Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Flipped Classroom Experiment - First Lessons Learned

Sailing in previously unknown seas...
As I already had announced in the previous post entitled "And Now for Something Completely Different..." this winter semester the Semantic Web Technologies lecture does not take place like an ordinary lecture. We follow the so-called Flipped Classroom Concept, i.e. the students "prepare" for the lecture (by watching the video recordings from the previous semesters), and we do the lecture in a more interactive way, driven by the needs of the students. So far the theory, but does it also hold in practice?
OK, now we have reached lecture No. 6, i.e. almost already half of the entire course. Let me tell you what happened so far.

  1. Lecture preparation: I have to admit, I was a little bit afraid whether it would really work. But, the students always seem to be very well prepared and I'm really happy about that!
  2. Interaction: Well, I have learned that it is me, who has to take over the incentive. Now, the game works as follows: every week, I publish so-called syllabus questions, i.e. essential questions that the students should be able to answer after they have understood the lecture. We start the lecture now always by going through these syllabus questions, which give us sufficient material for interactivity (=discussion).

    When I simply ask "Do you have any questions about the content of the lecture?", I rarely receive any answers. But, when I start to talk about some of the issues from the content, more and more people are contributing.
  3. Feedback: Well, according to the answers I receive for the syllabus questions, I can immediately recognize where potential problems might be and we can talk about it. For this, I usually keep the lecture slides at hand for visual support. I can then repeat what is important and can dive deeper into explanations as well as to give more examples

    Actually, I have asked the students whether they like the way of this lecture, and I have not received any negative answer so far.
What I have learned so far is that for me as a lecturer the effort is almost quite the same for the flipped classroom as for a 'traditional lecture'. Moreover, you have to be very well prepared, because you always encourage the students to ask all kind of questions. The nice thing is the direct feedback that guides you to exactly those points where more explanation is needed.  Personally, I like this way of the lecture very much. I never had any other lecture so far (well,  besides lab courses or seminars) with so much feedback from the students. 

...and of course I would also like to thank all of my students that they are willing to undergo this experiment together with me! :)