"The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements are reversed”
Flipped learning has gained momentum initially from within the schools sector, but is now gaining pace as a teaching and learning concept within HE and FE. Flipped learning per se is not necessarily a completely new concept. Academics would argue that they have been 'flipping' the classroom for years by providing worksheets to be completed at home before returning to the classroom to work through and discuss as a group or individually to achieve the learning outcomes.
What the use of digital media provides, in this context, however, is a much more engaging student experience, with the ability for students to easily collaborate, comment, share, and in the case of video, learn at their own pace. It allows for a tutor to be more actively engaged with their students by, for example using webinars or video conferencing, as well as providing more personalised and targeted feedback.
What this results in is a role reversal, where instructors become the 'guide on the side' not the 'sage on the stage' and the flipped material becomes the control of the student, and this is particularly evident when using video. Sal Khan from the Khan Academy, which is a non-profit educational organisation providing free online video lectures, said in 2010:
"There was nothing practical that anyone could do about this broken “learning” model until recently. But we can now deliver on-demand content to any student for nearly zero incremental cost. The video content can be paused and repeated as needed. Students can focus on exactly what they need to know. They don’t have to be embarrassed to fill in remedial gaps. They don’t need to take notes. Crucially, the lectures can be given by superb communicators, with a deep, intuitive understanding of the material.
Ten years from today, students will be learning at their own pace. The classroom will be a place for active interaction, not passive listening and daydreaming. The role of the teacher will be that of a mentor or coach as opposed to a lecturer, test writer, and grader. The institutions that will remain relevant will be those that leverage this paradigm, not fight it.”
But this is a new approach to teaching and learning and requires a level of up skilling for both staff and students. From the staff perspective, to successfully 'flip' a lecture requires perhaps a greater degree of planning, ensuring that the media used shows the concepts trying to be conveyed are meaningful and obvious, as well as the need for additional time in producing or sourcing content, although as the learning curve plateaus, this becomes less intrusive. For students, there may be some degree of resistance to less face-face lectures, as well as the need for developing independent learning skills.
One possible definition of blended learning is from the Sloan Consortium, which defined hybrid courses as those that “integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner". For example the internet may be used to support a session that includes interactive tasks for the learner. Jisc RSC Northern Ireland developed a blended learning toolkit, which provides a framework for creating engaging blended learning experiences.
Most institutions across HE and FE are incorporating this type of delivery through the use of a virtual learning environment (VLE), such as Moodle or Blackboard. With the recent publication of and recommendations from the FELTAG report 2014, incorporating online learning within the further education sector the practice is set to grow. An example of an institution meeting these FELTAG recommendations and adopting a blended learning model is Worcestershire College. They are in the fourth year of running a cross college blended learning curriculum. This Moodle site offers examples of content, activities and assessments (access as a guest login).
Blended learning offers a means of addressing a range of student learning styles, which are often difficult to address using traditional teaching methods. As with the flipped learning model, it switches the focus of the learning onto the student and is a less transmissive process. A 2010 meta-analysis on Does Blended Learning Work? published by the U.S. Department of Education suggests that this type of approach is successful. According to the report,
"students exposed to both face-to-face and online education were more successful than students entirely in one camp or the other."
However, just as with employing a flipped approach, planning the integration of blended activities is important but also consideration must be given to delivery mechanisms and formats in order for all students to be able to access the material.