Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Is it Worth Flipping?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released a collection of articles and blogs surrounding the topic of flipping the classroom.  In "A Guide to the Flipped Classroom" (which can be downloaded here) the Chronicle attempts to give multiple viewpoints on the flipped classroom and even goes so far as to provide a working definition of "flipped learning" versus just providing outside virtual lectures or reading.

This discussion brought back memories of my masters program and the concept of Participation Training proposed by Bergevin & McKinley.  In their framework, they suggested that social gatherings outside of class (of course they were writing in the 1960's so technology has replaced the in person social gatherings in many ways) to build a community and relationships, along with pre-work and study, allowed for class time to be maximized for the real work of solving problems with micro lectures when necessary to check for understanding.  While a lot of this is not new information, it is presented here nicely.

I would encourage you to read all of the articles, regardless of your experience with flipping.  Here are a few of the takeaways being argued from my perspective:

  • Student questions and misconceptions can be addressed in real-time by faculty.
  • Students can rely on peers to assist if they are unclear on the concept.
  • Lecture does not go away, but changes in a way that is accessible and approachable when dealing with different learning styles (i.e. being able to rewind and replay lectures)
  • Faculty can better assess student progress and understanding and alleviate some of the frustration surrounding what would normally be homework.
  • Students can learn to apply skills and increase knowledge transfer, versus just recalling information given to them by faculty.
  • Students may not be able to fully form questions and faculty may need more time to better assess student understanding.  This cannot always be done "just in time."
  • Students may push back because of what is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as uncertain requirements for grading.  They may even perceive it as a shirking of responsibility by faculty.
  • There is a tremendous time commitment involved in flipping a course.  Recording lectures and creating various "out of class assignments" can be overwhelming.
  • If videos from other sources are used for lecture (i.e. speakers other than the professor), there is a risk of students bonding with the lecturer on video versus the professor actually teaching the course.
  • Flipping a course may not be less expensive and in some cases may not improve student outcomes.
Again, these are just some of the arguments made.  I would love to hear from others who have either flipped and love it, decided not to flip, or tried it and abandoned the approach.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part One

In our first round of looking at innovation across the ACM campuses, we will take a look at Beloit, Knox and St. Olaf.  I want to thank the instructional technology teams at each campus for supplying technical information and pictures.


The "innovation space" at Beloit is an open environment that seeks in enhance collaboration among students.  It is also The "innovation space" at Beloit is an open environment that seeks in enhance collaboration among students.  When it comes to hardware the space includes seven audio/video editing stations, a group collaboration space with an LCD display and multiple connections for various devices, a flatbed scanner, a Wacom graphics tablet, and a USB turntable.  Some of the available software that is loaded includes Adobe Design Suite, Adobe Premiere, Audacity, Final Cut Pro, and various other Mac and PC software related to creating engaging materials.  A couple pictures of the space are below:

The "learning studio" at Beloit serves two functions.  It contains the same software titles as the innovation space and can serve as an overflow during times of peak use.  However, in addition, it is also used as a more traditional computer lab for classes.  A pictures of this space are below:


The Founders Lab at Knox has been renovated to "create an environment that invites collaboration as well as allows for individual study."  Some of the technology focused amenities of this space include 19 Windows workstations, 10 Mac workstations, tablets and headphones for student checkout, and a collaborative table for group work with a 42" LCD monitor.  Also in the space are low tech amenities such as whiteboards that can be re-arranged and furniture for individual and group work that contains power outlets.  A few pictures of the space are below:


In addition to the renovation of the Founders Lab, Knox has also created Knox AnyWare as a way to combat differences in technology among students, faculty, and facilities.  By logging in virtually through a Citrix interface, anyone with a Knox profile can access software from any device.  Available software includes Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud Collection, Mathematica, and many more.

St. Olaf

Active learning classrooms (See a recent presentation here) have been springing up throughout higher education.  At St. Olaf, Holland Hall 317 is an excellent example of one such environment.  The room includes one instructor podium with a computer, control panel, and a large screen in front of the room.  In addition, there are five student tables that include a large monitor and computer, wireless keyboard, external connections for laptops and devices, and six chairs.  Two pictures of the space are below:

In addition to this active learning classroom, St. Olaf also holds Summer Institutes surrounding the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning.  These events are designed to meet faculty where they are, from novices with technology to those who are further down the path.  It is also open to staff and students who work closely with faculty when adopting new technologies.

Beloit - Jedidiah Rex
Knox - Emily Frakes
St. Olaf - Nancy Aarsvold

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...