Flipped Learning – What is Flipping the classroom

Flipped Learning - What is Flipped Learning

Flipped Learning has been gaining steam and is getting the attention of educators everywhere. If you have been in education any length of time, you have probably seen a lot of initiatives take hold. One of the latest is flipped learning where you flip your classroom instruction around. This concept is absorbing and has the potential to change the way you teach. The flipped classroom model was developed by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams and its gaining momentum in a lot of educational circles.

 What is Flipped Learning?

So you may be asking just what is Flipped Learning and why should I care? So let’s look at the formal definition from Wikipedia

Definition of Flipped Learning

A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content, often online and outside of the classroom. It moves the activities that have been traditionally assigned as homework into the classroom time and moves those activities traditionally performed in the classroom to the home environment.

At the base, Flipped learning is very simple. The students perform activities at home such as listening to lectures, reading, grasping concepts and then they do work that has historically been assigned as homework during class time. The idea behind this approach is that the instructor can help the students over those tough math problems or explain the process better. In theory, this sounds like it just may work and improve education. Of course, that’s not saying there are not challenges to this flipped learning model. How do you ensure the students are performing the tasks they need at home. If you are in a high school setting and a student has 6-8 classes, and all the classes are flipped with each class requiring students to

Of course, that’s not saying there are not challenges to this flipped learning model. How do you ensure the students are performing the tasks they need at home. If you are in a high school setting and a student has 6-8 classes, and all the classes are flipped with each class requiring students to listen to an hour long video lecture, then it’s not hard to add up that they just won’t have the time. Plus there is that motivation thing, and some students are just going to try and take advantage and never do any work. Those are probably the same ones who do not do their homework with the traditional classroom model.

In a college classroom setting, then this model may be a little better to manage. A full load in college is usually 3-4 classes, and most of the time those classes do not meet every day. College students are also more disciplined( well they are supposed to be), so they may fit this model better.

The flipped learning model can be useful in k12 as well as higher education as long as there is proper planning and you have adequate learning management tools to deliver the instruction. We will discuss tools needed for flipped learning later on in this document. Now that we understand how a flipped classroom is organized let’s look at some of the benefits.

Benefits of Flipped Learning

Educational technology has made some large leaps over the past few years, and those advances are one of the reasons we can even consider something like flipped learning as a viable alternative to traditional classrooms.

  • Students can work at their pace and rewind lectures or watch them multiple times while they are outside the classroom. If you are using some of the tools like Google classroom or Office 365 in your educational institution students can even collaborate online and create a deeper learning of the material. Any good educator knows that the student to student collaboration that takes place in classrooms is one of the most effective teaching strategies for the majority of students. Chances are those student to student conversations you had in your college courses, helped you get through some of those tougher classes.
  • The faculty member is present during the time when students are working on difficult math problems or other activities so the students can ask pertinent questions, and since all the students are in the class, the instructor can address areas where the context of the material has some holes. This also gives feedback to the instructor so the offline instruction materials can be improved. Over time, this improves the overall effectiveness of the faculty member and allows them to understand the areas where students have the most problems.


These are just a couple of the advantages of flipped learning. Perhaps we should look at some of the negatives of the flipped classroom model as nothing is all great.

Disadvantages of Flipped Learning

Of course, there is no light without darkness and the flipped learning model is no different. Here are some of the areas where flipped learning can present challenges.

  • Model is heavily reliant upon student motivation. In areas where students are of lower income or economically disadvantaged, they may not have the support at home to stay on track and perform the work. Most of the flipped learning model rely upon online instruction and videos, so these students may not have Internet access readily available.
  • As much as everyone would like them to be, all students are not the same, some learn faster than others. This makes it hard to keep all the students in the same stage of consuming the material. This can create an issue where some students are way ahead and are asking a question within class time on material that some of the slower students have not gotten to yet. This can be overcome with proper scheduling, but it’s not good to hold some students back. This process just has to be managed.
  • Testing can also prove challenging for the same reason as the above bullet. All students are tested at the same time on the same material, so those students that are ahead will tend to do better than the students who may be lagging. This is why it’s important to have a good learning management system in place so the faculty member can coordinate these conflicts and identify the students who may be falling behind before the test date.

These are just a few of the areas where you will need to watch and have contingency plans in place if you decide to flip your classroom.

Tools for Flipped Learning

Tools for Flipped LearningFlipped learning is a different process, so it’s important to have the proper tools available for managing the flipped classroom. First, you must have a reliable method of delivery for course materials. If your insition has the technical talent, then you may be able to host some or all of these tool on your school network. This is the ideal solution as this tends to allow stronger integration between your learning management system and your student information systems.

You must be able to deliver lessons and videos in an efficient manner, or the flipped learning model will fail before it gets started. Of course, if you do not have the talent in-house and do not have the money to hire topmost level technicians then there are quite a few cloud-based services that will work just as well as having an in-house Blackboard or Moodle server.

Google has a very decent system named Google Apps for Education, and many people use this product for a variety of items. With its integration between Google docs, Google forms and hangouts, you can provide some excellent instruction. You can also use services such as  YouTube to deliver videos without any cost. You can create your powerpoints and then narrate them into a lecture and use tools such as Camtasia to convert it to video. There is also some great resources for free Google apps training available if you need it. Parts of this suite includes Google Classroom which can be very effective for managing your flipped classroom

Of course, if you are already using Powerpoint to create your lectures and perhaps if your school went the Office 365 route, then Mix for Office is also an excellent tool for putting together lessons and lectures for online consumption. Since its just PowerPoint is the norm in a lot of educational institutions, then this may be a better choice as Mix is just an addon for powerpoint and the learning curve is minimal for anyone who is fluent with PowerPoint.


So you flip your classroom or not to flip is the question. These are just a few of the items to consider when you are flipping your classroom and some may have better success than others. The faculty who have been successful at flipped learning are the ones who do the proper upfront planning. You must write out your plan and then measure the effectiveness. Test your assumptions and if you do, then over time you can become a much more competent instructor.

If you have other suggestions on how to flip a classroom or horror stories, please let us know in the comments.

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