Monday, January 7, 2013

Observations on the Flipped Classroom

I engaged in a "flipped classroom" experiment for my graduate computer architecture class last semester.  In an ideal flipped classroom, the lecturing happens outside class (via on-line videos), and class time is used entirely for problem-solving and discussions.  For a number of reasons, I couldn't bring myself to completely eliminate in-class lecturing.  So in a typical lecture, I'd spend 80% of the time doing a quick recap of the videos, clarifying doubts, covering advanced topics, etc.  The remaining 20% of the time was used to solve example problems.  My observations below pertain to this modified flipped classroom model:
  1. My estimate is that 80-90% of the students did watch videos beforehand, which was a pleasant surprise.  The percentage dropped a bit as the semester progressed because (among other things) students realized that I did fairly detailed recaps in class.
  2. I felt that students did learn more this year than in previous years.  Students came to exams better prepared and the exam scores seemed to be higher.  In their teaching evaluations, students commented that they liked this model.  FWIW, the teaching evaluation scores were slightly higher -- an effective course rating of 5.64/6 this year (my previous offerings of this class have averaged a score of 5.54).
  3. In my view, the course was more effective this year primarily because students had access to videos.  Based on YouTube view counts, it was clear that students were re-visiting the pertinent videos while working on their assignments and while studying for exams.  The in-class problem-solving was perhaps not as much of a game-changer.
  4. Making a video is not as much fun for me as lecturing in class.  From a teacher's perspective, this model is more work and less fun.  But it's gratifying to have impact beyond the physical campus.
  5. Miscellaneous observations about the recording process: I used Camtasia Studio to create screencasts and I thought it worked great;  I didn't spend much time on editing and only chopped out about 10 seconds worth of audio blemishes per video; a headset mic is so much better than a laptop's in-built mic (too bad it took me 7 videos to realize this).
Next year, I'll try to make the course more effective by doing more problem-solving and less lecturing in class.  Next year will also be a lot less stressful since the videos are already in place :-).