‘Flipping your Classroom’ at low cost

One of the most labour-intensive stages of ‘flipping the classroom’ is making the recordings … unless you already have those of course. This is about a second-life for your recorded lectures of last year!

You have the recordings

At UCL the use of ‘Lecture-cast’ as a means of recording your lectures and making them available for students has become a fairly standard thing to do. Quite bit of time is used, after the automated recording, to edit the recorded lecture and possibly even enhance it with notes or remarks. From user-data it is clear that students do engage frequently with such recorded lectures and that would seem to justify the time spent on actually producing them. Typically at the end of an academic year the recordings are archived and during a new year a new set of recordings is made.

Now it may not always seem as if those recordings that arise in this fashion are particularly good when compared to what some of the high-profile institutions put out on the web as recorded courses. But as you will have been using these recordings mostly restricted to the domain of your own students, there is no need to go for glam and polished video-presentations. What is useful however is to consider whether some of the material might actually be good enough for a second-life as recordings used to ‘flip the classroom’.

Why should you do that?

After a term’s worth of teaching we quite often come away with second thoughts about what we presented, or the amount of detail we did or did not include, or whether a different or added choice of examples wouldn’t have led to a better learning experience for the students. How often does it happen that when we then try to make alternative choices for the subsequent course we find that this bring its own set of missed opportunities. Alternatively what you could do is have your students watch your lecture as a preparation for your class, to then spend your time in class on exactly those things you would have added, expanded upon or changed. Because the students will then have already seen your lecture you could even ask them to come prepared by having pondered a few questions after watching it that will help them get the most out of the things you will do in class.

Another reason for ‘flipping the classroom’ can be that you want students to engage actively with the content you are teaching. So if they come to class you want them to be primed and prepared for the really interesting and exciting bits rather them taking everything you say down like a consumer for later processing, or having them struggle to keep up with your long-winding argument leaving little or no time for questions. Why not have them do that first and then have them come to class to start off with questions and answers? Why not give them questions they should ask themselves while watching? Why not defer the technical detail that you presented so carefully last year to their watching it online and spending this year’s class on querying them in a open conversation to unearth whether your class did get that important conceptual point you were trying to make with that technical argument?

There are many reasons why changing to a ‘flipped classroom context’ for certain topics during certain weeks will allow you to engage students in a much more activating mode of learning, while at the same time re-using an effort you have already made previously. Because you did already record that lecture and you already have thought about what you would add, amend, change or substitute. Including your students into this process by ‘flipping the classroom’ in this manner will make it much easier for them to recognise the ‘living’ nature of the content they are being taught at University.

What could you do?

This ‘low cost’ way of flipping your classroom becomes possible because, as I am assuming, you already recorded your lectures last year. I also assume you will have, as most academics would, spent some thought on what you want to change, add, substitute or explore in more detail and many other aspects of last year’s delivery. What you can achieve by ‘flipping the classroom’ on this basis is that you use what you have already done and you make it visible to your students. Here are some concrete suggestions:

  • Formulate the changes/amendments you would have made as questions you would like to address in response to your students viewing last year’s class;
  • Go through your lectures of last year and choose topics particularly suitable for being viewed prior to coming to class. Even when it is just a part of a lecture you want to build upon then this can be very useful;
  • Prepare a couple of questions you would like to ask your students after they saw the material before you extend, illustrate or add material.
  • Guide their viewing of the lecture by asking them to answer a short Moodle (or BlackBoard) quiz while watching;

There are plenty of things I could add to this list and you will be able to find many ideas and suggestions in blogs everywhere on the internet. It is worth trying and of course you’re always welcome to come and have a chat with me!

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