Origin of flipped classrooms**
Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the two chemistry teachers of Colorado’s Woodland Park High School, are known as the pioneers of the flipped classroom model. As the only faculty members in the chemistry department, they had one major concern regarding their small high school: students were struggling to attend classes. Because Woodland Park was located in a remote area, students returning from extracurricular activities at nearby schools found it difficult to make it to their afternoon chemistry classes on time. In order to help students who were falling behind as a result, Sams purchased some computer software and began posting lectures online with useful annotations included. The first trial with online lectures turned out to be very successful. Absent students were able to catch up on the lessons they had missed, and students who could make it to class on time began using the recorded lectures to review class materials that they initially found difficult. Moreover, formerly passive students started using their class time to ask detailed questions and work through advanced problems, voluntarily creating a participation-based learning environment. Based on their experience, Bergmann and Sams published the best-selling guidebook, Flip Your Classroom.
What is a flipped classroom?
A flipped classroom inverts events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom to take place outside of it, during the students’ own time. The American Society for Engineering Education’s 2013 paper on flipped classrooms defines them as an “educational technique that consists of two parts: interactive group learning activities inside the classroom, and direct computer-based individual instruction outside the classroom.” However, this definition has been criticized for its perceived failure to fully capture how a flipped classroom ought to function in practice. In the face of such criticism, many instructors have argued that the details of organizing online lectures and managing class times are dependent on a class’s individual needs and that there should not be a single way of doing it.
The lecture format of online videos is flexible, ranging from recorded Powerpoint slides and audio podcasts to various multimedia content such as animated lectures. “Crash Course,” a YouTube channel that hosts several lecture videos, is one of the most popular examples. Additionally, thanks to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) provided by large education platforms such as Khan Academy and Coursera, instructors can choose to substitute their lectures with free online videos and use the class time to guide discussions of the material or apply it to practical exercises instead.
The flipped classroom has been suggested as an ideal model to resolve the lack of communication that persists in the traditional Korean education system. The nation’s approach to public education is deeply rooted in a centuries-old Confucian culture, making it inconvenient for students to meaningfully interact with their teachers. A typical class in Korea is listening to the a more knowledgeable instructor and learning early on to simply absorb everything taught without ever questioning or criticizing it. However, such a passive learning attitude has created a blind spot in public education, as teachers have only a limited understanding of how students perceive their lectures. Increasingly, flipped classrooms are being seen as the solution for addressing this shortcoming.
Flipped Classes at Yonsei
So far, Yonsei University has provided 348 FC courses to roughly 14,000 students with an average of 40 being offered per semester. The premise is that students listen to lectures through videos uploaded on the Yonsei Creative Education Community (YSCEC) and then use their class time to actively ask questions, initiate discussions, conduct group projects, and solve advanced problems. “For every three-credit course, professors must upload a video 25 minutes minimum in length and secure two hours of offline class time every week,” said Lee Hye-won, a faculty member at the Innovation Center for Teaching and Learning (ICTL). Management of online class time is left to each professor’s discretion.
Professors seeking help with FC courses can receive technical support from the ICTL, which produces and edits e-learning content, rents out equipment for filming online videos, and assigns teaching assistants. The production schedule is tight, as it typically takes place over the break. Professors are responsible for producing at least four weeks of content before the semester begins. “We absolutely need more time to prepare for lectures, especially because it takes time to film everything [in one shot],” said Lee Young-hun (Prof., Dept. of Industrial Engineering). He also pointed out that contrary to popular belief, professors do not reuse videos but reshoot them every semester to make revisions and add new content.
Interim Report of FC courses: What to expect
A 2019 survey of 499 Yonsei students’ personal satisfaction with FC courses revealed that 76.9% of students found them satisfactory. Respectively, 72.2% and 74.9% of students responded that they had achieved a deeper and broader understanding of class materials, and 63.5% replied that they had devoted more time to studying. However, only 55.8% of students answered that they had experienced more face to face interactions or better class participation as a result of taking an FC course. Those who gave negative responses clarified that the flipped class itself does not encourage student participation, which they believe is derived from a personal motivation to learn and a strong will to achieve meaningful academic results. Kim Kyeong-yeon (Jr., Dept. of Economics) who took Feminism and Christianity as a flipped class last semester said, “It seems that the flipped classroom model could [only] be a booster for student interaction if the courses required students to conduct group projects. Otherwise, other incentives such as a participation grade may be necessary.”
Meanwhile, 77% of professors who taught a FC course were content with the results, and 85% have reported a meaningful increase in student-professor interactions. Similar to Bergmann and Sams’ story, Professor Lee, who has taught a FC course on operations research models, noted that the replay option of the online lectures has greatly improved students’ understanding of the material and increased their level of engagement in the classroom. Because the course was once notorious for covering complex mathematics, he noticed that roughly 20% of students gave up on studying every semester. His concern was that even though many students could not follow the class lectures, only a handful of students had actually come to his office to ask follow-up questions. However, the flipped classroom model enabled students to replay recorded lectures and work on assignments at home and come to class with prepared questions and even share those questions with their peers. Students were no longer hesitant about seeking help. Professor Lee was especially grateful about being able to receive immediate feedback on his lectures.
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Though the benefits of FC courses seem clear, there are things to keep in mind before students choose to take one. In the aforementioned survey, many students emphasized that self-directed learning in a FC course is like a double-edged sword. There have been many reported cases of students putting off watching lecture videos, eventually falling behind and losing interest in the course. Others found that the workload for FC courses is too heavy compared to non FC courses. What’s more, not every course is suitable to become a FC course. Choi Sun-mi (Prof., Dept. of Business Admin.) has noted, “FC learning is most suitable for courses which require in-depth discussions and group projects. If it is lecture-oriented, offline lectures will eventually have to be used for lectures, and this hardly maximizes flipped learning’s merits.” Bearing this in mind, students should carefully consider whether flipped classrooms are right for them.
*The title inspired by Bergmann and Sam’s first guidebook of flipped classroom, “Flip Your Classroom”
**”Flip Your Classroom” (2012)