Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tips for Flipping Your Class

What does it mean to "Flip Your Class"? 

The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods so that face-to-face class time is used to create, collaborate, discuss and make connections as a result of students being introduced to content and the review of concepts outside of class through online content such as video, game simulations and other forms of content delivery.

The flipped learning model shifts the classroom from being teacher-centered where the instructor is the sole content expert delivering information to students, to a student-centered approach, where in-class time is meant for exploring the subject in greater depth through the creation of rich, interactive learning experiences (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom).

"As flipped classroom pioneer Jon Bergmann says, 'The flipped classroom helps teachers break the habit of lecture.' Flipping provides a mechanism to transition toward deeper learning, opening up avenues for exploration and experimentation by freeing up class time. Beyond supporting teachers in their transition from "sage on the stage" to "guide by their side," what really happens in a flipped classroom is that the students become empowered learners with a host of tools to demonstrate their understanding. If we see flipped as an opportunity to break the habit of lecture, then a whole new set of learning opportunities begins to emerge" (Holland, 2013).

Another aspect of the flipped classroom is called "Just-in-Time Teaching" (JiTT) and is a technique for getting students to prepare before coming to class. JiTT uses formative assessment to determine student's understanding of course material so that class time can be planned and/or modified accordingly (Schaffhauser, 2014). For more information on JiTT, read Schaffhauser's article: 2 Great Techniques for the Flipped Classroom.

Research supports flipped learning

A recent literature review, "A Review of Flipped Learning" which is based on teacher reports, course completion rates, and supported methodology research indicates that flipped learning is more than just a fad for teachers and students--it's improving student achievement in classrooms across the country (Stansbury, 2013). According to the review, active learning has been shown to improve the academic performance of students in the areas of engagement, critical thinking and attitude (Stansbury, 2013). "A Review of Flipped Learning" - includes a review of how the model serves diverse student populations, the role of technology, and the research base that the flipped learning model is built upon. It also provides an analysis of implementations and results in higher education (Stansbury, 2013).

Evidence indicates that the type of active learning that occurs through the flipped learning environment improves academic performance, increases engagement and critical thinking, and improves the attitude of students (Hamdan, et al.).

Tips to Flip Your Class

  1.  It is not an "all or nothing" deal. Instructors do not have to present all of their content online. Holland and Morra (2013) recommend that you start small and build a library of resources for your students, choosing carefully when it is appropriate and reasonable to have your students learn independently. Once you get started, momentum will build and it will be come easier as you locate resources and add them to your teaching material.
  2. Recording Lectures:
    1. Smile - even if your face is not on screen, people can hear you smile, your video will have more energy, and your students will hear your passion and excitement for the subject.
    2. If you aren't enjoying the process of creating the video, then your students probably won't enjoy listening to it. Seek out a better or different way to present the material.
    3. Test your video once you have placed it into your course to make sure it will play.
  3. Use technology such as mobile devices to allow students to respond and give feedback during class. Socrative.com is a free tool that can be used to turn any mobile device into a personal response system.
  4. Have a plan for how you will use the in-class time with structured activities and objectives. For an explanation of the Flipped Classroom Model, see Gerstein's article, "The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture".
  5. Create opportunities for peer instruction. The instructor might start with a short lecture that introduces or reviews the topic and then let students take turns leading class discussions. This encourages students to read the materials before coming to class and in order to have their topic prepared. 
  6. For more great ideas on how to flip your class read Beth Holland's blog, The Flipped Mobile Classroom: Learning "Upside Down".


Flipped Learning Network. A website containing case studies, white papers, resources, events, and support for flipped learning. www.flippedlearning.org

Gerstein, J. (2011, June 13).  The flipped classroom model: A full picture. http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-flipped-classroom-model-a-full-picture/

Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K., & Arfstrom, K. (2013). A review of flipped learning. Flipped Learning Network.

Holland, B. (2013, October 30). The Flipped Mobile Classroom: Learning "Upside Down". edutopia.org. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-learning-upside-down-beth-holland

Holland, B., & Morra, S. (2013, August 14). 5 Flipped Classroom Issues (And Solutions) For Teachers. Edudemic. (This article focuses on using video lectures to present material outside the classroom. It lists free apps for the iPad that can be used to create videos and other types of lecture materials.)

Infographic on "The Flipped Classroom"

Schaffhauser, D. (2104, August 13). 2 Great techniques for the flipped classroom. Campus Technology. http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2014/08/13/2-Great-Techniques-for-the-Flipped-Classroom.aspx?Page=1

Stansbury, M. (2013, September). Does research support flipped learning? eSchool News, 16(8). p. 6. Retrieved from: http://www.eSchoolNews.com

Stansbury, M. (2013, October). Creating videos for flipped learning. eSchool News, 16(9). p. 26. Retrieved from: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b124b13d?page=36#/b124b13d/36 


Monday, August 25, 2014

What Should be in your Course Syllabus?

Every academic course has a syllabus that lists at a minimum the course objectives, schedule, textbook requirements, and how to contact the instructor outside of class. In an online course, a detailed course syllabus serves as an essential tool for the communication of expectations and requirements to the students enrolled in the course. In addition, the course and/or institutional policies with which the student is expected to comply should be clearly stated in the syllabus. Below are a list of suggestions for an effective course syllabus:

  • Instructor Information - how can students contact you? What are your office hours?
  • Textbook Requirements - provide a link to the bookstore or a website for renting or purchasing the book. Is the book available as an e-book?
  • Course Objectives - what will the student learn in this course?
  • Communication - how should students communicate with you and when will you be available? How should students communicate with each other? When are students required to log into the course to view announcements and updated course information? How long will it take for you to respond to an email message or question posted to a forum?
  • Attendance - how will this be tracked? How often do students need to log into the course?
  • Participation - clearly state the time commitment with detailed course pacing, due dates and requirements for participating in activities.
  • Technology - what skills are necessary to be successful in the course? What is the policy if their computer fails or their Internet goes down? What software will they be required to use outside of the LMS? Who do students contact for technical support with the LMS?
  • Policies - what is the institution's policy and what is your policy on things such as academic honesty, late work, absences, etc. Provide a link to the institutional student handbook or webpage.
  • Student Services - provide specific information on how to find student resources for disabilities, counseling, tutoring, etc. Provide phone numbers, locations, and a link to the website for each service.
  • Student Conduct - explain to students how you want them to behave in the course and what the consequences are of any unacceptable behavior. Provide information on student netiquette - don't assume that your students know how to communicate properly with technology.
The Importance of Policies in E-Learning Instruction by Waterhouse and Rogers provides excellent examples of the types of student policies that should be covered in an online course; a student code of conduct contract; and examples of intellectual property rights policies.

Need Help Developing Your Syllabus?

The Instructional Technology Resource Center at Idaho State University is available to assist you with utilizing tools within Moodle such as the Book or special blocks to deliver the syllabus information in an effective and efficient manner.

Additional Resources for Examples:

Online & Hybrid Course Syllabus Example provided by Pasadena city College

Netiquette Guidelines - Santa Barbara City College

Technology Support - Walden University

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking Back at Previous Courses to Improve Your Next Online Course

The countdown is on for the start of the Fall semester, and with that comes the work of getting our courses ready to go live. This article is about looking back at previous semesters and finding information that will help us improve our future courses. Below are tips for where to look for clues on how we can improve:

  • Student Evaluations: read them and take note of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are often so involved with our teaching and trying to get all the information covered before the end of the term that we overlook items that are important to the students. Evaluations can often reveal the missing pieces.
  • Student comments and emails: Look back at student emails and forum posts for additional insight into what needs clarification. For example, if numerous questions were asked about assignments, grading policies, etc., this would indicate that further explanation is needed in the course. Also take note of positive comments from students that indicate what activities and resources they especially liked and use this as a guidepost for designing future ones.
  • Activity reports: Look at the activity reports within Moodle to see how often students viewed specific resources or utilized tools that were included in the course. This will indicate resources that could be eliminated or improved and also emphasize the types of resources that students found most useful.
  • Take note of the "unexpecteds" that occurred during the previous semester. Were there activities that did not go as you planned, or assignments that took too long to grade, or quiz questions that seemed to stump the entire class? In the future, start a file or document where you can collect these items and your responses to them so that the next time one pops up you will be prepared and you can spend less time and energy dealing with it. This will also serve as a reminder of what to go back and fix the next time the course is offered.
  • Check your syllabus for items that need to be added, clarified, or updated. If students had questions about your late work policy, add this information to the syllabus. If you received numerous poorly written emails, include a section on netiquette.
  • Conduct an honest self-evaluation and look over and learn from your mistakes, oversights, and inconsistencies. Look for activities that you did not like or could have run smoother and improve them.
  •  Do a thorough check of your course for any broken links, layout problems, or inaccessibility issues. Be sure to test all url's to make sure they still work - Internet materials can be there one day and gone the next!
  • Keep a file of positive comments, new ideas you come across and student interactions that went especially well. The comments will serve as a reminder of your positive efforts and how they were appreciated by the students. The documentation of new ideas will help you to remember what you wanted to add in the future. The transcript of student interactions can be used as guide for future students who may need assistance with the project.
  • Set aside enough time to look over your course before it goes live to update due dates, textbook information and lectures. 
Remember that you may have taught this course dozens of times, but "to each of your students this may be a first experience having you as an instructor and thus having a course that works well in all aspects--layout, technical, explanation of assignments, correct dates, working links, and an engaged and concerned instructor--is what that student expects..and deserves. And only you can make that happen" (Sull, 2010).

Sull, E. C. (2010, January). Use end of an online course to better your next online course! Online Cl@ssroom.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Get Your Online Course Off to a Great Start

The first few weeks of an online course are a critical time for establishing instructor expectations, setting the tone for interaction, and showing students how to navigate the course. Below are some tips to help you get your course off to a great start:

  • Contact your students via email a week before class starts to welcome them, pass on textbook requirements and introduce yourself. This is a good time to encourage students to test their browser settings and to make sure they can get logged in to Moodle. A welcome email sets the tone for instructor to student interaction.
  • During the first week of class, direct students to resources that will help them be successful in the course. These resources might include the Student Success Center, the IT help desk, the Student Support menu located at the top of the Moodle window, and your course syllabus. The ITRC has many helpful resources for students on their website including a Student Guide to Moodle ISU, the survey "Are You Ready for Online Learning?", and a handout on software, browser and plugin requirements for Moodle. Feel free to incorporate links to any of these items into your course.
  • Establish expectations for participation in the course during the first two weeks of class. Use the News Forum to send announcements to students letting them know what the activities are for the week; explain to students how to use the communication tools; designate where to post questions about the course; and establish a connection with the students.
  • Begin with a few low-stakes activities. It helps to have some ungraded or low scoring practice activities during the first week of class to give students the chance to try out the course tools such as the forums and quizzes and to establish a routine for logging in to the course. For example, give a short quiz or design a scavenger hunt over the content of the course syllabus.
  • Have students introduce them in a discussion forum during the first week of class. The introductions help to establish a community of learners, breaks down some of the barriers to getting started, and gets them used to using the discussion tool. Start by introducing yourself first to set the tone. Provide specific criteria of what you want the students to talk about in the introduction such as their major, why they took the class, and something interesting like a favorite book or movie. Require students to make an initial post and then respond to at least two of their peers.
  • Add a question and answer forum to the first block of your course and designate it as the place for students to go to post general questions about the course. Some instructors call this the Cybercafe' or Water Cooler. 
Biro, S. C. (2010, May). Get your online course off to a good start. Online Cl@ssroom.