Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CHANGE OF COURSE HOMEWORK IN CLASS, LECTURES AT HOME; Colleges Look at Innovative Teaching Models to Improve Results and Cut Costs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CHANGE OF COURSE HOMEWORK IN CLASS, LECTURES AT HOME; Colleges Look at Innovative Teaching Models to Improve Results and Cut Costs

Article excerpt

Just five minutes into his morning organic chemistry class, associate professor Mike Lewis is in full swing, scribbling what looks like a series of hieroglyphs across a large screen projected at the front of the room.

Hes working through a series of chemistry problems, tossing around references to carbons, solvents, ketones and aldehydes. Throughout the class, students chime in with suggestions or ask for clarification on the tougher points.

All in all, it looks like a typical college classroom. Except that something is missing.

At no point during the 50-minute class does Lewis break into anything resembling a lecture.

Not this day. Not on any day in this version of Principles of Chemistry II at St. Louis University.

In education-speak, it is a flipped classroom, where students such as Theresa Schafer are assumed to have watched a prerecorded lecture before plopping down in one of the desks.

If you walk into a class like this unprepared, you arent going to learn, said Schafer, a freshman from Fort Scott, Kan., studying to become a physical therapist.

The goal, advocates say, is to use class time to help students get past obstacles they have encountered. It is not exactly a new idea. But it is one that is growing in popularity, along with the more controversial massive online open course, more commonly referred to as a MOOC.

Pushing everything is the notion that higher education needs to transform itself, as lawmakers, parents and students are casting critical eyes on both the price and value of college degrees.


In the case of flipped classes, it is becoming increasingly easy for professors to package lectures, quizzes, videos and PowerPoint presentations and deliver them to students before they come to class.

Professors at St. Louis University have been doing rudimentary versions of the flipped classroom for a number of years, said Debra Lohe, director of the schools Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

But technology has caught up with peoples desire to design their courses this way, she said.

The school signed on in 2011 with Tegrity, a lecture-capture program owned by McGraw-Hill Education, which said the programs nationwide use had essentially doubled since 2010.

One of the things that has quickly sold Lewis on the concept is the way it is pulling more students into class discussions. In his recent chemistry session, for example, nearly two dozen students spoke up at one point or another.

In a normal class, if I were lecturing about chemistry, I wouldnt get anything like that, Lewis said. There would have been four to five brave students who spoke up.

At first glance, there may seem to be little difference between these flipped classrooms and the good old days when an instructor would assign reading material before a class.

But there are other components including online quizzes that push students like never before to actually do the work ahead of time.

That was the component that had been missing before. The carrot or stick or whatever you want to call it, said Bethany Stone, an associate professor of biology at the University of Missouri- Columbia, who has been using the flipped model since 2010.

As at St. Louis University, the idea is increasingly catching the eyes of faculty members at Mizzou, said Danna Vessell, director of the office that helps faculty members use technology when redesigning their courses.

Its become a more popular word, I guess, Vessell said. People are starting to recognize the verbiage a little more.


Few things are more trendy at the moment, however, than the massive online courses offered through private companies such as Coursera and Udacity and nonprofits such as edX. They are online courses, generally offered for free, serving thousands of students at a time.

Supporters hail the model as a way to educate large groups of students cheaply. …

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