Flipping the classroom: Faculty find success through technology-enhanced teaching
Tapping into the technology savvy of today’s students, Professor Emeritus Yann Guezennec is leading a new initiative in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering aimed at increasing student success through technology-enhanced teaching. The results have been significant.
“Flipping ME3501 Engineering Thermodynamics in autumn 2016 was a fantastic success,” said Guezennec. “In a class of 76 students, average grades were seven to eight points higher than in all previous offerings of the same course.”
The flipped classroom model focuses on better use of faculty time in the classroom and its success is rooted in exposing students to concepts multiple times. Because recorded lectures are available throughout the semester, students can replay them while studying. By delivering new content and corresponding quizzes online, the class meeting time becomes an interactive session for solving examples and answering questions.
“Carmen Canvas provided excellent and immediate feedback on students’ responses to the online quizzes,” said Guezennec. “For each question in the quiz, I received a quick snapshot of student comprehension that shaped the content and emphasis of the next classroom session.”
At the end of the semester, Guezennec was an advocate for technology-enhanced teaching and learning. “The flipped classroom experiment was very successful with better learning outcomes for students and faculty.”
Replicable and transferable results
After the impressive pilot offering, Guezennec was quick to share his model of success with department colleagues.
“For required courses, the intrinsic material really does not change much with time—the basic learning points remain the same,” he said. “Flipping the classroom requires extra input at the start, but in the long-run it saves time for faculty due to its replicability.”
Since autumn 2016, three other faculty members have used the flipped classroom model to teach the same course, all with similarly favorable results. Two more are utilizing the approach in this semester’s offerings.
Associate Professor Rob Siston is another proponent of using the flipped classroom model. He began experimenting with it in 2013 while teaching ME3671 Machine Elements and has continued to utilize the model in various courses over the years. His early success also encouraged the department's endeavor into its new initiative.
“During my first semester using the flipped classroom model, I created an experiment. I taught using the traditional method for two weeks, then used the flipped classroom method for two weeks and asked the students to vote on which method they preferred. Almost 70 percent of students preferred the new approach.”
Department Chair Vish Subramaniam praised the results of the initiative. “We wanted to not only save faculty time, but also increase student learning outcomes. The pilot has proven that both are possible, and we predict that technology-enhanced teaching and learning will give the department an edge in reaching today’s students,” he said.
Subramaniam, who continues to encourage department faculty to try the flipped classroom approach, will be using the model in spring 2019 when he teaches ME4510 Introduction to Heat Transfer.
“I’m looking forward to converting ME4510 from a traditional classroom lecture format to a more modern technology-enhanced model. The results are in: students respond well and retain content better when we meet them where they are, in the digital world.”
The flipped classroom model contributes to the rest of the department’s technology-enhanced teaching initiative. Faculty are investigating how time-saving elements of the model—such as prerecorded lectures in voice-over PowerPoint format and online quizzes—can be reused for teaching elective courses whose small enrollment numbers often result in course cancellation.
“Components of the model can also be used to incorporate materials related to emerging technologies and ideas into classes, making them more dynamic and agile in a rapidly changing technology-laden world,” said Subramaniam.
Another option for reuse of materials is distance education, which Guezennec and other department faculty have been involved with for over 20 years.
Guezennec is impressed with the results of the initiative so far. “All the faculty who have tried the flipped classroom model have consistently seen successful results,” he said.
“Technology available to us is changing rapidly and our teaching methods must evolve with it. The flipped classroom approach is a great opportunity for faculty to enhance quality of teaching while improving student outcomes.”
by Holly Henley, MAE communications coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.