To flip or not to flip the classroom

Michal Tsur

Dr. Michal Tsur is co-founder and president of Kaltura, a leading tech company that has created the world’s first open source video platform, transforming the way people work, learn and entertain with video.

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To flip or not to flip, that is the question. The concept of the "flipped classroom" - where "homework" is done in class and class work is done at home - has been around for a few years and, thanks to advances in video technology and gradually shifting attitudes towards independent learning and technology, is now emerging as a viable alternative to the status quo.

The flipped classroom is particularly exciting because it require students to take preparation more seriously and become increasingly active in class; it also requires teaching staff to shift their attitudes so that class time is a place for conversation rather than lecture. And above all, it leverages new technologies (particularly video) in order to facilitate preparation in an engaging way that truly changes students' attitudes and motivation towards preparing for classes.

The implementation is quite simple: teachers record and post video lectures for home-viewing, rather than presenting monologues in class. Students then review the videos at home -- rewinding and replaying troubling concepts when necessary -- and spend classroom time performing exercises and having a dialogue with the teacher to show mastery of material.

There's a lot to love about this new educational framework. In theory, it makes students better prepared for the day's activities when they step into the classroom; their work at home is still engaging and interactive; and it alters attitudes about what it means to be "in school," which has traditionally meant sitting passively at a desk and memorising lecture notes.

Further, it allows students to learn at their own pace, teachers to spend more time one-on-one with those having trouble, and both parties to engage in active learning together. It even addresses absenteeism, as students can review that day's work even when they are ill at home.

The flipped classroom doesn't present particularly new concepts. For centuries, students have been expected to prepare for class and teachers have understood that dialogues in the classroom can achieve better results than monologues (both central elements to the flipped classroom approach). What is new and potentially revolutionary, however, is advances in video technology that make the dissemination of pre-distributed lecture content in the form of engaging, illustrative videos a real possibility.

The challenge, however, lies in the reality that many teachers are not savvy with creating and recording videos, and due to discomfort with technology and/or resistance to change, may opt to use pre-made videos rather than creating their own (which will defeat the purpose).

Furthermore, teachers will need to be convinced that videos are not just extensions of textbooks, but a way for them to insert their own teaching style, personality and experience into the curriculum.

And with the advent of robust video platforms available on the market today, teachers can offer interactive learning via videos by incorporating:

  • Quizzing capabilities
  • Annotations
  • Captions and transcripts
  • Comments and discussion boards
  • Student response submissions (also in the form of video)

Videos have the advantage of being extraordinarily popular with younger generations. As mobile phones with Internet access become more ubiquitous and video becomes the majority form of all internet traffic, there is no doubt that the "YouTube/iPhone generation" is willing to embrace more video in its education. Most likely, it will get students excited and engaged between classes, since materials will be consumed in the much-preferred medium of video.

The flipped classroom approach offers many tangible benefits for teachers as well, including diagnostic tools that help identify which topics are giving students the most trouble.

Thus, the biggest challenge going forward will be shifting the attitudes of those currently in charge of our education system and persuading them to accept video platforms, including education-focused platforms like Kaltura and general players like YouTube, as a means for learning.

If we are successful in flipping the classroom, it will become a place for more open discussion, innovation and exchange of ideas than the traditional lecture approach offers. In our increasingly competitive global economy, this is not an option, but rather a necessity if the UK’s education establishments are to remain world class.

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