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Flipping the classroom: The new normal of remote teaching


The implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic are having far-reaching effects within teaching and the adult learning sector. Seah (2020) explains that Covid-19 pandemic has forced workplaces, schools, and intuitions to close and remote access to work and learning has been increasingly implemented, however, it has also show us of the "disparities that exist" (pg. 1). This week, our guest contributor, Mike Scott, a brilliantly self titled 'nomadic academic' and educator/researcher, tells us not only about the impacts of Covid on teaching practice, but what this means for us in the future as educators of adults.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that digital technology and thus e-learning is taking on a bigger role in teaching learners as classrooms are being shut. However, it has been suggested that research carried out online learning increases retention of information and takes less time (Li & Lalani, 2020). Consequently, this has meant that Virtual Learning Environments (VLE's), such as Microsoft Teams has been needed to remotely instruct the students instead of a traditional classroom.

For myself, this has impacted the pedagogy of teaching the practical elements within BTEC Creative Media Practice. Furthermore, having had to apply e-learning methods to overcome the learning barriers from Covid-19 restrictions indicated that practical elements of the course are being currently set aside for learners when they are in the classroom.

Additionally, in the further education institution in which I work, there has been different forms of remote teaching that learners have experienced a two-week cycle of on and off campus learning. This has meant the practical (synchronous) side of the course could only be delivered on the weeks the learners are on- site or using asynchronous materials to get learners to do the practical content by themselves using a "flipped" teaching method.

Origins of flipped learning

The origin of flipped learning suggests that King (1993) set the foundation of it by describing the importance of class time for students to construct meaning rather than the teacher to transmit information. 

"The flipped learning instructional model is growing in popularity throughout the world... and the basic premise behind the method is that direct instruction and lecture is not an effective to the group learning space". (Bergmann and Sams, 2014a).

Scholars like Bergmann and Sams (2014b) have argued that flipped learning relates to how learning material is formatted and presented, from the traditional classroom- where the first task begins in the class and the last task is therefore set as homework. Thus, from a traditional classroom into a flipped model whereby learners first task is done at home/online and the last activity is brought back into the classroom to be completed in the class with the tutor. Therefore, the learning taking place is an interactive environment; (in my instance: Microsoft Teams) which the teacher facilitates the students to apply concepts and engage in their subject in a remote learning environment and tackles the more difficult task within the classroom.

Rahmelina, Firdian, & Maulana (2019) have suggested learning of this kind should be viewed as technical developments that are primarily applied to the existing development. I think this is true, particularly in the vocational subject of Creative Media. Learners who have joined the college this year have grown up in a world that has been digitalised, thus they are more adept with technology.

The benefits

The advantages of flipped learning are allowing students to learn at their own pace using asynchronous materials - this could be a recorded lecture, YouTube Video, or a Podcast. Summarizing Williams (2020) there are numerous benefits to the flipped classroom technique. It allows for teachers to check comprehension of the subject and gives to time to check in with learners to clear up any confusion they have about the topic. The classroom time is therefore being used for helping learners with practical elements of the new knowledge from the topic. This pedagogical approach allows for direct instruction outside of classroom time thus creating a dynamic learning environment that supports differential instruction- which has benefits of active participation and development in the learners' skills and knowledge.

Rahmelina, et.al. (2019) found in their research, that by using the flipped learning approach had improved the learning outcomes in students through e-learning media topics. This innovative way improves the creativity for both student and teacher and change the pedagogy of a teacher-centre approach to a student-centric one.

Learners have initially responded to flipped learning very well in sessions, whereby, learners' have had tasks set on Microsoft teams in as worksheets and video case studies. 

Examples in practice

An example of this was when learners had to look up good and bad examples of stereotypes and then come into the classroom and discuss with their peers. Therefore, their research of the topic underpins the lesson with discussion throughout, so everyone learns from their peers' experiences and I as the practitioner am there to facilitate the discussions so that knowledge gain for their individual experience is shared concisely.

Another method using the flipped learning approach within the classroom is setting learners to research different website creation sites to collectively analyse their strengths and weakness. Outside of the classroom they were to work on this together in small groups of 3-4 learners. The following session they would come back into the classroom and partake in group discussions and debate on the benefits of each website.

Horner (2016) concurs with this pedagogical approach with the caveat that flipped classrooms remove the traditional teaching methods of media as they are void of any sort of "creativity" as well as any sort of "collaborative elaboration". 

Reflecting back

In reflecting in my own teaching experience, what must be noted is that the collaboration and connectiveness is more important now within classroom time. Therefore, the online teaching practices is by way of delivering new concepts and information via reading, videos, and podcasts that the practitioner feels will be invaluable for the learner.

As less practical content was being facilitated due to the Covid-19 restrictions, Horner (2016) suggests that the implication of this assumes learners will take on more responsibility for their own learning and will expectantly arrive to class as "prepared" learners that are able to "assimilate" their own directed and innovative learning. Over a longer period, I noticed that learning engagement became less due to remote teaching and learner's load of responsibility, which meant that it was up to themselves to complete the work ahead of classroom time. This was at times an issue whereby the student could struggle with "bridging the gap" between theory and practical aspects of the course. This gave an additional benefit of being a simulation of what real life working practices are like in the creative industry.

However, students became unmotivated to do work in this way with the Covid-19 lockdown and were became unfocused as time went on. For example, a YouTube video lasting ten minutes would be less effective than a shorter video with a peer discussion online about a topic.

Implications for practitioners

In summary, we need to:

  • Continue to be innovative in our teaching, particularly, when it comes to technological pedagogic practice of interactivity in e-learning for media. I think that flipped learning of the classroom is a good approach to help aid learners with the practical content of their course and use their time in-class or in remote sessions to critical discuss their practices, ideas, and queries to better aid their knowledge and understanding of the subject.
  • Think more outside of the box, be more creative and innovative because of this situation. Prior to covid, e-learning was a niche albeit a useful tool for independent learning, now it must meet the demands of the digital age learner who has grown up in a time of convergence and digitalisation. 
  • Take on board the impact covid has had on the traditional landscape of our teaching practice and the implication that this event will forever change the way in which we as practitioners teach

Thank you Mike for sharing your insights with The Adult Learning Hub audience.
How has your teaching practice been impacted during Covid OR how have you managed to navigate your career in our new world of work? Get in touch, if you'd like to be featured in an upcoming article!

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Bergmann, J. and Sams, A., (2014a). Flipped Learning: Maximizing Face Time. [online] TD Magazine. Available at: <https://www.td.org/magazines/td-magazine/flipped-learning-maximizing-face-time> [Accessed 19 July 2021].

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2014b). Flipped learning (p. 6). Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Horner, G. (2016). Photography teacher's handbook - practical methods for engaging students in (pp. 63-80). London: Focal Press.

King, A. (1993). From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side, College Teaching, 41:1, 30-35, DOI: 10.1080/87567555.1993.9926781

Li, C., and Lalani, F. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Retrieved 5th July 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/

Rahmelina, L., Firdian, F., Maulana, I. T., Aisyah, H., & Na'am, J. (2019). The effectiveness of the flipped classroom model using E-learning media in introduction to information technology course. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 14(21), 148-162. doi:10.3991/ijet.v14i21.10426

Seah, K. M. (2020). COVID-19: Exposing digital poverty in a pandemic. International Journal of Surgery (London, England), 79, 127-128. doi:10.1016/j.ijsu.2020.05.057

Williams, S., 2020. The benefits of a flipped classroom for distance learning. [Blog] Pearson International Schools, Available at: <https://blog.pearsoninternationalschools.com/the-benefits-of-a-flipped-classroom-for-distance-learning/>