Turning Education on its Head: The Positives and Pitfalls of the Flipped Classroom

A recent trend in college classrooms is what administrators call "the flipped classroom," which refers to class structures that provide prerecorded lecture materials for students to watch on their own time and in-class exercises to check students' understanding of the material. As flipped classrooms have become more and more popular in colleges, it's important to keep in mind that the model has both benefits and detriments. Let's talk a look at the potential positives and pitfalls of the flipped classroom.

Potential Positives

A potential positive of flipped classrooms is that it allows students more time to ask questions about the material. The ability of students to pause the lecture, assimilate the information, re-watch at their leisure, and to follow-up with their professor to ask questions about topic they found confusing makes the flipped classroom more efficient than lecturing in class and asking questions over email or setting up an appointment.

Another possible benefit of flipped classrooms is that it promotes student initiative and investment. Because students have to watch lectures outside of class, the amount of ownership they feel over the material they are learning may increase. In order for students to be successful in the class, they have to take the time outside of merely showing up to lecture and passively soaking in the information.

In addition, flipped classrooms may give professors and students more flexibility in their classes. If students have to miss class due to emergencies, vacations, sports, illnesses, etc., they can catch up on material they missed, and if professors themselves fall sick, there is no need to reschedule lectures - students can just watch online.

Possible Pitfalls

Although the flipped classroom can provide many benefits for teachers and students, there can be some downsides. One major pitfall is that it can be more work on the front-end for professors. In order for flipped classrooms to be effective, professors need to put careful preparation into the lectures they record, and much of the work will need to be done over summer or winter breaks. Similarly, professors will need to make sure they prepare for the in-class sessions where students can ask questions.

Another potential pitfall of flipped classrooms is that students may feel alienated from the professor. Some students cite feeling distant from the professor and missing the in-class lectures, saying that watching lectures on a computer screen does not feel as interactive or understandable. Professors can mitigate this feeling through following up with students frequently and making office hours readily available.

In addition, flipped classrooms require more investment from students to be successful. While this can be a potential benefit of the model, if students do not invest adequate time into learning the material outside of class, their understanding of the subject matter might suffer, and they may not learn the material as well. Keeping lecture videos short and easy-to-understand may help ameliorate this problem.