Flipping the Classroom to Solve the Time Problem (and more)

Too Little Time With Students is one of Several Key Problems that Flipped Learning can Help to Address

The topic for this week’s Slack Chat and next week’s #Flipblogs “extended Twitter chat” is the same: “What problem(s) has Flipped Learning helped to solve for you?” (Learn more about the Slack Chat here, and about the #Flipblogs chat here; while I was unable to participate in last night’s Slack Chat on this topic, I will share some of the dialogue and observations in an upcoming post). 

Problem Number 1

There are two things that quickly come to mind for me. First is the simple, yet all-important, availability of time.

The course I teach is a freshman course, Digital Literacy in the Work Place, and it is essentially a lab course in which students produce a lot a of digital artifacts. This approach enables them to develop skills with technologies like Windows and Word and techniques like file management and web search, while exploring course topics (assessing information validity, information security, emerging technologies, and much more).

There is a lot of work to do in this course, and students often need help completing that work or refining assignments in order to demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes. This is challenging enough in a traditional 15 week semester, but it is particularly difficult in our 8 week Evening term format.

In the hybrid course model we use for our Evening terms at The College of Westchester (cw.edu), classes run once a week for 8 weeks, and it is a quick pace. The hybrid format means we have about 3.5 hours with students each week and must assign 2 hours of “online classwork”, along with a ton of “homework”, in order to meet clock hour requirements (the idea of the hybrid format is to ease the burden and provide better flexibility for these busy working adult students by moving some of what used to be in-class work online).

Enter the flipped model. Without instructional videos and other digital learning content that students can explore on their own time and review as often as they need, there just simply would not be enough time for them to explore new subjects, apply learning assignment, and work to master the material. By flipping some of the lesson materials, time is freed up to work directly with students during that valuable face-to-face class time. This make all of the difference in terms of student success in this course.

Problem Number 2

Another problem that flipping instruction has had some impact on is getting students to ask questions. Drawing out students who are just coming from high school and getting them to be comfortable asking questions can be rather difficult. Many of our students are from socio-economically challenged backgrounds, some may not have great support systems in their lives, and most were not A students. The bottom line is that many do not really feel empowered or comfortable asking questions. Many have come to expect that they are supposed to just sit and listen. Bah! Many flippers flip in order to make the classroom more student-centered and more active.

This course is already quite active. Students are constantly working to demonstrate their learning. More challenging, however, is getting them to really dig in and think and inquire. They do have to research various topics, which is a step in this direction. But getting them to feel comfortable asking questions is still hard.

One step in this direction is the use of the WSQ technique. I have written elsewhere about my use of Crystal Kirch’s simple yet powerful technique (here’s a good piece), so I won’t elaborate on it here. Suffice it say that the “Q” in WSQ is for “Question”! Students have to ask a relevant question after they explore a topic through a video or other content. This is great step towards being comfortable with asking questions in class. 

So, how about you? What problems has flipped learning either helped you solve, or what problems would you like this approach to help you tackle going forward? Join in the upcoming #flipblogs chat and explore this topic along with other teachers through this extended online dialogue (remember, you don’t have to blog to participate, it’s just a “+” for everyone if you do)!

Clock image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Timex_Quartz_02h36m06s.jpg


  • I’m interested by the fact that your adult students struggle with asking questions… so do my 8th graders! So it’s not just an Awkward Adolescent thing…. Healthy inquiry is so important! It can be achieved in a traditional lecture environment, but usually at the risk of tangential conversations and inattention/frustration/confusion for some students who are not ready or eager for those specific questions.

    • Hey Andrew. Some of the adult student do need to be drawn out and encouraged, but it is much more of an issue with the younger students coming out of high school. In either case, as you noted, “Healthy inquiry is so important!” That is most certainly a skill we need to develop in students of all ages.

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