjust curriculums, materials, communication, and access to optimize the learning experiences. This would result in effective and sustainable products that were constantly adapting to shifting learning, social, and technological trends.

I’ll cover the ethics of learning analytics in a future blog.

Concerns

A primary concern is access to devices, bandwidth, and learners’ technological competence in engaging with materials and achieving the course objectives on the LMS. A possible solution is materials being available in alternative formats. To ensure the PTC’s adherence to the principles of universal design in relation to accessibility and the British Council’s commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion, this should be the case, regardless. A key element to initial needs analysis for PTC representatives would now incorporate an analysis of the above factors.

Another concern is the additional responsibility placed on learners outside their existing responsibilities. It is possible that if the time to undertake the online elements of courses are shifted outside of work hours, there may be resistance to it and decreased participation. Clients should make appropriate decisions regarding the cost/benefit analysis of not scheduling time for study. Furthermore, the PTC would need to delineate the benefits of undertaking the online element as to engender greater intrinsic motivation.

Conclusion

As I stated at the beginning of the blog, I’m very enthusiastic regarding this medium of learning, particularly so when you try to in-build connectivist theory within the learning designs to promote continued learning. While this scenario is for non native speaker learners, I feel that it can relate to many different spheres and industries and is, of course, already being implemented all over the world. Some organisations are just a little slower than others.

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2 thoughts on “Flipped Learning

  1. Thank you for your information about the flipped classroom. I have added your blog to my blog feeder and cannot wait for what other information you have for us readers.

    I have been doing a modified flipped classroom for the last 2 years in my classroom and have seen major gains in learning. It wasn’t always easy though. At first, I wanted to completely flip my classroom, but felt a lot of backlash from my students, parents and my administration.

    I teach 8th grade Math and Pre-AP Algebra at a low-income middle school in Texas.
    I agree with your conclusions about the concerns with flipping. But, I would like to add some concerns that I dealt with. Like I said, I love the whole idea of flipping, but I wanted to share with you and other readers my struggles.

    I found a lot of students and parents alike felt like change was bad. This was especially true in my Pre-AP classes – where the students had mostly been successful within the traditional classroom setting and with the usual expectations. As somewhat a pioneer of the idea, the initial shock of the additional learner responsibility was hard to get past. In fact, I had to move towards a modified flip in response. If I had continued to expect my students to learn the material outside the classroom, things would’ve not gone well.

    In the traditional classroom setup, it’s relatively easy for teachers to spot students that are off-task. However, in the digital classroom, I have noticed it is easier for students to get away with being off task. As a result, I have had to pull those students that lack motivation out and resort back to traditional teaching for them. This, unfortunately, leaves me with little time to do some of the time to focus on feedback and individual needs of all.

    I will continue to make my classroom digital and encourage my students to learn concepts at home. However, I believe my school and my students have a ways to go before a complete flip will be effective.

    Thank you for letting me comment on your blog.

    Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s a very complex issue you’re dealing with there I think. There’s always going to be a resistance to change, so a vital aspect of moving forward with that change might be creating buy-in. To assure all stakeholders that an innovation has value would have to be based around strong research in the area, preferably research with a focus on that particular discipline.

      Some of the research I’ve looked at does show it is preferable to have some kind of incentive to engender people engaging in any activity such as there being a proportion of an assignment’s grade being dependent on online interaction.

      I’m rather ignorant of what aspect of maths would be conducted online and what then would be done in the classroom though I can make an educated guess that it reflects the same kind of homework as prep and practice in the class spirit of what I discussed in the blog.

      I’m not sure what you’re using to facilitate the online learning, maybe an LMS like Moodle or just freer research tasks. If it’s the former, then you’ll be applying learning analytics tools to ensure learners are on task. Seeing as you’re identifying those off-task, it looks like that’s what’s being done. I’m going to blog about the ethics of learning analytics soon from an adult corporate training perspective, but with kids, it’s going to be even more complex to gain that buy-in and avoid a state of resistance to the sense of surveillance that analytics might engender.

      Is there any aspect of the online work which fosters community or collaboration? Maybe discussion forums and whatnot? Finding information, videos, examples, and posting them to forums/social network pages for discussion etc. That’s, for me, one of the great strengths of leveraging the Internet in learning. Making everything open and learning moving in lots of different directions, inspiring new ideas and further exploration. That’s perhaps where buy-in can be engendered. Having organised education be a greater, more authentic representation of what learning is outside of a school in the modern age.

      The student-centred aspect of learning associated with online learning is powerful, but like you’ve said, it’s hard to get the motivation. I think this might be helpful : http://academic.emporia.edu/esrs/vol46/colorado.pdf

      Colorado and Eberle referenced the earlier work of Guernsey and how she had compared student behavior in two classes, one conducted in a traditional face-to-face format and the other via an online format. Colorado and Eberle found that the students who performed the best were the older students who had full time jobs or families while the younger students found the course difficult and ultimately reverted to taking the course in a traditional face-to-face format. Colorado and Eberle cited Wood (2005), regarding how students who perform well in traditional classes may not reproduce that success online. Studying online necessitates students taking responsibility for their learning.

      Colorado and Eberle’s sample for their research consisted of generally older graduate students with more educational background. Their results indicated that the majority of their sample students had high levels of self-regulated learning characteristics, findings that were, therefore, supported by previous studies.

      Their results indicated that older and more experienced students had higher propensities for self-regulated learning. Consequently, maybe practitioners should make careful note of the participants’ ages and educational level and offer guidance on self-regulated learning accordingly.

      This too is a good read on perceptions and attitudes to e-learning http://www.academia.edu/2978206/Scoping_Study_for_the_Pedagogy_strand_of_the_JISC_e-Learning_Programme It discusses how elearning research has normally emphasized practitioners and design. It discusses how students views were mixed regarding the benefits and advantages of elearning, and while practitioners viewed elearning as a useful and flexible tool to supplement their teaching, learners had issues related to the time requirements, and eLearning skills, which referred to how a greater variety of skills on top of being IT literate were needed to ensure they used technologies in supporting their learning effectively.

      Finally, perhaps this Thorpe paper might be helpful http://oro.open.ac.uk/17125/1/thorpe.pdf It produced results very pertinent for those wanting to construct online learning environments. It’s a study of one particularly successful Open University course. It found that the key elements included were, among other factors, a high level of participation and continuity, an engaging beginning, and an emphasis on compulsory involvement. It recommended that practitioners should maximize levels of interaction and participation by making uptake of online interaction compulsory by virtue of the attainment of any incentive and focus on course or learning activity having a strong and engaging beginning.

      You might have guessed that a lot of this was taken from some reading and an assignment I wrote on digital technologies in practice. Good luck with what you’re doing. It sounds fascinating and challenging. I really envy you the opportunity to put this into practice.

      Like

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