The concept of “flipping-the-classroom” has been an approach we see as potentially strengthening higher education. The conceptualization, when operationalized, means less focus on lecturing in the classroom and more of a requirement for student-driven knowledge acquisition outside of the classroom that is then brought into the classroom and used to drive discussions and demonstrations. Online technologies and multimedia presentations, such as MOOCs but also just more use of a university’s LMS, can provide the structuring of the course material the students should acquire during their out-of-classroom experiences. The student completes a series of knowledge acquisition tasks prior to being in the classroom, and then the classroom experience is structured to promote in-depth consideration, analysis and application of that knowledge.
Now, such a format for higher education can have several ramifications and requirements. There is the issue of class size, as discussion and demonstration are better handled in smaller classes, such as up to about 20-25 students at a time. This necessitates dropping down the student-to-instructor ratio, but it is akin to having a large lecture with recitation or discussion classes. Instead of having a large lecture class scheduled, a series of discussion classes could constitute the schedule, with instructors overseeing one or more of these classes that might meet only once or twice a week.
Such a structure would have an impact on the hiring of the university or college. Larger institutions that have lecture/discussion structures tend to have a professor oversee the lecture class while graduate students oversee the discussion classes; this may not need to change, as professors could continue to monitor the online material while their graduate students gain valuable experience running the discussion classes. At smaller institutions, this may require the pooling of activities by professors and/or by adjuncts to break up lecture classes into online and discussion classes.
However, the creation of online and discussion classes could greatly facilitate the learning of students, as they have more ability for one-on-one with their instructors as well as more focused attention to the discussion and demonstration of course material. Such a structure may require a period of adjustment, especially socially and culturally, as it would change the fundamental nature of education and thus the perceived nature of what it means to be in college.