This lunchtime I have been attending a ViTAL webinar (held via Adobe Connect here) on “flipping” which they describe as “the video-based approach that emerged in the US and has raised huge interest in the UK and Europe”. There is more background in an article on flipping in the UK edition of Wired this month: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/04/flipping-the-classroom/
Our presenter for this session is Carl Gombrich, Programme Director for UCL’s undergraduate interdisciplinary degree: Arts and Sciences BASc. Carl has Maths, Physics and Philosophy degrees and is a professional opera singer!
So here are my notes from Carl’s talk:
This is my first webinar – in fact I’m really pretty new to technology in general. He’s currently setting up an interdisciplinary degree of Arts & Sciences. It’s a major launch of a degree for UCL, it starts with 80 students this year. And we’re really thinking in this climate – and the recent changes to student fees, funding etc – about how we can best engage our students. I am entirely focused on teaching – I’m not involved with the REF at all – and I am desperate to do something better than huge lectures to foster engagement with students.
So about 18 months ago I started to hear about “Flipping” with the launch of the Khan academy. I’m a fan of those and would have loved to have had access to those videos at school. So I wanted to think about how lectures could share content and do this ahead of the lecture so that contact time is really saved for stuff that really counts.
The idea of Flipping comes from about 2007 – Bergman and Sams although some say they have been doing this for much longer – where there was real questioning of why we gather students together in person in a room. I wanted to think about their model and think about how to make contact time more useful, more valuable, so wanted to add polling to the face to face sessions so that lecturers can really get a handle on what students want, to foster engagement through questions and why that’s a good idea.
You can see a 12 minute presentation on my blog about the kit I used but lets just run through quickly. I used the Echo 360 lecturcast system – the tool used at UCL. You just download it and it’s a few clicks to get started. I used a bog standard camera and mic – the built in options on laptops are fine. The lecturecast system could pair an image of the speaker with any materials. You can switch between the materials as you want. You can use MS Office docs along with any bespoke images you want. The exciting thing about video is that you can make it pretty interactive. You can stop the material, you can replay it to engage more with something you don’t understand etc. The other kit I used was a tablet – a little graphics tablet – I use Wacom/Bamboo – it just lets you underline, circle, highlight content as you want.
Actually after the presentation I did for the HEA I have learnt far more about how you do this stuff… some of the technologies are far more fluent, allow realtime noting etc. I think PowerPoint for Mathematics is a real killer. You have to see the process as you do in music, it’s visual, you learn best from seeing people thinking aloud. I think Khan does that so well, not everyone agrees but I think he’s a really excellent teacher.
So, that’s what I did. I think that sort of model is transferable to any old-style model. Any old knowledge transfer system should be transposable to the idea of making videos in advance. But if you want to do that what do you do?
Well you need to record lectures in advance – at home, in the office, event outside. Use lecturecast – this bit is easy. Then you ask your students to view the lecture before the timetabled lecture slot. Now that, of course, may not work… So… ask your students to upload 3 questions each with timings based on the video lecture (to indicate when questions arise) and send these questions to Moodle – everyone can see the questions that way and you also have evidance that the student has viewed the lecture and raised a question. Cognitively I think that’s very interesting but inevitably there’s also a command and control aspect here about ensuring students are taking part. And my colleague Matt Jenner has helped me set up some basic tracking in Moodle to know that students are participating. The other thing we dop is take a poll of the most popular, say 10 questions.
I was recently at a conference with Thrum, the man behind the Audacity web programming course at Stanford which you should look at as that is truly revolutionary, and he also uses polls and questions to gauge student need, to shape the teaching.
So back to what to do… the final stage is to go to the timetabled lecture slot with questions – interact, debate, solve problems with the students. That’s where it’s really pedagogically interesting. You get to know the students really well, you can get a sense of learning type (if you believe in those) and you can really get a sense of how they are doing. It’s a way to get back to more personal relationships in learning.
So the good things about this approach are that students can interact with lecturers on questions that interest them, problems they want to work through. Students can be split into groups and perhaps support each other (see Mazur) but the key bit is they get their questions answered. Better relationships are built up especially around mentoring, contact, etc. And submitting questions could be part of formative assessment so that everyone is involved in learning and that can really soldor that engagement. And that old lecture time can be used for summative assessments – short tests, blog pieces, group work, longer assessments etc.
And the bad things here?
Well some are concerned about the kit working, technology issues. But I am really a middle aged late adopter and I can manage, we owe it to our students to engage in this stuff and it’s easy to do.
“It will take me double the time – 1 hr to record the lecture, 1 hr for the interactive class” – well perhaps in the current fee climate we owe it to our students to spend that extra time. But being kinder on the lecturer you also do not have to rerecord the lectures every single year but you can rerecord as needed to update or correct anything. And like writing lecture series you can do this far ahead of term. And colleagues have pointed out to me that we don’t have to spend a full hour video – a series of shorter more intense videos might be better and allow you to really focus on the threshold concepts. I don’t know how much more work this would be – maybe 25% more in the first year but reducing over time. But the gains are so much more than any additional time one puts in.
“I hate working to camera” – I loathe working to camera, particularly I hate still images. It’s a real issue for me. But it’s where we are with the technology… I remember my grandparents generation refusing to use the telephone! We all use email now and I think video is really becoming that ubiquitous. We just have to go through that process of getting used to it.
“Students and colleagues will make fun of me or say inappropriate things about my style or the lecture” – this is falling away because of the ubiquity of video. There is an issue with trolling but it’s not a big issue with this sort of video. BUT there is a good reference in my slides here – students have other things to do, we need to rise above those concerns.
- http://vodcasting.ning.com/video/how-to-make-an-educational-screencast-mac – a recommended “how to”.
- http://www.sonicfoundry.com/webcast/5-reasons-faculty-shouldnt-fear-lecture-capture?fullscreen=1 – a good resource addressing concerns about using video.
- http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/new-ted-ed-site-turns-youtube-videos-into-flipped-lessons/36109 – Article in Chronical of Higher Education about the new TED Ed channel in the light of flipping .