flipped coverAs the instructional specialist in the Learning Center at Robeson Community College, I was asked to develop a workshop for faculty. I chose to offer this professional development opportunity on Flipped Learning. I did so in part because I was using flipped lessons out of necessity in my own class.

Most community colleges are leaning towards blending reading and writing classes into one class. At our college, these courses are taught as hybrids and last 8 weeks. I feel it is important to spend a lot of one on one time with developmental (remedial) students, so I began using the hybrid portion of the class to deliver my lectures and the face-to-face time in the classroom actually practicing the concepts and working with the students. I had no idea that what I was doing was called in academic circles Flipped Learning or Flipping the Classroom.

Flipping a classroom is becoming increasingly popular in many academic arenas from primary school to university.  In traditional modes of instruction, the teacher delivers a lecture, provides some brief in-class practice, and then assigns homework.

flipping homework dilemma

By flipping the class, also called Flipped Learning, the instructor provides students with lesson content (lecture) before class and uses class time to practice concepts (do homework). Students also are able to participate in learning activities with the instructor present to help them.

If you’d like to know how Flipped Learning started, here is a good video from 60 minutes interviewing the originator of flipped learning and showing a flipped classroom in action.

60 minutes video on YouTube 13:27 minutes


Advantages of Flipping a Lesson

flipped advantages

  • Makes learning the focus rather than teaching
  • Encourages independent learning
  • Enforces accountability and critical thinking
  • Provides more time for individual assistance
  • Provides more opportunities for differentiated learning
  • Maximizes use of time in the classroom


  • Power Points already using
  • Learning Object Repositories

Many teachers already use Learning Objects whether they realize it or not. Basically, a learning object consists of instructional content, practice, and assessment of a single learning objective. One example might be a learning object on Sentence Fragments.

When flipping a lesson, you are essentially offering the instructional content (IC) of the learning object (LO) BEFORE the actual class.

What type of lesson to Flip

Many educators feel that lessons that entail hands-on application where students may need individual help work the best with this type of instructional strategy. As my students learn to actively read and write paragraphs, summaries, and essays, this type of strategy works well. I am able to use class time to model active reading and circulate the room and offer help with forming thesis statements, essay structure, grammatical issues, etc.

Timing the Flipped Lesson

Flipping a lesson does not have to be a total restructure of your classroom environment. It is a learning strategy that you choose when and where to incorporate. It may work great for some lessons and not so great for others. You don’t have to flip your whole semester at one time. Start small with a single lesson!

The Process of Creating a Flipped Lesson

flipping flowchart

  1. Choose single learning objective
  2. Choose how to deliver instructional content (before class)
  3. Choose method of assessing completion of instructional content
  4. Plan an in-class learning activity that supports and reinforces the objective.
  5. Offer feedback and assistance during activity.
  6. Wrap up with student reflection or other form of assessment.

Creating Instructional Content (tutorials)

Our college uses the Moodle learning platform, and you can upload videos right into Moodle or host your videos at YouTube or Sophia (more on Sophia later). The students are already required to go online to complete half of the class (in a hybrid) or all of the class (fully online), so flipped learning works very well. Courses that are taught completely offline are also good venues for flipped learning as educators are encouraged more and more to use technology in the classroom.

With just about everyone having a smartphone these days, the majority of students have no problem accessing the Internet and YouTube on their phones. I polled my classes and asked who could access YouTube on their phone, and every hand shot up! And some of those students were struggling to navigate basic computer applications.

 If you know how to make your own videos, you can make your own or access thousands of learning tutorial videos already available. You then link to videos or screencasts directly within your Moodle or Blackboard site by embedding video code or providing the link to your video.

  • Video (You Tube, School Tube, Camtasia)
  • Screencasts (Sophia, Camtasia, Screen-o-matic)
  • Podcasts (Voice Thread, Podomatic)

Personally, I like making screencasts rather than videos. They are much the same actually. A screencast simply records what is on your screen. You can choose to add audio or not. Since most teachers use Power Points in the classroom, this a great way to go. Simply pull up your Power Point and go through it delivering your lecture as you would in class. Don’t worry about um’s and other missteps; these you have in your normal classroom delivery anyway, and they actually let your personality show through. My students say they like the lectures with me just talking normally rather than the videos that are monotone.

Sophia.org is an online learning community that allows you to create tutorials (learning objects) in all kinds of formats. A typical Sophia tutorial will include a screencast lecture (ppt with audio), a handout (pdf or word), a short lesson (use Google Forms or just directions to complete an assignment), and a quiz. Sophia allows you to create a quiz right in the tutorial.

Sophia also has a free screencast program, so you can record a screencast directly from Sophia and it will be hosted there for free. I use a program called SnagIt to record screencasts and then I can upload my screencast other places as well. SnagIt is only $29.99 for educators and has a lot of other really cool tools.

Common Arguments Against Flipping

  • This is too much like homework, and students won’t do it.

You are introducing a learning strategy to students that they may not be familiar with. Be patient. If they insist on calling the ‘preview’ homework, let them. Some students (and teachers) find it easier to think of it this way in the beginning.

For instance, “Watch this video on YouTube and write down at least three comments or questions regarding the video. Come to class tomorrow with your comments/questions prepared to discuss the video.”

Sound like homework? Sure it does. No matter. Let’s call it ‘new’ homework. After a time, students will realize that the boring lectures are disappearing, class time is more interactive, and the actual application of the material is happening IN the classroom rather than at home.

  • A lecture on video is just as boring to a student as a classroom lecture.

All lectures have the potential of being boring, whether in class or online. It is the personality and creativity of the educator that gets the student’s attention.

Most colleges already use a learning platform like Moodle or Blackboard. Your instructional content can be a Power Point presentation rather than a video. You can upload your PPT directly into most learning platforms or you can save it at SlideShare.com.

Teachers report that “faster-paced students were less bored and frustrated with the pacing of the whole class. Slower-paced students felt like they had control over the lesson and were less confused and frustrated.”[i]

  • Some students don’t have access to technology.

Not every tutorial is going to entail intensive technology. There are many different ways to present the tutorial, just as there are many different ways of delivering on-campus instruction.

Almost all students have cell phones that they can access YouTube with or they can use the computer lab on campus.

flipping tech

You can count on there being at least one student who has a technology issue. Decide ahead of time how you will deal with that issue. Perhaps offer the student the option to view a DVD or give them a flash drive that has the tutorial on it.

If all else fails, that student can be given a transcript of the video to read, but strive to make them responsible for the original assignment.

  • Students are not going to do the work before class.

You will probably have some who won’t do the work, as always. But when they come to class and other students are jumping into the project or the hands-on activity of the day, they are going to wish they had watched that short video or whatever other instructional content (IC) activity you assigned. It only takes one or two times before students realize they are missing out.

I hear you saying, “Well, some students won’t care about that.” True; but that is true with the traditional lecture as well. You need to be prepared to step in and lead these students during class. Do not just let them sit there clueless. Send them to the side of the room and make them watch the video, look up the website, whatever your IC was, and then allow them to jump into the class activity.

  • Providing an Assessment

You can also check for completion of the pre-lesson by letting students know they will have a quiz the next day, or ask them to try out two or three of the problems they learned in the IC, or perhaps they can write a journal about the lesson, etc.

How’s it Going?

My hybrid students don’t even know they are participating in flipped learning. What they do know is that they enjoy coming to my class because they are not bored. We brainstorm and work together during class. They have lost their fear of asking me for help because we are all working together. I more or less fell into the flipped classroom by accident, but I can’t imagine teaching any other way now.

I would love to hear if you are using flipped learning in your classroom and how it is working for you.


Bruff, D. (2012, September 15). The Flipped Classroom FAQ. Retrieved March 4, 2013, from Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning Network (CIRTL): http://www.cirtl.net/node/7788

White, R. (2012, June 30). How to Flip Your Classroom. Retrieved March 4, 2013, from Hybrid Classroom: http://hybridclassroom.com/blog/?p=819

Flipped Learning. Retrieved March 2, 2013. http://flipped-learning.com/?p=1073#more-1073

The Innovative Educator. Retrieved March 1, 2013. http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/12/why-flips-flop.html