Recently I had a chat with an art professor. We talked about e-learning and Flipped Classroom. He said »You know, my colleague sometimes says, let’s flip our classrooms! But then, we have to hope that the students watch the videos.« I said that hope is not enough. You have to make sure they watch them. It’s not optional, it’s mandatory.
Introduction is key!
Imagine a professor tells the students at the end of a class they have to prepare for the next session by watching a video. Students are busy leaving the classroom and figuring out what’s next. In my experience half of the class will not even hear what the professor said, only about a third of the other half will watch the video, because the others simply have no idea what „watch a video“ means in this context and how it helps to be prepared for class. The students are simply not used to this kind of assignment. It is important to introduce the students step by step in this new way of teaching and learning. Take your time and show them every step in order to prepare for class. Also, be clear about the grades.
Write down the assignment
Post your assignment on your website or on your LMS for your students, indicate where they can find the resources and when they have to be ready. Point out what is expected.
Find a rhythm, create a cycle with this way of preparation at home. How about design a weekly preparatory unit? Keep it as simple as possible.
Use text and/or HTML templates
Develop your own text or HTML templates for the assignments. Use them every time, so that your students recognize it like a text type. Optimize your templates over time.
There’s no control of what you can’t see, but feedback on what you get from your students
Ask your students to write their thoughts about the video. Ask them to watch the video under a certain aspect, or have them watch it from several different angles. You could prepare some questions for them to answer. Recommend them to take notes while watching.
As a next step the students have to share their thoughts about the content in a forum post. They read their colleagues‘ posts and comment on them, asking questions, contributing in another way. Have them react to at least two other postings. Set a deadline for the comments, so they know when to be ready. Ideally you can initiate a discussion even before the next meeting.
The assignment could have this form for instance:
- Watch embedded video A
- Read text B
- Write a post in the forum with your thoughts until [date]. [Ask a few questions here regarding the content and also how interesting it is for the student’s projects. This part changes from week to week or according to your rhythm in your assignment.]
- Read the contributions of your colleagues.
- Comment on at least two other postings before [date].
Use verbs, because they describe the student’s activity very precisely.
In certain LMSs you can change the settings of the forum in a way that the students only see the contributions of their peers when they have posted themselves. This might apply here, so the participants cannot just copy the thoughts of the their fellow students.
Be clear about the grades
These contributions are part of the course. Don’t forget to grade or feedback all the stages of this process: The posting with the comments on the one hand, the participation in class on the other hand. Not being prepared means, you can’t fully participate. This should motivate the students even more to prepare for class and watch the video.
Last but not least, some Don’ts of Flipped Classroom
- Never ask your students, if they watched the video or not. Remember? It is not an option, it’s mandatory. You trust your students and they have done their preparatory work. Don’t bring yourself into the awkward situation to stand in front of your class and realize that despite of your introduction half the class hasn’t taken it seriously. How would you react?
- Never recap the content of the video in the beginning of the session. If you do, don’t be surprised if no one will ever watch the video again.