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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

Practical Guide to Flipped Classroom

Think back to high school or university. You'd attend a class where a teacher or professor presents a theory and then assigns you homework. Allegedly, this helps you build knowledge and skills. But research doesn't support better academic achievements due to home assignments.

Many supported a change in the educational systems around the world. So in the late 1990s, things started to shift, and the world was introduced to Flipped Classrooms or the 'backward instructional design model.'

What is a Flipped Classroom?

Where traditionally, the theory is presented during a classroom session and students practice at home, in a flipped classroom, this is… flipped. In this backward model, learners study the theoretical aspect of the topic by themselves and then discuss and practice in the classroom with a teacher and their peers.

The initial materials can be presented in any format – video, written articles or blogs, podcasts, and many others. It's important to note that if the learner doesn't understand something at this stage, they are welcome to address their questions to the trainer or tutor. Nowadays, you can use a range of communication channels to manage this part – email, phone, a learning management system, or any of the hundreds of messengers. This way, you ensure that once trainees enter the classroom, they have gained the knowledge on the topic, and you can focus on building particular skills using this knowledge.

During the face-to-face part of the training, learners can participate in debates and discussions, solve complex problems, and perform real-world or simulated activities that increase their learning depth.

Let's look at the concept from a practical point of view. If you have to train a group of new hires on a new payment system, you can send them the manual in advance and ask them to read through it. Or send them a video describing it. When they join you live, they get to try it out, join a simulation and ask questions.

Pros and Cons of a Flipped Classroom

Flipped classrooms have some expected advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages include:

  • Flexible access to initial materials because they can be opened and read when required

  • The learning content can be curated from existing materials (videos, books, articles, etc.)

  • Where learning content needs to be created, it can be relatively inexpensive (i.e., create a document, record a video, prepare a presentation, etc.)

  • Learners can work at their own pace and recap as required.

  • Learners have access to the learning materials indefinitely.

  • Learners are free to come up with novel solutions or even resources.

  • Learners have an active role in studying.

  • Enables real-time discussions among learners and the trainer

  • Classroom activities focus on real-world application, therefore helping learners retain the knowledge for a more extended period.

Just like with any other learning method, flipped classrooms have some disadvantages. But there are ways to counter them too.


How to counter

Lack of engagement with the trainer or other learners before the face-to-face training

Provide learners with the means to contact you or the trainer before the live session. This can be done via email, phone, messenger, or the LMS

There is a risk that learners will not cover the material before joining the classroom session

  • Explain the method and how it works before learners sign up. Make sure to include information on what actions they will be expected to take and how much time they will need to invest in the entire learning experience

  • Involve learners' managers and/or explain their employees' time and effort investment and double-check if this is ok

  • Highlight that people who have not completed the pre-classroom materials will not be admitted to the classroom session

  • Include short, interactive activities (videos, games, assignments, etc.)

  • Plan at least some time at the beginning of your classroom session for a quick recap to make sure that even people who haven't completed the pre-work are on the same page

May require extra equipment or IT skills to access some of the learning materials

Ensure that all learners can access the content by running a test or a pilot with a sample group. If some learners do not have access to the needed equipment, change the format (to print) or lend them a temporary device (i.e., a company laptop, a tablet, or a phone).

How to design and deliver a Flipped Classroom

The process you would use to design and deliver flipped classrooms would be similar to traditional face-to-face training. The difference is in finding a learning method that is not a lecture or a face-to-face presentation.

Let's see how that could work in practice.

1. Preparation

Just like with traditional classroom training, you need to start by considering who your learners are, their needs, and desired outcomes from the training. Unlike a conventional classroom, you also need to create or curate the pre-course materials, upload them to be accessed by your learners, or distribute them in print.

2. Introduction, explanation, and demonstration

How you introduce, explain, and demonstrate the learning content will play a massive role in your learners' successful retention and application. And again, unlike traditional classroom training, these three steps are done without physical interaction between the learners and the trainer. This is where technology can come to play. A lot of trainers would opt-in for a quick video lecture that they record and send via email or a Learning Management System. You can also include quizzes and practical exercises learners can try before coming to the classroom session.

3. Imitation

The main focus of the classroom portion of the learning experience is to imitate the trainer - that is, to try things on your own. If done right and in a safe environment, this can be a lot of fun. It's also an excellent opportunity for trainers to use gamification techniques, experiential learning principles, and active and social learning approaches.

4. Wrap up

This stage of the training process can and should be done at the end of the live session. But it should extend beyond that as well. Learners should have a way to contact the trainer and their peers in case of any questions or need for further support. Again, this can easily be accomplished with access to an online community, email, phone, messenger, or the LMS.

Flipped Classroom example

I was working with a payroll provider company. They had an employee training program on how to file case documentation. It wasn't very popular with employees and proved to be somewhat ineffective. I did some analysis for them, and it revealed people mostly found the classroom training to be long and boring. We decided to try a different approach. We created 6 different videos explaining the 6 filing processes. Then, 2 weeks before the training, the group was split into 6 teams. Each team randomly received 1 of the 6 videos, accompanied by real examples and a quiz on the content. In those 2 weeks, they had to work through the cases and prepare to teach the other participants their assigned filing process. In the classroom session, the teams took turns presenting their documentation filing process, asking questions, and learning from others.

When we evaluated their retention 6 months later, it was improved by 68%.

Tips for L&D on Implementing a Flipped Classroom

If you are want to introduce Flipped Classrooms in your organization, consider the following two questions:

  1. Is the organization ready for it? and,

  2. Do you have all the necessary resources to launch it?

Tip # 1. Run a pilot

You can find the answer to the first question by doing a small-scale pilot flipped classroom and then collecting feedback. Usually, there are a lot of volunteers willing to participate. A pilot is a great and inexpensive way to test the waters because you don't commit to anything, and you can evaluate the readiness of the organization and the people involved.

To run a test or a pilot, talk to the potential participants of the flipped classroom, their managers, and HR. They can tell you more about the organization's readiness to adopt new things and can also indicate how well this learning intervention would fit with the overall company culture and strategy.

Tip #2. Use what's available

You can go big or small when it comes to resources - it really depends on your budget and imagination. We've done flipped classrooms with just emails. We've also done super intricate online courses and video animations. The best resource is the one that's already available. Is dedicated software, like LMS, convenient? Yes, absolutely! But you don't need to rush out and buy the most expensive program. There are wonderful free alternatives:

  • you can track participation on an Excel or Google sheet,

  • you can record a video of you talking or demonstrating something on your phone,

  • you can send articles or books via email,

  • you can use any free quiz maker to test their understanding.

Make a list of the different steps in the initiative, like pre-class, in-class, and post-class. And then just think about what the learners need to have access to in each step.

For example, before the session, you may want to share a YouTube video and a link to a Harvard Business Review article. During the classroom, you may want to do a role play with everyone in the room. Finally, after the session, you may want to set up some projects they work on as part of their day-to-day. Then it's a matter of mapping what software or resources you already have for each step. In this example, you don't need anything but email, SurveyMonkey, and Word or Excel.

What existing learning programs can benefit from flipping the traditional classroom training in your organization? Or perhaps you think it would be great to have it as a stand-alone development offer? Why not even replace your existing in-house training?

Let us know by sharing your thoughts on social media, and remember to tag us!


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