Students, professors split over flipped classrooms

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Students and faculty don’t always flip out over flipped classes.

In a “flipped class,” professors provide online video lectures to students prior to class. The professor then uses classroom time to ensure students have a deeper understanding of the material. Flipped classrooms have increased in popularity at UT since the concept was first introduced in a course transformation initiative by administrators in 2009. 

Harrison Keller, vice provost for Higher Education Policy and Research, said using online tools both in and outside of the classroom has increased with the rise of newer online teaching platforms, such as  Blackboard and Canvas.

“We definitely have more requests from faculty who are interested in incorporating technology into their classrooms,” Keller said. “The change from Blackboard to Canvas has been a catalyst for some of this.”

Keller said not every professor wants to flip the classroom, and he acknowledged not all classes would benefit from the change in format.

“I would say there’s people who use lectures very effectively in combination with all kinds of things,” Keller said. “So we shouldn’t be too dogmatic. This is a time when we want to encourage experimentation and innovation.”

Petroleum engineering senior Danny Cervantes said in his experience, flipped classrooms make learning more difficult.

“I feel like it may have gotten in the way of learning a little bit because it doesn’t really give you the chance to ask questions on sight,” Cervantes said. “It’s really good to have something going on while you’re thinking and just to process information a little better.”

Exercise science junior Gabby Mircovich said she experienced a flipped classroom for the first time this semester.

“I feel like you get a lot out of it because you’re putting the practice that you learn outside of class into work, and then you’re having the professor help you and work through everything with you,” Mircovich said.

Keller said faculty members in various departments are constantly working to redesign the flipped classroom model and said student feedback is a critical element in the retooling process.

“It’s really important for the students to talk to the faculty members,” Keller said. “That insight, that suggestion could end up reshaping the whole class going forward.”

David Laude, senior vice provost for Enrollment and Graduation Management, said he began uploading lectures online about eight years ago, long before UT dedicated any resources to flipping classrooms. Laude said in addition to improving student test scores, flipped classrooms make teaching more enjoyable for professors.

“It makes teaching an absolute delight, in my opinion,” Laude said. “Instead of simply repeating what’s on a PowerPoint slide, you have the freedom and the time to do whatever you want with a classroom in terms of engaging the students.”

Laude said not all class instruction, such as in-class writing or laboratory exercises, can be done online.

“I think there are certain classrooms for which it’s ideal, but not for all,” Laude said.