As I have mentioned before, blended/hybrid courses often also integrate a flipped classroom approach. The reason is to move less-engaged activities, such as lectures, outside of class and done ahead of time. This then allows you to have more high-engaged activities such as discussions, problem-solving, etc. as part of the in-class activities. Over the past few months, Faculty Focus conducted a four-part series on this concept and included topics such as:
- Encouraging students to complete pre-class work
- Holding students accountable for pre-class work
- Connecting pre-class work to in-class activities
- Managing in-class learning experiences in flipped classrooms
The top asked question I receive for blended/hybrid courses are how to ensure students complete the pre-class work especially due to the fact that the time spent with students “in-class” is reduced. After talking through each specific circumstance, typically there are three main themes:
Many students might be new to blended/hybrid learning and to a flipped approach. Having a statement in the syllabus clearly explaining the approach along with emphasizing in-person during the first week helps students to more clearly understand what is expected. A lengthy example statement is as follows:
In this course, we operate on the principle that you will learn best when you are actively working on a task rather than passively listening. Both passive listening and active work have their places in the learning process, but since active work is generally harder and requires more assistance than passive listening, we will be spending the bulk of class time working together to problem solve. This enables you to work at your own pace and ask questions freely with unfettered access to the professor and other group members.
To make time and space for this amount of active work in class, most of the lectures for this class have been recorded to video and posted in the course on LMS. These lectures have the same content and are roughly the same length as lectures that would normally be given in class. Your outside-of-class time will largely be spent watching the lectures, taking a brief pre-quiz based on basic knowledge and relevant vocabulary, and answering questions with critical thinking applications about what you have watched. Likewise, instead of listening to lectures in class, class time will be focused on discussing your questions and working on problems that will challenge you to apply the basic material to new and interesting situations.
This approach to class is sometimes called the “flipped classroom” because we are flipping the traditional roles of in-class and out-of-class work. Please be assured that you are not being asked to “teach yourself” the course material. In fact, you will be receiving a much higher quantity and quality of professor help in this format than you would in a traditional format, because the professor is available in the same room as you exactly when you are encountering the hardest work.
To ensure students understand the concept, you can also create a Syllabus quiz that assesses main aspects including a question or two about the flipped approach. One final approach that I often recommend includes clearly identifying what students are expected to do before class, during class, and after class.
Hold Students Accountable
For this area it is good to “plan the work and then work the plan” for holding student accountable. For this theme, creating pre-class activities or an in-person quiz first thing during the session that covers the pre-class readings/video are often considered. Many strategies are presented in the Faculty Focus series to take this concept one step further including:
- Ticket to Enter: If you asked students to complete a task as part of their pre-class work, make sure it’s something they can bring with them and use as a “ticket” to enter class that day.
- Choose a side: This strategy works best if your pre-class work involves two points of view, an argument, or opposing interpretations of a topic related to the course material.
- Pass-the-problem cheat sheet: If you have several problems, cases, or scenarios you want students to solve or analyze, try the Pass the Problem flipped strategy in class.
These ideas are covered in depth in Ready to Flip: Three Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Pre-Class Work.
Another approach that I like is to have student groups through-out the semester for the highly engaged in-class activities. If a student is not prepared, they will have the added pressure of their group-mates for their contribution especially if group peer-review is part of the class participation.
Handling Unprepared Students
Despite all your efforts to prevent underprepared students, you may encounter these situations and will have to decide what you will do when the situation arrises. The Faculty Focus series touches upon this concept and a few strategies that I often cover when working with faculty include:
- Have a conversation to the entire class and/or to the underprepared students. When doing so, you can have quotes from students in previous semesters, explain the value to this approach, and identify and overcome any underlining issues. Issues could be time management, procrastination, external factors, etc.
- Review the directions, pre-class assignments, and before/during/after guidance. Focus on identifying any unclear or confusing areas.
- Ensure equally distributed grading. Students often need a “carrot on a stick” approach and need external motivation to do various assignments. By moving participation points from in-person to completing pre-class work, students can receive the external motivation needed to “bump up” completing assignments higher on their list of to do items.
Bringing it All Together
By integrating the strategies to set expectations, holding students accountable, and handling underprepared students, the implementation of a flipped approach as part of a blended/hybrid course tends to run more smoothly during the first offering. Many times the focus is to create the online aspects where the afterthought is how the online and face-to-face sessions integrate with one another. The additional afterthought of the in-class work is also much more important and needs to be careful thought through instead of using an ad hoc approach.