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How to teach a flipped classroom in remote learning

Article by Sarah Newman

Learning doesn’t stop at acquiring information. It is complete only when a learner is able to apply their knowledge to achieve their goals. Yet, much time in current education is spent in ‘lecturing’ — the transfer of information from one person, the instructor, to the group of students. This has become truer in the times of virtual learning and Zoom online classrooms.

What if we could flip it on its head? What if we could spend collective time in understanding, applying and questioning? This is what the flipped classroom model aims to achieve.

What is flipped classroom?

In a flipped classroom, the traditional process of listening to a lecture in class and then working on assignments in private are essentially flipped on its head. Here, students watch pre-recorded video lectures or read course material on their own before coming to class, whether in person or on Zoom. In class, they collaborate with their peers through discussions, case studies and problem sets to apply their learning and gain hands-on experience.

What’s special about flipped classrooms?

Today, with remote learning, students are more anxious than ever before about getting lower grades and not learning as much as in-person classrooms. Flipped classroom methods can ease such anxiety and boost your student engagement strategies in many ways.

A student-centric approach for improved learning

A 2016 study on the impact of flipped classrooms found that over 75% of their participants found it an easier and more effective way to learn. The study finds this to be applicable especially for low-achievers.

This is because the flipped classroom model helps students gain the subject knowledge beforehand, even allowing them to watch the videos multiple times until they understand clearly. This helps students participate more confidently during classroom sessions — some of whom might otherwise hide among the crowd in an online class.

Self-paced learning for deeper engagement

Within a flipped classroom, students can learn at their own pace, a possibility that many students cherish. Instead of frantically adjusting themselves to the pace of lectures or showing up at designated times, flipped classrooms promote self-paced learning, which allows students to learn when, where and how they want.

Especially in remote education, this offers the flexibility for students to learn when they are in the best mindspace.

Instructors turn facilitators for interactive learning

In a flipped classroom, the instructor isn’t a ‘sage on the stage’ giving a lecture to a large audience. Instead, they are the guide on the side facilitating student interactions, encouraging debates and collaborating with the students to solve problems.

In remote education, this offers instructors a unique opportunity to observe attendance/absences, interact with students personally, and fine-tune student success strategies accordingly.

Asynchronous learning for better accessibility

Synchronous remote learning setups can be resource intensive — live lectures can demand high-speed internet, larger screens, good quality sound systems etc. Flipped classrooms, with pre-recorded lectures and videos, allows classrooms to achieve maximum results with minimal resources. It also offers the opportunity to enable subtitles, slow down or speed up content, zoom-in to visuals etc. based on individual student needs.

How to teach flipped classroom remotely

The simplest way to include flipped classroom methods is to create pre-recorded lectures and upload them to a learning management system (LMS). Encourage students to watch these lectures and understand key concepts before coming to class. In the Zoom online classroom, discuss concepts or even perform hands-on activities.  

  • Use Zoom’s live polls, spot quizzes etc. to confirm everyone has understood the lesson
  • Break your class into smaller groups and send them into breakout rooms for discussions or even smalls assignments
  • Encourage students to share their understanding with the class using screen sharing, annotations on whiteboard etc.
Start slow with selected content flipped classrooms

If recording all your lectures at one go feels tedious, flip just a part of your syllabus. Selected content flipping is when you choose specific lessons — either those that are repeated throughout, or most complex etc. — and use the flipped classroom model only on those.

In fact, you can gradually record your lectures, as and when you’re delivering them on Zoom, and upload them to the LMS for your students to watch again. You can also use this as the pre-recorded lecture for your next batch.

Challenge your students with debate-oriented flipped classrooms

Inspiring interaction in an online class is often difficult. Use debate-oriented flipped classrooms to overcome this. Assign specific lessons for debates and use it as the flipped class exercise. Use Zoom’s raise hand feature to allow students to volunteer to debate and wait their turn.

Foster deeper engagement with complex topics with mastery flip

The mastery flip model advocates providing students with a list of learning objectives and navigating the course based on the mastery of the individual objectives.

For instance, in your Zoom online classroom, divide the class into groups and assign each of them with a part of the course work as their learning objective. Give each group video-lectures and resources for that lesson alone. Use classroom time to discuss their learnings and perform activities. Once a group attains mastery over that park of their course work, they can proceed to their next portion in learning.

While the method may be time consuming, it works very well for complex subjects that students generally find harder to navigate while studying on their own.

When time is right, flip the teacher

Once your students get used to the flipped classroom methods, invite them to be the instructor. Assign lessons to them, either individually or a group, and ask them to learn it on their own and teach the rest of the class. Allow them to take lead and facilitate discussions and activities for their peers during the classroom sessions.

Your role as the instructor is to monitor their progress, validate their learning and challenge them to go beyond what’s in the course material.

Flipping the future

Even as we’re forced without warning into adopting remote learning, it brings significant benefits to the way we learn. Unlike a traditional classroom, remote learning offers easier, simpler and more effective ways to include modern teaching methods like the flipped classroom. It is flexible enough to adopt at your own pace, while also being experimental enough to customize for your needs.

If you’re looking to include flipped learning to your classroom, remember:

  • You don’t need to do everything at once, use selected content flipping to flip one step at a time
  • Use tools like Zoom to your advantage, understand its features and adapt them to your needs
  • Always be trying new things — customize, adapt and optimize your teaching strategy based on feedback and student performance
  • Flipped classrooms are only a means to an end. Keep and eye on the goal, mix and match various methods to achieve your goals