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Can you Flip an Online Class?

by Janice Florent

The flipped classroom is an active learning strategy that is being used by a number of educators. At its core, the flip means shifting the focus from the instructor to the students. This is done by inverting the design of the course so students engage in activities, apply concepts, and focus on higher-level learning outcomes.

flipped classroom

The flip has moved away from being defined as only something that happens in class versus out of class. Instead, it focuses on what students are doing to construct knowledge, connect with others, and engage in higher levels of critical thinking and analysis. This applies to both the online and face-to-face environment. The real flip is not about where activities take place—it’s about flipping the focus from the instructor to the students.

So, can you flip an online class? The answer is YES! In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt and Sara Glova suggest three "flipped" strategies that can be integrated into an online class. Those strategies are:

Create a scavenger hunt.

Ask students to locate important course information, announcements, and deadlines. Offer an incentive for the first one to submit the completed scavenger hunt activity. Incentives may include the first choice on presentation topics, the chance to drop a low quiz grade, or the opportunity to gain an extra credit point on the final project.

Why it works: Students are actively locating information and constructing their own mental models of the course rather than just reading the course web site or listening to a video as you describe the structure and organization of the course.

Create a hashtag just for your course.

Encourage students to use the hashtag if they find course-related items in different social media spaces or elsewhere on the web. The hashtag should be unique to your course. Consider reviewing the posts and then sharing an item a week with the entire class.

Why it works: Students are actively contributing to the conversation by sharing resources and information they find rather than just reviewing the content you have collected.

Develop a low stakes assignment to encourage self-reflection and analysis.

Ask students to reflect on their own learning styles or personality in the online environment before beginning the semester. Encouraging students to think about this actively might help them to prepare for the online environment as they analyze their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, etc. Supplement this activity by making it a private forum requirement, then post a global response to students afterward with suggestions on how to succeed in the online environment.

Why it works: Students are asked to analyze and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in regards to a course, activity, or assignment. This can help build students’ capacity to advance towards higher levels of critical thinking.

These are flipped strategies because they shift the focus from the instructor to the students; they encourage active participation from students rather than passive observation; and, they engage students on a higher level by encouraging creativity and evaluation rather than basic knowledge recall. Most importantly, these strategies can work in an online environment.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in the Faculty Focus article, “Can You Flip an Online Class?” and my blog post "Look for 'Flippable' Moments."

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